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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s loss to Arizona State

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Highly predictable, but still heartbreaking

Washington State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A day or so after I departed Germany for the U.S. on 19 September, it started to rain. With precious few exceptions, it kept raining, kept raining, kept raining. That seems to parallel what’s happened to the Washington State Cougars as well, metaphorically anyway. When I got on the plane, WSU was 3-0 and a prohibitive favorite to be a spotless 4-0. Then it began to rain, and rain, and rain.

First came the epic collapse against the UCLA Bruins that so many people tried to explain away as a fluke, but was actually quite instructive as to who and what this team really is. Then came a predictable loss to a better team on the road, followed by an idle week in which we hoped WSU would get healthier and at least bandage together the mortally-wounded defense.

The off week was not without some news, though, as defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys resigned for reasons we’ll probably never really know. Soon after, we learned that the defense was moving some players into new or new/old positions in hopes that the best guys would be in the best position to succeed. To me, it felt like a “deck chairs on the Titanic” situation, but still, it couldn’t really be worse, could it? All the while, the rain kept falling over here.

About midweek, I checked the forecast. Lo and behold, the weekend called for sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s. Could it be? Could we actually see that mysterious yellow orb in the sky? Turns out it was true! We got outside on Saturday, worked and played in the yard - ok Mrs. Kendall worked in the yard while I played catch with the boys - and settled in to watch some college football.

I joined friend and fellow Coug Garrett at his place, and it was so nice out that we watched the game from his patio. The late afternoon clouds had lifted, the moon was out, and the evening was perfect. It became even more perfecter when the Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead. And though the game would go back-and-forth, WSU once again had a lead, needing just one stop to pull off an improbable win (regardless of what the odds-makers wanted to tell you).

About 15 minutes later, I thanked Garrett for once again inviting me over to his house and started the relatively short drive home. As I descended the gentle slope that leads into the east end of my village, it began to rain.

The Good

  • As mentioned above, WSU got off to a great start. Relatively easy touchdown drive - including a 4th down conversion - followed by a stop, followed by a field goal drive. It felt like exactly what they needed.
  • Dezmon Patmon seemed to rid himself of the dropsies/fumbles that contributed to the UCLA loss, and was a man possessed out there.
  • Easop Winston had one of the best halves of football in his career, uncoverable at times. That did make me wonder where he’d been in the first half.
  • How ‘bout our man Oscar! 55.2 yard average on four punts, including two inside the 20. He played a huge part in pinning ASU deep when it was 31-31, which eventually led to the go-ahead field goal.
  • The screen game seemed to be working quite well, at least in the first half.
  • I was impressed with how WSU answered when it seemed like the game could either tighten further or get away completely. First, they responded to ASU’s first touchdown to go back up by 10, then they followed ASU’s go-ahead score with two straight touchdowns of their own.
  • Both of those drives covered more than 90 yards.
  • Lamonte McDougle sighting! Didn’t hear his name hardly at all, but he blew up a 3rd-and-short, causing an ASU punt.
  • Outstanding job by Travell Harris to keep his balance and stay off the ground, turning a short gain into a huge gain (just as he did in the first half). Too bad the officials blew it dead because they’re idiots.
  • Dallas Hobbs appears to be a clear upgrade at nose tackle. Hopefully he keeps growing and improving, because he can be really good.
  • As bad as the defense was, they did step up in a couple key spots, such as the aforementioned McDougle stop and a three-and-out deep in ASU territory. Unfortunately, that was about it.
  • Even though WSU didn’t win, Max Borghi going “Forks Down” was pretty great.

The Bad

  • Gotta start at the top. Mike Leach, man, for someone who is all “hargle bargle swing your sword! grumble cough” you sure do clam up when the game is tight as time is waning. We all knew that settling for a field goal at the end meant a sure loss, and Leach kicked it anyway. Well, he decided to kick it after standing there for so long that he had to waste a timeout (stop me if you’ve heard that before). Think a timeout or two would have been valuable down the stretch? For someone who emphasizes decision-making and clear thinking, he sure seems to suffer from paralysis a lot when the game is close.
  • In the “it’s the little things that add up to big things which add up to wins or losses” category, Willie Taylor III, come on down. Leading 10-0, the defense stopped ASU and the punt team was coming on the field. A subsequent score, and WSU would have been in command. Instead, Taylor can’t line up correctly, ASU gets another chance, and ASU turns that chance into a touchdown.
  • Anybody think moving Skyler Thomas back to safety helped? Like, even a little?
  • Can someone tell Travell Harris that it’s legal to let a punt bounce instead of catching it at the five?
  • As long as I live, I will never understand why WSU’s defensive backs are giving a 10-yard cushion when the opponent needs five yards to get a first down. But cushion they give.
  • Games are hardly ever won in the first half, but they sure as hell can be lost in the first half. With 2:44 left, WSU led 17-7 and - after running a truly idiotic draw play on third down - had ASU pinned at their own 13 yard line. After those 164 seconds had expired, the game was tied. I know that WSU came back to lead in the fourth quarter, but that sequence is, in my opinion, what lost them the game.
  • Mixed in there was possibly the worst miss of Anthony Gordon’s season, as he overthrew Calvin Jackson Jr. when the only defender within 15 yards was the midfield logo.
  • Jack Jones, I have no idea why you wear two mouthpieces, but maybe you should but a third or a fourth on there because WSU’s receivers absolutely destroyed you.
  • The Pac-12 Networks philosophy when it comes to studio analysts seems to be, “let’s put a new Stanford meathead in the chair every year and maybe one won’t be terrible.” Still isn’t working.
  • You won’t believe this but WSU ran that moronic pop pass that never works and they lost two yards.
  • If it weren’t for bad fumble luck, this team would have no luck at all. I mean, come on football gods, what on earth did we ever do to you?

The Ugly

  • As always, top (bottom?) honors go to the incompetent officials. Look, I know that I have no voice in the grand scheme of things, but this shit has got to stop. It’s bad enough that ASU’s defensive coordinator said publicly this week that he wanted his players to injure WSU’s receivers. But it’s far, far worse when there is crown-of-the-helmet hit after crown-of-the-helmet hit on our ball carriers and, not only is nothing called, nothing is even reviewed. This happened at least four times, and we all knew it was coming!
  • Then there’s the flag on Travell Harris for, uh, high-fiving his teammates? Then Dez Patmon catches a pass, damn near has his helmet ripped clean off (RIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN) and the flags remain in the pockets. And I know it ended up working out, but Calvin Jackson Jr. scored in the second quarter, and the refs didn’t even review the call despite WSU calling timeout!
  • One of the best moments was on second-and-short, when Jayden Daniels snuck the ball, lost half a yard, and was spotted past the line to gain. The dereliction is mind-boggling. To top it off, a ref throws a taunting flag on an ASU touchdown, but they pick it up because there was a WSU player nearby? What?! In nearly any other line of work, the amount of nonsense we saw Saturday would lead to suspensions or firings. But not the Pac-12 refs. Oh no. They have the greatest gig in the world. They can screw up at will and face zero accountability. Wouldn’t that be nice.
  • If Marcus Strong was within five yards of Brandon Aiyuk Saturday, it was only during the postgame handshake.

Football

Regarding the first story - You know a stodgy coach is out of answers when he plays the nonsensical “no more social media” card. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the first 11-win team in program history was allowed to use social media in 2018, yes? Same with all of the other 8+ win teams of the past few years?

This is a clear case of a desperate person trying to attack every symptom out there, while the root problem festers. WSU’s myriad issues have nothing to do with social media, and everything to do with lack of talent, piggybacked upon poor recruiting, assistant coach musical chairs and roster attrition. But yeah, Mike, blame Instaface.

Hoping to eliminate distractions, Mike Leach introduces social media ban for Washington State players | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State football players, usually avid social media users, have been noticeably quiet on Twitter and Instagram since their 38-13 loss to Utah two weeks ago.

Analysis: Defensive woes follow Washington State into the desert in 38-34 loss to Arizona State | The Spokesman-Review
The Sun Devils hit the Cougars with explosive plays, and Jayden Daniels led a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive inside the final three minutes.

Specialists provide bright spot for Washington State in loss to Arizona State | The Spokesman-Review
While the defense staggered and the offense failed to reach its full potential, WSU’s specialists were impressive the whole way.

This Week in Parenting

But enough about the team that has once again reinforced the reasons why I’ve become a “die easy” fan over the years. Earlier this week when I came home from work, Mrs. Kendall was singing the praises of the boys, talking about how they didn’t complain about the chores they had to do, how cooperative they were etc. etc. My immediate reaction was to ask, “What’s their angle?”

Later on at dinner, she made it a point to let them know how much she appreciated their good behavior that afternoon. Within 10 minutes, the youngest was once again taking his “let’s see what I can get away with now that mom is happy with me” stance. So when mom came into the kitchen, I had to remind her that she deserved what she got for praising them in the first place. One of us thought it was funny.

Anyway, today that youngest boy is officially eight years old. Seems like just yesterday that he was taking 60 days to complete the three-day potty training method. Not because he wasn’t capable of using the toilet, but because he just didn’t feel like it. That’s been a recurring theme with him over the years. He’s all in on “yeah, I could do activity X if I wanted to, but nah.” Not frustrating at all!

His present from mom and dad is a trip to London over Thanksgiving. It’s actually a present for me too, as I won’t be watching one damn second of the Apple Cup.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: I think I’ve mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating because I had it again this week. Belgium’s Brasserie Dubuisson makes a beer called Pêche Mel Bush that is so darn good. A strong fruit beer with the perfect sweetness/tartness of the peach is sublime.

Regarding this week’s article, it’s a shame that Cigar City changed the label art for their Florida Man DIPA. I mean, it’s like they designed the can for this story specifically!

Florida man charged with forcing captured alligator to drink beer
Timothy Kepke, 27, of Hobe Sound and Noah Osborne, 22, of Stuart were arrested Oct. 3. Each was charged with unlawfully taking an alligator, a felony.

Non-Sports

GoFundMe Can Get Very Ugly - The Atlantic
GoFundMe has become the largest crowdfunding platform in the world— 50 million people gave more than $5 billion on the site through 2017, the last year fundraising totals were released.

This Time, the Forever War Was Fought by America’s Allies - The Atlantic The U.S.-backed soldiers who battled ISIS across Syria and Iraq could be locked in the struggle for a very long time.