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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s 31-7 Buffalo suffocation

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The Cougs are still the Pac-12’s best hope.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves, it was a half of dominance, it was a half of frustration, it was a half with several yards, it was a half with several empty possessions, it was a half with lots of important conversions, it was a half with too few conversions, the Cougars had everything in front of them, the Cougars had nothing in front of them, they were staying in first place, they were going to the Redbox Bowl.

Then the second half started, and Jahad Woods decided he and his team weren’t going to be a part of any Dickensian sequel. In what would turn out to be a dominant performance, the Washington State Cougars dispatched of the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder, turning in the kind of beatdown that was both impressive and necessary. Impressive because going on the road and winning by 24 is always noteworthy, and necessary because everyone else ranked near the Cougs in the CFP standings also won.

How did everything unfold? Less importantly, what is our interpretation of said unfolding? Let’s get to it.

The Good

  • Mike Leach is no longer 0-for-Boulder.
  • I’m very rarely on the time of possession bandwagon, but Saturday was an exception. Despite only leading by three points, WSU held the ball for more than 20 minutes in the first half, and ran 49 plays to Colorado’s 23. When you’re playing at a high altitude with a defense predicated on speed over size, that is a huge advantage, and it set the tone for what would be a dominant second half. It was clear that, by the fourth quarter, the Buffaloes were cooked, and wanted nothing more to get back to the locker room.
  • A week after struggling mightily on third down, the offense converted 11-20 in this game. Much, much better.
  • EDIT: Thank you to klokkins and Jesse Cassino for unwittingly pointing out my dereliction. Max Borghi’s touchdown was a thing of beauty, but what I liked most about the play was Easop Winston, Jr.’s hustle to lay out a potential tackler.
  • +3 in the turnover battle. Winning games is much more likely with a ratio like that.
  • The Cougs were also +3 in sacks, getting to Steven Montez three times and, once again, not allowing any. There were several plays where Gardner Minshew II stood in the pocket for what seemed like minutes.
  • Speaking of sacks, that Dominick Silvels blitz in the fourth quarter was a huge one. I’m sure Colorado was going to go for it on fourth down until Silvels got to Montez. Goodnight, Buffs. Goodnight.
  • Aside from one explosive run in the first quarter, Colorado averaged 4.4 yards-per-play. That, my friends, is some dominant defense.
  • Fumble luck may not have been with WSU in the first half, but it sure was in the second. That Renard Bell recovery was kind of important!
  • One fumble that didn’t require luck occurred early in the third quarter. Jahad Woods turned in a man’s play, just deciding that he wanted the ball more than Travon McMillian. That strip/recovery was the beginning of the end for Colorado.
  • Speaking of Jahad - if his strip of McMillian was the beginning of the end, knocking the ball from Laviska Shenault Jr. provided the last shovel-full of dirt on Colorado’s grave. Funny thing is, if Woods hadn’t knocked the ball out, Willie Taylor III probably would have when he walloped Shenault from behind right afterward.
  • It may not have been a long field goal, but that was still a solid effort by Blake Mazza, given the wind conditions.
  • I know he wasn’t 100%, but the defense did an admirable job of bottling up Shenault. He had his moments, but never turned in the kind of game-breaking play we’ve seen so many times this year.
  • Hell of a play by Minshew to tuck that ball inside the pylon.
  • What a catch by Jamire Calvin on the sideline.
  • Great tackle by Kainoa Wilson on that kick return.
  • Boobie Williams pulls off some of the greatest two-yard runs I’ve ever seen. Marshawn Lynch probably even thinks so.
  • What a beastly catch-and-run by Dezmon Patmon. Coulda sworn what he did to that poor defender was a penalty but I’ll take it.
  • How ‘bout my man Oscar with a 50-yard average on four punts?!
  • Gordo sighting!
  • Colorado’s final 11 possessions: punt, punt, punt, punt, end of half, fumble, punt, punt, punt, fumble, interception.
  • Looked like WSU played lots of young guys at corner, and they held their own.
  • Reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllllyyyyy glad Jalen Thompson won’t miss the first half next week. It was clear that he was trying to do the right thing on that hit, but that doesn’t always matter.
  • The clearly audible “Go Cougs” chant during the fourth quarter.
  • That postgame Leach interview/Minshew cameo was the stuff of legend. Just the best.

The Bad

  • If third down went well, fourth down was the opposite. That many empty first half possessions could come back to hurt the Cougs against better teams.
  • Not sure where it goes so I’ll put it here - WSU ran more gadget plays Saturday than I ever recall under Leach. They were clearly the better team, so I wonder why Leach felt the need to do that.
  • As well as the offensive line protected Minshew, they seemed to have a really tough time getting a push on several running plays.
  • Looked like the wind got into Minshew’s head, especially in the first half, and he stubbornly kept going for the lower-percentage kill shots instead of taking what was there.
  • That said, you have to catch that ball, Jamire.
  • Max Borghi, you are awesome, but you should trust your blockers a little more.
  • I know it was a really close call, and I thought the refs did a decent job over all, but that “illegal man down field” flag was, well, let’s just call it extremely ticky-tack. By rule, maybe it was a penalty, but man, that never ever gets called when it’s that close.
  • Brock Huard is one of the best analysts in the sport, but his anecdote about Borghi “flipping to WSU at the last minute” doesn’t marry up with the facts.
  • Nice taunting nut grab, Aaron Maddox. This isn’t the WWE. We all appreciated the extended drive, though.
  • Nobody knows what targeting is. Evergreen.
  • Another game, another errant PAT snap. Nice job by Trey Tinsley to get it down.

The Ugly

  • If I’m Mike McIntyre, I sure don’t want to know what’s being said this week in the AD’s office.
  • The immature part of me really wishes I’d been at the game, in the same seat I occupied two years ago, so I could see the old tough guy’s reaction. Then again, he was probably on the road shortly into the fourth quarter.

As always, I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff. This week was likely worse than normal due to the jet lag. You’re encouraged to pitch anything and everything in.

Now comes a shot at payback for last year’s loss in Tucson, and a chance to get 10 wins for the first time in 15 years. What a season it has been. What a season it can be. Go Cougs

Football

Pac-12 reaction: Cal rises, South clarity, the Helton Watch
It is the Hotline’s belief that you cannot separate the ThirdPartyGate play (the targeting overrule on Logan Tago) from the non-targeting on Porter Gustin, which was 1) egregious and 2) would have put WSU in prime position for the winning touchdown.

CU Buffs' tailspin continues with loss to No. 10 Washington State - Buffzone
CU was routed by No. 10 Washington State, 31-7, on Saturday at Folsom Field, extending its losing streak to five games.

Rooney: CU Buffs looking helpless to stop late-season swoon - Buffzone
Exasperated and perhaps forced to his wit's end by another puzzling mistake from one of his players, Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre could do little else but drop plaintively to his knees.

Laviska Shenault returns, but CU Buffs offense sputters - Buffzone
During a 31-7 loss to No. 10 Washington State, the Buffs had just 297 yards, 12 first downs, and converted only two of 11 third-downs.

Colorado still seeking bowl eligibility as Washington State routs Buffaloes
Colorado started Saturday just as it did its season — with an edge and a 5-0 mark for the first time since 1998 — but the battle against No. 8 Washington State went south, just as 2018 has, for what was once the Pac-12’s last remaining undefeated team.

Washington State RB Max Borghi's quickly making a national name for himself
In all, it was just a typical day for the elusive freshman who arrived in Boulder ranked seventh in the nation in catches by a running back and missed tackles by a running back on pass plays.

TV Take: From Gardner Minshew’s ‘Heisman moment’ to Mike Leach’s moustache, Washington State shines late in win at Colorado | The Spokesman-Review
The wind wasn’t the only naturally occurring phenomena that seemed to bother the Cougars (9-1, 6-1). The Folsom Field grass seemed to be slowing down them as much as the Colorado defense.

John Blanchette: In era of eye-popping offenses, Washington State defense as good as they need to be | The Spokesman-Review
No last-drive, last-minute flourishes were needed. This one was over with a quarter still to play.

Analysis: With three turnovers, No. 10 Washington State buries Colorado in second half for 31-7 win | The Spokesman-Review
It was about time the Cardiac Cougs had a week off.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: The Cougs continue to make this easy.

Regarding the article, this is possibly the greatest invention in the history of ever. I am breathlessly awaiting my Mikkeller Advent Calendar.

Beer Advent Calendar 2018: Craft Beers for the Holidays - Thrillist
The holidays are coming, and beer advent calendars are going to save the day. Here's how you can get one.

Non-Sports

The Time Bandits of Southern California | GQ
The true story of the thieves, led by a former ballplayer, who stole millions of dollars' worth of luxury watches—and the special agent who brought them down.