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The good, bad and ugly of WSU’s unbelievable comeback win

NCAA Football: Boise State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. I don’t know what to say (or write, in this case). How is it even possible to encapsulate what we saw late into Saturday night (or early into Sunday morning if you’re among those of us out east)? Since yours truly isn’t really skilled at such things, let’s start with Earnest Hemingway, because of course.

The following is an excerpt from The Sun Also Rises:

"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked.

"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."

"What brought it on?"

"Friends," said Mike. "I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too. Probably had more creditors than anybody in England."

If this exchange were applied to last night:

“How did you lose that game?” the reporter asked.

“Two ways,” Harsin said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

“What brought it on?”

“Turnovers,” said Harsin. “We had lots of turnovers. Untimely turnovers. Then the other team refused to quit, too. Probably had more fight in them than any team in the Mountain West.”

When games like this happen, people often debate whether the winning team won it or the losing team gave it away. The truth is that it is never one or the other. It’s always both. UCLA’s epic comeback win over Texas A&M required a lot of help from the Aggies, but UCLA also had to make tons of plays to pull it off.

Same thing Saturday night. WSU was down 31-10 and all was seemingly lost. Then the Cougs put together a good touchdown drive. Then the Cougs made a little of their own luck, while getting a lucky bounce or two as well. Next thing you know, the game was in overtime. WSU made more plays than Boise, and that was your ballgame. Oh, and while we’re at it, can we all now accept that the idea of momentum is six feet beneath the ground? No? Oh well, I can anyway.

The Good

  • Like I mentioned earlier, this win doesn’t happen unless the WSU players and coaches keep believing and keep trying to make plays. Cougar teams of the past would have given up.
  • I’m running out of ways to praise Hercules Mata’afa.
  • Jalen Thompson looked really good again, to my untrained eye anyway.
  • Erik Powell didn’t have to make long kicks, but that last one had a lot of pressure attached, and we’re all well aware that those short kicks aren’t gimmes.
  • I’ve just about developed a full-on man crush for Frankie Luvu. That dude brings it. Just ask Brett Rypien.
  • Jamal Morrow may have scored the winning touchdown, but his amazing three yard gain on 3rd-and-two in the second overtime was almost as important. I continue to marvel at his uncanny balance.
  • Tyler Hilinski made a couple bad decisions, including one REALLY BAD BAD decision, but he isn’t afraid to take a shot or two. He threw one fewer pass than Luke Falk, yet had 47 more yards and three more touchdowns.
  • Renard Bell was the best receiver on the WSU roster Saturday night. At one point late in the game, I was lamenting that he was the only offensive player who bothered to show up.
  • I’ve certainly taken a not-insignificant amount of shots at WSU’s special teams, but #Forces really brought it against Boise. They were so dialed in that Erik Powell was able to bank a punt off a BSU player, enabling the Cougs to tie the game shortly thereafter.

The Bad

  • 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 know you’re pretty green, Tyler, but you absolutely have to know where you are on the field. You almost fatally wounded your team with a couple decisions.
  • Speaking of #Forces, hey @Runitback_Rob - maybe have a little situational awareness. You almost cost your team dearly. That’s probably why you were absent the next time Boise kicked off.
  • As long as I live, I won’t understand why Gerard Wicks continues to be marginalized. This game should have ended in the first overtime, but Leach inexplicably kept his best short-yardage back on the sideline. Wicks finally went in again the next time WSU got close to the goal line. One play later, Wicks was in the endzone. Crazy! For the game as a whole, neither Williams nor Morrow could get much going on the ground, yet Wicks remained out of the game. Why?
  • Isaiah Johnson-Mack continues to scare the daylights out of me with the way he holds the ball. It also doesn’t help that WSU would have won the game earlier if he could catch a one-yard pass that hit him in the chest.

The Ugly

  • I don’t remember the last time the offensive line was as bad as they were Saturday. Boise rarely brought more than four guys, and the WSU QBs were still under near constant duress. To add to that, the running game was awful. That unit was supposed to be the strongest on the team, and they are currently far from it.
  • Mike Leach’s use of timeouts in the first half was odd, to put it kindly. I’m as confused as you are regarding the thought process.
  • It’s difficult for me recall three worse consecutive quarters of offense than the three we saw Saturday, since 2012 anyway.
  • If you’re a regular reader, you know about the Ike Fontaine All-Stars. I’m thinking of starting a team of Taylor Taliulu All-Stars - guys who are only playing because, somehow, the coaches can’t find anybody better on the roster. Marcellus Pippins, come on down.

In the end, my mind is still struggling to comprehend what we witnessed in Martin Stadium. As we know, this team has several flaws. But I’ll be damned if they didn’t overcome them and gut out another win. Being 2-0 is a helluva lot more comforting than being 1-1. Just ask the guys from Boise.


Washington State beats Boise State with miracle comeback | The Spokesman-Review
The 20th-ranked Cougars were indeed down as many as 21 when they started to craft the early parts of this still-hard-to-fathom comeback.

Tyler Hilinski comes up big in WSU’s comeback win over Boise State | The Spokesman-Review
WSU’s offense managed just 211 yards through three quarters before busting loose for 170 in the fourth quarter.

Jamire Calvin predicts WSU comeback despite 21-point deficit | The Spokesman-Review “It was 31-10 with eight minutes to go and (Boise State) had just scored,” senior running back Jamal Morrow said, “and Jamire (Calvin) came up to me and said, ‘Yo, we’re going to come back and win this game.’”

John Blanchette: Something special, zany filled the air in Pullman | The Spokesman-Review
Consider: Luke Falk sets the Wazzu school career passing and total offense record – more than Bledsoe and Brink and Halliday and that Throwin’ original. And gets benched. Yeah, benched.

Boise State at Washington State football recap | Sept. 9, 2017 | Idaho Statesman
With a 21-point lead on No. 20 Washington State with about 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Broncos appeared to be headed for another signature upset.

Boise State football falls in triple OT at Washington State | Idaho Statesman
As hundreds of Washington State fans swarmed the field as midnight approached at Martin Stadium, the Boise State football team could only take a slow, agonizing walk around the jovial Cougar faithful.

Five takeaways from Pac-12 football results in Week two
#Pac12AfterDark delivered drama but not unequivocal success, leaving us to wonder about the strength of the bottom tier.

Oklahoma Sooners move up in College Football Power Rankings Week 2
Oklahoma's convincing win at Ohio State elevated the Sooners to No. 2, behind only Alabama. Clemson and USC also aced big tests in Week 2.


Best beer I had this week: This time of year, it’s almost always the beer I have after a WSU win. But after waking up at 0430 and driving nearly 500 miles north and west, I was too spent to have one. Before the game began, I had a Southern Tier Salted Caramel Stout. If you’re into dessert beers, you shouldn’t pass this one up.

Many American drinkers don't care about craft beer independence - Business Insider
Despite craft brewing fans' battles against industry giants, most Americans don't really care who makes the beers that they drink.


BC grad breaks Appalachian Trail record with final push of 37 sleepless hours - The Boston Globe
Joe McConaughy completed the 2,190-mile trail in 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes. That’s an average of about 48 miles a day.