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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s desert meltdown

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If anyone locates Khalil Tate, tell the defense.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. The sun is up, and WSU is 7-2. Things could be better. Things could be worse. There are a lot of things we can say about the Long March known as Cougar Football fandom, but one we can never say is the experience is boring. That was the case again Saturday, as Mike Leach pulled once-more-ineffective Luke Falk, in favor of Tyler Hilinski.

I’m not sure if Hilinski will be the guy going forward, or if Leach will go back to Falk (I assume we’ll know following Leach’s media appearance Monday), but whatever happens, it’s sure to generate lots of discussion among the fans. While none of us know what the future holds, we do know that the Cougars will provide some major drama moving forward.

Let’s get to the Sunday standard.

The Good

  • Tyler Hilinski - Came into the game and provided a spark the team desperately needed. Also used his legs to keep Arizona honest. The first running touchdown, with no timeouts left (more on that later) was a “no!!! ok woo hoo!” situation.
  • Speaking of Hilinski, it’s baffling how the receivers finally decided to get open once he entered the game.
  • That was sarcasm.
  • Loved Jalen Thompson’s hustle to chase down Khalil Tate on that long run. For a minute later in the game, it looked like that play might be much bigger than it turned out.
  • I don’t know how good Arizona’s defensive line is (probably not very), but WSU’s offensive line protected better than it has in a long time.
  • Tavares Martin seems to have responded well to his benching. Good for the young man.
  • About the only good thing we can say about the defense is it looked like nobody got injured.
  • I don’t know if it’s good, but Marcellus Pippins’ best play this season will probably be that one where he got away with blatant pass interference which helped cause a turnover.
  • Oh, and credit to Darrien Molton for going out there and playing with one hand.
  • The punting wasn’t a disaster! Hang a banner!
  • That’s a lot more “good” than I first envisioned.

The Bad

  • Tyler Hilinski - Tyler, it doesn’t matter how many yards you pile up if you give the ball away. I realize we gotta take the good with the bad in your case, and I love your willingness to plant and throw, but you have to shore up the turnovers.
  • You also have to take the good with the bad when freshmen are playing. Tay Martin made some bad mistakes, such as missing a pass that turned into an interception and totally screwing up a route early on. He also caught two TDs, including an electric catch-and-run in the fourth quarter. Justus Rogers will also have better games than he had Saturday. Well, hopefully.
  • Two more possessions where WSU was inside the Arizona one yardline. Two more possessions where WSU threw and threw, while Gerard Wicks stood next to Jim Mastro.
  • Dezmon Patmon, when a pass hits you in the chest, and there’s nothing between you and the endzone, please catch the ball.
  • Arizona’s run defense isn’t anything special, yet WSU called 10 runs for the entire game. It’s like we’re back in 2012.
  • Mike Leach is a lot of things. Mike Leach will never ever be viewed as someone who manages the clock and timeouts well. WSU wasted timeouts in the first half that they really could have used on that last drive. Oh, and make a goddamn decision when it’s fourth down. Have a plan so you don’t force your kicker back another five yards. It worked out in both cases, but it won’t work out like that in the future.
  • Speaking of that - before this season started, could you ever envision a scenario in which Leach would try a 56-yard field goal in the first half instead of trusting the offense to get seven yards? I know Powell had the leg, but go for the first down and play to win. What happened to you, coach?

The Ugly

  • WSU was going to be within a score at halftime, but instead of letting Erik Powell boot the ball through the endzone like he’s clearly capable of doing, Eric Mele decided to squib kick and cost WSU another three points. Walk home, Eric.
  • WSU had 32 first downs. Arizona had 13. That will happen when the defense allows the opponent to gain 70 yards at a time.
  • Related to that, Arizona ran 51 plays. WSU ran 101 plays. How on earth do you double up the other team in plays and lose by three touchdowns? Ok, we know how, but that’s unbelievable.
  • Hey Grinch, I know WSU doesn’t have a tight end, but many other teams do. You might want to figure out a way to account for them.
  • Humble suggestion for Robert Taylor to change his Twitter handle from @Runitback_Rob to @Runaftertheguywhojustranbyme_Rob.
  • Seriously though, I have to strain to remember the last time an opponent repeatedly broke through the first level and there was no defender on the screen. Positively Wulffian.

Boil it all down, and it’s pretty simple. If you give the other team the ball more often than they give it to you, you’re probably going to lose. If you give the other team the ball and can’t stop them when they have the ball, you’re definitely going to lose.

For the first time this season, the defense was helpless, and really needed the offense to match the other side. The offense did not do that. That’s not to say the defense isn’t culpable, as they embarrassed themselves repeatedly. Throw in more special teams gaffes and you have a recipe for another face plant.

Finally, a few words about our senior, record-setting quarterback. I’ll just say up front that my thoughts are worth about as much as your morning constitutional, but maybe some of you feel the same way. I wrote this after the Boise State game:

I’m not going to turn this into a requiem for Luke Falk, but Saturday night pretty much wrapped up his WSU career for me. Falk was great in 2015. He has not improved one iota since then, and a strong case could be made that he has regressed. I don’t know why, but it seems pretty apparent. That said, if he’s behind center next week, I’ll be rooting as hard as ever for him. I just don’t think we’ll ever see much more than we did against Boise. I’m not lying when I say I could write 2,000 words about this topic.

I feel like much of this still holds true, but as Darcy said to Mox, things change. WSU is all but eliminated from Pac-12 title contention (yes, I realize they’re right there mathematically, but any realist knows they’re not winning the North and this season is almost certainly destined to culminate in the Foster Farms Bowl).

Luke Falk isn’t going to get better. Tyler Hilinski has two-plus years left, and a much higher ceiling. It’s time to get Hilinski more reps, especially since it was pretty clear Saturday that he isn’t afraid to throw down the field, and he trusts his receivers. It also feels like the receivers trust Hilinski more than Falk at this point, because they’re probably sick and tired of getting open and watching Falk throw a checkdown.

Regardless, WSU has probably a 50/50 shot to go into the Apple Cup at 8-3. Why do I say that? Well, Stanford’s quarterback situation is roughly 100 lightyears worse than Arizona’s. I honestly think that WSU can mitigate Bryce Love to the point that it will be a close game.

WSU can also beat Utah, who decided to accelerate their annual November collapse. Will they win both of those games? I doubt it. I think they’ll win one, but don’t ask me which. We all know they’re not winning the Apple Cup. So once again, they’ll settle right into the Leach zone of 7-5 +/- 1. Things could be better. Things could be worse.

Football

Washington State lackluster on defense, mistake-prone on offense in 58-37 loss to Arizona | The Spokesman-Review
WSU drops to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12 with the loss, falling one game behind both Washington and Stanford. Arizona improves to 5-2 and 3-1.

Vince Grippi’s three takes: Arizona exploits breakdowns in Washington State’s defense for big win | The Spokesman-Review
Mike Leach may gamble on offense, but he likes his defense to stay solid, especially against the running game.

Leach rides with Tyler Hilinski through the thick and thin of Washington State’s loss at Arizona | The Spokesman-Review
Mike Leach could’ve pulled the plug on the Tyler Hilinski experiment at any point in the second half of Saturday’s game at Arizona.

Pac-12 analysis: USC dominates ASU, Khalil Tate rolls into the Heisman Trophy race
How will Mike Leach handle the delicate situation this week, with Stanford coming to town and the Cougars not out of the North race by any stretch.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: It wasn’t the best beer I had, but the best name of a beer I had was easily Cigar City’s Kalevipoeg at the Gates of Hell. However, Cigar City also brought back Florida Man Double IPA this week, and I enjoyed one while watching WSU get exposed. So at least I had good beer while I watched bad football.

Craft beer boom pushes number of UK breweries past 2,000 | Life and style | The Guardian
More than 300 brewers opened in 2016, in reversal of much-criticised consolidation of beer trade over past 70 years.

Non-Sports

A Catfishing With a Happy Ending - The Atlantic
Emma Perrier was deceived by an older man on the internet—a hoax that turned into an unbelievable love story.