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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s loss at Oregon

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If only...

Washington State v Oregon Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Shoulda...held on to a 32-point lead to beat UCLA. Coulda...beaten Arizona State if one or two plays had gone differently. Woulda...beaten the Oregon Ducks for the fifth straight time if not for...this sucks.

As far as I can tell, it was legendary head coach Bill Parcells who said, “You are what your record says you are.” So as we sit here on Sunday morning, we know that as close as the Washington State Cougars might be to 6-2 or even 7-1, they’re an average 4-4 football team that still needs two wins just to reach a bowl game.

For the third time in four conference losses, a play or two going differently would have been all it took for WSU to get out with a win. Good-to-great teams make those plays, while average teams are often relegated to hoping the other guys screw up. Once again, the other guys didn’t screw up. In a season that seems as cursed as any I can remember, even the football gods rewarded Mario Cristobal for “Idiocy while coaching” when he punted from the WSU 33 on 4th and 6.

In its four previous home games, Oregon’s defense had given up a total of 19 points. On the other side of the ball, they went up to Seattle and hung 35 on that vaunted Washington Huskies defense. The very next week, WSU’s oft-maligned defense (rightfully so) gave up fewer points than Washington did, while the offense nearly doubled the combined output of the four previous visitors to Autzen Stadium, and still...AND STILL WSU couldn’t head home with a win.

Before the season began, the verbiage in my section of the record predictions said, “If they go 8-4, I won’t be surprised. If they go 4-8, I won’t be surprised.” Well here we are after eight games, and while neither 8-4 nor 4-8 seem likely, that’s the kind of season this has been. The margins between wins and losses are just so damn thin, and while WSU was on the right side of those margins a few times last year, they have been on the wrong side every damn time this year.

So now the Cougs get an idle week to heal up and prepare for the bi-annual trip to Berkeley where anything can happen, all of it bad. With our luck, either Chase Garbers will be 100% or Devon Modster will suddenly look less like the terrible quarterback he has been and more like Lamar Jackson for 60 minutes, then go right back to stinking up the next place Cal plays. I’m already counting on it. So it has gone for the 2019 Cougars. Should they win at Cal? Absolutely. Will they? I’d be lying if I said “yes.”

As with every football season, the small sample size of 12 games makes wins feel incredibly valuable and close losses feel sickening. And the problem with accumulating all of these close losses is that with each one, WSU’s margin for error in pursuit of qualifying for a 13th game becomes that much smaller. The immediacy of it all doesn’t help, either. In 6 months, many of us probably won’t pay much mind if WSU ends up 5-7 or something. After all, there will be the anticipation of another season just around the corner, which will bring with it a chance to wash away the scars of seasons past. With four games to go, our only hope is that the football gods have decided our favorite team has been wounded enough in the meantime.

The Good

  • Digital Video Recorders. Not only was I able to zip through review upon review upon officiating consultation upon officiating consultation, I also fast-forwarded through Oregon’s final drive because I, along with all of you I’d guess, already knew what was coming.
  • Despite decent numbers form Justin Herbert I thought the back seven did pretty darn well in coverage. There were multiple instances where Herbert had plenty of time and couldn’t find an open man.
  • Speaking of the defense, they responded quite well when WSU gave away a sure touchdown, forcing a three-and-out and setting up the offense with a short field.
  • I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Max Borghi does when he has the ball, but plays like the one where he broke a tackle along the sideline and gained another 10 yards are still incredible.
  • The Cougs were 2-2 on fourth down. They should have been 3-3 but we’ll get to that.
  • Great pass rush by Ron Stone Jr. to get around All-American Penei Sewell and sack Justin Herbert.
  • For having such a vaunted defense, WSU’s offense sure did what it wanted against that Oregon unit for large stretches of the game.
  • I liked the QB draw call for Gordon. Oh, and I’m pretty sure he scored, refs.
  • I know we haven’t heard much from Tay Martin for, well, for the entire season, but man that was a beautiful catch-and-run on the final drive.
  • I don’t know what’s happened since Leach called the team soft after the Utah loss, but they have proven themselves to be incredibly resilient since then. Even when the opponent lands what seems to be a fatal blow, WSU’s players have refused to go quietly. That’s a testament to both the coaching staff and the players.
  • Despite the dropped touchdown, Brandon Arconado has proven so damn valuable. He redeemed himself quite well after that.
  • That screen touchdown to Renard Bell was a thing of beauty. He executed it perfectly and got some outstanding blocking.

The Bad

  • It didn’t come back to bite them, but Mike Leach’s complete lack of awareness regarding timeouts is beyond maddening. They score to pull within five, and the only person who doesn’t seem to know that they need to go for two is the head f***ing coach! If that wasn’t bad enough, they had to kill another one on, wait for it, a CHANGE OF POSSESSION. That’s two wasted timeouts in a close game where those three 40-second coupons are extremely valuable.
  • Mentioned earlier that WSU was 2-2 on fourth down. Much like the ASU game, it was obvious that they needed to take every opportunity to maximize their points. So when they kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the five, I was not happy. Who knows whether they’d have converted, but they should’ve gone for it.
  • Despite being first and second in tackles, the amount of misses by Justus Rogers and Jahad Woods is staggering. Woods had a chance to get Herbert on a blitz, but missed and Oregon converted a third down. Rogers almost always seems to be in position to make a play, but that’s where the good stuff ends.
  • First-and-goal from the three becomes first-and-goal from the 23. Good job, good effort.
  • You have to catch that pass, Rodrick.
  • Tie score coming out of halftime, and Fred Mauigoa kills a drive before it can even get started.
  • Am I the only one who, after watching drool session after drool session, believes that ESPN dispatched Todd McShay to Eugene for the sole reason of worshiping at the altar of Justin Herbert? He wan’t even the best quarterback on the field.
  • Those tight ESPN camera angles are production malpractice.
  • One more about ESPN - the fact that they talked about WSU’s defensive coordinator drama was perfectly fine, but the way in which they did so - mentioning unconfirmed rumors etc. - just seemed poorly executed.
  • One team went 11-17 on third down, while the other went 1-9. Guess which team was which.

The Ugly

  • For the second straight road game, WSU gave up an interminably long explosive play. God damn if they could just keep those from happening...
  • No idea what the thought process was on the final kickoff, but it was a big reason why Oregon was able to score so easily on the last drive.
  • Once again, let’s save the cleanup spot for the officials. The funny part about the eon-like delays to review calls is that there should have been more! First, I know it was “targeting” by the letter of the law, but does anyone have any idea what Travion Brown is supposed to do there? Does any fair-minded person think Brown was “targeting” the ball carrier? He may have hit the guy in the helmet, but guess what? The ball carrier ALSO lowered his head to initiate contact, yet only the defensive player is punished. Not only did that disqualify a good player, it prevented what would have been a WSU fumble recovery. Then later on, Oregon’s Nick Pickett lowers his head and hits Max Borghi in the face with the crown of his helmet in front of God and everybody, and nothing happens. Once more, nobody knows what targeting is.
  • Targeting nonsense aside, there were some pretty awful calls and non-calls on both sides. Tay Martin was practically mugged on third down, but the refs thought it was all fine. Then I thought for sure that Easop Winston was going to be flagged for Offensive PI near the sideline, but the officials bizarrely flagged the Oregon DB. For what, trying to catch the ball? The conference’s officiating acumen is beyond repair at this point, and it seems that nobody will ever be able to rebuild it.

Football

Difference makers: Oregon’s CJ Verdell steals the show as Ducks down Washington State | The Spokesman-Review
It was the fourth time in seven games this season that Arconado has gone for more than 100 receiving yards.

Analysis: Washington State loses track of CJ Verdell, Oregon snaps losing streak with 37-35 win | The Spokesman-Review
In the city known as TrackTown, USA, what started as a football game evolved into a footrace: Oregon running back CJ Verdell in one lane, Washington State’s defense in the other.

What Mike Leach said after Washington State lost at Oregon on last-second field goal - oregonlive.com
Below is a transcript of Washington State coach Mike Leach’s postgame press conference.

Oregon Ducks snap 4-year losing streak to Washington State behind CJ Verdell’s 257 yards, 3 TDs, last-second FG: Game at a glance - oregonlive.com
CJ Verdell came through over and over again and true freshman Camden Lewis hit the game-winning 26-yarder as time expired to lead No. 11 Oregon to a 37-35 win over Washington State at Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.

Canzano: Oregon Ducks get an uplifting win and get Mike Leach off their back - oregonlive.com
Leach is sort of like the college football version of the fictional murdering drug lord antagonist from the movie “The Usual Suspects.”

This Week in Parenting

The 11 year-old spent the weekend camping with his fellow Boy Scouts, which meant the younger boy was all ours. After leaving him with a sitter on Friday night - in order to attend yet another round of Octoberfest celebrations - and after putting him in baseball camp for the first part of Saturday, he was of course looking to us for entertainment.

So as I was grabbing a beer from the fridge, he asked me if he could pour it for me. After much hesitation on my part and begging on his, I decided to relent. Now I don’t know what it’s like to sit in the passenger seat while my kid drives for the first time (not yet, anyway) but I suspect that letting him pour his first beer is at least somewhere in the top five when it comes to parental nervousness. No? That’s just me? Moving right along. Mrs. Kendall decided to memorialize the big family event.

That’s me, taking my hands off the proverbial wheel, and he looks positively thrilled to be doing it himself. This morning, we were watching the WSU game and, as the Cougs began what would be their final drive, he asked me whether I thought the Cougs would score. As God is my witness, I told him that yes, I thought the Cougs would score a touchdown, and then Oregon would kick a field goal to win the game. He asked me how I knew that would happen, and I said “I’ve been watching this team for 40 years. That’s how I know.” Y’all probably knew, too.

Then he saw me heading out for my morning jog, and asked if he could ride alongside on his bike. Once again, after much hesitancy, I relented. And even though we had a few hiccups along the way, such as the navigating the blind corners and criminally narrow sidewalks in the village to the north, he made it through the whole route and had a great time. The only drawback was that I felt the need to keep tabs on him as he whizzed back and forth, so I wasn’t able to get through James Mattis’ appearance on the Intelligence Matters podcast. I was happy to put that off for another day.

As he was riding up and down the sidewalks and bike paths, I was thinking that it seemed just a short time ago that he was roaming around Martin Stadium, blowing his whistle and trying in vain to take down the tackling dummies.

How time flies. Until Saturday, Oregon hadn’t beaten WSU since that photo was taken. Once again, I am so happy that he and his brother don’t really care.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: When I hear the words Nachtraaf Quadrupel-Donker, I don’t exactly think “really good beer.” But, that’s exactly what it is.

Lager is the most popular beer in the world, so where’s the respect?
Lager is inarguably the most popular beer in the world, as the subtitle to Mark Dredge’s new book, A Brief History Of Lager, states.

Non-Sports

Breaking the Family Silence on Alcoholism
Alicia Lutes contemplates her family's history of addiction, her mother's failing liver, and the effect it's all had on her generation.