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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s win over Stanford

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Lots more good than we’re used to!

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

Good morning. Well that was pretty cathartic, yes? In a game that kind of resembled something we see in an NBA arena - Cougs score the game’s first 19 points, Stanford scores 22 of next 28 to make it close, Cougs end the game on a 24-0 run - we saw a Washington State Cougars team that we’ve seen all-to-rare glimpses of this season. That is to say a highly efficient and mostly effective offense paired with a defense that generates a couple takeaways to create just enough breathing space.

The odd part is that the more vitriol Mike Leach fires at his players, the better they seem to respond. Heck, he should’ve gone ahead and called them every name in the book after Saturday’s win in order to keep them on their toes. I’m kidding, of course. Well, mostly. It was also quite nice to see our favorite team wearing home colors! It feels like WSU has been playing (and losing) on the road since September.

But they were not on the road, and they did not lose, and now we shall talk more about that win.

The Good

  • I’m too lazy to look it up, but it seems like WSU has been better than the past on its opening possession this season. Saturday was no exception, as the Cougs went 72 yards in 11 plays to open the scoring.
  • WSU faced three third downs on that opening drive, and converted them all. For the game, they were a sterling 9-13. I can’t stress enough how important it is to turn third downs into first downs or touchdowns. Not only does the offense stay on the field, the defense gets more demoralized by the second.
  • It’s no secret that yours truly was quite critical of Jahad Woods last week. My main criticism was that he needed to be better for the defense to be better. Well, aside from one really bad missed tackle on a screen pass, Woods was very good Saturday. He ended one Stanford possession with a sack, and pretty much sealed the game with an interception midway through the fourth quarter. Jahad was back to being the guy we’re used to seeing out there, and thank heavens for that.
  • I know the all-crimson look isn’t the most popular, but it seemed like it kind of helped Jahad blend into the background and fool Davis Mills into thinking he had an open receiver. (probably not, but still, I’ll take anything that might help this defense)
  • Speaking of the aforementioned Woods sack, Justus Rogers made a great play to kill a screen pass on second down. While the defense struggled mightily for large swaths of the game, they did really well at bottling up Stanford’s screen passes.
  • Not a bad little game and season for Anthony Gordon. Five more touchdown passes meant that Gordon sits alone among single season touchdown leaders in WSU history. And he still has two (hopefully three!) games to go.
  • What a catch by Dezmon Patmon on the sideline. Just tremendous.
  • Speaking of great catches, Easop Winston, Jr. knew he was going to get belted in the end zone, but he hung on anyway. Great effort.
  • I’m sure it’s happened before, but WSU putting together consecutive 96+ yard touchdown drives is not something I recall, and it’s damn impressive.
  • Major kudos to Karson Block’s hustle on a Stanford screen pass. If he hadn’t caught Austin Jones from behind, that would have been a huge gain.
  • Speaking of kudos, Armani Marsh made a helluva play to break up a sure completion on 3rd and five, causing a Stanford punt.
  • Cool little wrinkle on the split backs formation, where Gordon faked to Deon McIntosh and threw to Max Borghi, who was 1-on-1 with a Stanford linebacker. It did not end well for the linebacker.
  • If you ask me (you didn’t) the play of the game was the Travell Harris kick return after Stanford closed the gap to three. Two plays later, WSU was in the end zone and we could all exhale just a little.
  • Speaking of Harris, he’s the best kick returner in the conference, and probably one of the best in the country.
  • What an interception by Skyler Thomas, practically stealing the ball from Colby Parkinson and setting up WSU with a short field.
  • Blake Mazza - still perfect, on field goals anyway.
  • Pretty nice kick by Oscar Draguicevich on the bounce after the botched PAT.
  • Everybody who thought WSU would more than double Stanford in rushing attempts, please raise your hands. You’re all liars. WSU out-rushed Stanford 104-6. Keep in mind this is “Air Raid” vs. the artist formerly known as intellectual brutality. So much for that!
  • If anybody is entitled to call his shot regarding a win guarantee, I feel like Max Borghi is that guy, because we know he will bring it from start to finish next week. We all hope you’re right, Max!

The Bad

  • How bad was David Shaw’s game management? Let me count the ways. He punted on 4th and 10 from the WSU 35. Then he punted on 4th and 5 from the WSU 45. Then, with two timeouts and the clock running toward the end of the half, he apparently thought he should save those timeouts for the halftime show. Coming out of halftime, he told the sideline reporter that he wanted to “get the rush game going” despite the fact that Davis Mills had completed nine of 11 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns IN THE SECOND QUARTER ALONE. Then, trailing by eight and facing 4th and 3 at the WSU 22 (and knowing that his defense was getting absolutely shredded while his quarterback was destroying WSU) Shaw opted for a field goal try by his backup kicker which...promptly missed. I’ve said it often, but it bears repeating: David Shaw has won several games in spite of himself, due largely to the talent he’s had to work with. Now that the talent is diminishing, his in-game ineptitude is quickly revealing itself.
  • I could go on at length about WSU’s chronic failures on defense, but that road has already been worn down to the bedrock. It’s just incredibly deflating when they drop eight on 3rd and 19 and there is nobody within five yards of the receiver, who is well past the sticks. When you can’t generate any sort of pass rush with the front four, it really harms the back seven, and when the back seven can’t cover for more than a second or two, the front four has no chance. Around and around we go.
  • You absolutely can not have one PAT failure when your margin for error is as thin as this team’s. WSU failed twice.
  • How much longer will Ted Robinson be stealing a paycheck? My favorite Robinson gaffe was when a Stanford player clearly caught a ball out of bounds, both officials signaled incomplete, and Robinson goes “looks like they’re giving him the catch!”
  • Speaking of the broadcast, pretty good attention to detail by the folks at Pac-12 Networks. During the flashback to the win at UCLA in 1988, they highlighted a touchdown by “Tim” Swinton. Too bad they didn’t show the long TD catch by “Rich” Stallworth.
  • Anthony Gordon, you had a heck of a game, and you did a solid job of moving around the pocket, but you got away with some really risky throws and both of the sacks were your fault.
  • It’s tough enough having a pass defense this bad, but it really gets compounded when the refs call pass interference on WSU on a play where the ball couldn’t have been caught by a person standing on a scissor lift.
  • And while we’re on the officiating subject, there looked to be at least a borderline targeting incident on Brandon Arconado just before Gordon’s interception. The defender launched himself and looked to hit Arconado with the crown of his helmet. Was it reviewed? Of course not.
  • Like I said on Twitter during the game, someone needs to take Mike Leach’s timeouts away and hide them forever. Chronic misuse of timeouts is far and away his biggest blind spot. Somehow, he wasn’t alone in that regard Saturday.

The Ugly

  • Davis Mills, who has started only a few times, threw for more yards than any other quarterback in Stanford history, and they’ve had some good ones! Only David Shaw’s incompetence prevented Mills from throwing for a lot more.

So now the Cougs will square off with the Oregon State Beavers, who are coming off another win over a team that beat WSU. The winner gets bowl eligibility, while the loser will face 99.9% certainty of finishing 5-7. If you can go to the game, please do so. The seniors deserve it.

Football

Calling his shot: Washington State’s Max Borghi says Cougars will secure bowl eligibility against Oregon State | The Spokesman-Review
Consider Max Borghi’s shot called.

Analysis: Washington State finds remedy for recent struggles, beats Stanford soundly in return home | The Spokesman-Review
WSU finished with 104 rushing yards. Stanford had six.

John Blanchette: Whatever you call them, Washington State’s players are one (guaranteed) win from bowl game | The Spokesman-Review
Somebody already gave a guarantee.

Washington State pulls away from Stanford in second half | Sports | yakimaherald.com
“Right now he is probably playing quarterback better than anyone in the country,” said Leach, who has coached many top quarterbacks. “He made play after play in that game that other quarterbacks can’t do.”

Pac-12 recap: Playoff contenders Utah, Oregon dominate
The good news for the Pac-12 is the bowl-bound club will expand by at least one team next week: The Washington State-Oregon State winner will have six wins.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: You already know. Well, you should.

Examining The History Behind Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $221 Million Purchase Of Craft Brew Alliance
Earlier this week, Craft Brew Alliance announced that Anheuser-Busch InBev had agreed to acquire the remaining 68.8% of the company that it didn’t already own.

This Week in Parenting

Besides flag football (which finally ended Saturday) and Scouts, the boys have decided to take part in after school clubs. The older boy is in robotics, while the eight year-old decided to sign up for the gardening club. This has pleased Mrs. Kendall to no end. I, on the other hand, remain skeptical.

I didn’t think much of it at first, and actually figured that he enrolled in the gardening club because there were a bunch of girls there. After the first session, he informed us that he and his fellow gardeners spent the hour digging up and discarding the dead plants around the school. Later, I told a friend of mine that I suspect this is some sort of ruse on the part of the school. They get free child labor under the guise of a “gardening” club. Meanwhile, they don’t have to pay German contractors to clear the place out. He had his second session last week and reported that, once again, they spent the hour clearing out dead foliage. I’m on to you, elementary school powers-that-be.

Non-Sports

1 in 4 Young Russians Haven’t Heard of the Fall of the Berlin Wall – Poll - The Moscow Times More than a quarter of young Russians have never heard of the fall of the Berlin Wall three decades ago, the independent Levada Center pollster said ahead of its 30th anniversary.