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A few thoughts on WSU’s loss at Utah

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WASHINGTON ST V UTAH Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Is it still possible for lightning to postpone the game until next week? No? Welp.

Turns out the fine folks at Dish Network were just trying to do their Washington State Cougars fans a solid by pulling all of the Fox networks from the air in advance of Saturday’s game against the Utah Utes. If you weren’t able to watch the game, you didn’t have to watch this season’s trajectory go from “the Cougs can be pretty good!” to “what the heck happened?” to “what the heck are we gonna do now?” in a matter of 15 days.

For the second week in a row, this space won’t be dedicated to the standard good, bad and ugly observations (sorry to the two of you who like it), largely because I didn’t see one second of the game, and also because there might not be enough room on the internet to convey the the reasons to bench a couple players who we thought were pretty good but actually aren’t. We also know there aren’t enough words to describe how truly awful the defense is, so we’ll try and keep things a little more ‘big picture.’

As I made the two-hour post-Oktoberfest drive home this morning (where the house band was way way worse than last year), I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between this season and 2005. Despite a mediocre season in 2004, the program had earned at least a modicum equity due to recent success. When they started 3-0 after beating up on three lower-echelon teams, hopes were high that the Cougs, with their high-powered offense, could at least contend for their fourth bowl game in five years. Seven consecutive losses and countless episodes of defensive ineptitude later, WSU was 3-7.

This year, WSU started off by beating up on three weak teams, and since then has proceeded to wet the bed, change the sheets and wet it again. The hope - and that’s all it turned out to be - was that last week was an aberration, and not truly reflective of the team’s potential. The reality is that the second half of the UCLA collapse was probably much more indicative of this team’s 2019 outlook than anything else we’ve seen so far.

Want some compelling evidence of that? The UCLA Bruins team that averaged 8.7 yards-per-play in Pullman managed just 5.2 in Arizona, and mustered all of 17 measly points in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats. In case you’re not aware, Arizona started a true freshman quarterback in place of Khalil Tate. Oh, and J.J. Taylor was out, too.

Does the defense’s chronic ineptitude excuse the offense’s inability to generate anything more than 13 paltry points? Of course not. However, there are going to be a few games over the course of the season where the offense is going to struggle, requiring the defense to carry more of the load until the offense can get going. Maybe even - and I know this is going to sound insane - create a takeaway or two that sets up the offense with a short field.

Saturday night, WSU didn’t start one possession in Utah territory, and the defense took the ball away precisely zero times. It also doesn’t help that WSU has all of two healthy slot receivers right now, in Renard Bell and Travell Harris. Remember the ESP-like connection that Luke Falk and River Cracraft had? Well it became pretty obvious early on that Anthony Gordon and Brandon Arconado had something very similar. With Arconado injured, Gordon’s effectiveness seems greatly diminished.

Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, a guy not exactly known to light up opposing defenses through the air, averaged (AVERAGED!!!) 11.1 yards-per-attempt. Oh, and did I mention that neither Zack Moss nor Britain Covey even played? Sigh. It’s almost as if Kyle Whittingham knew the Utah offense would have little-to-no resistance, so he didn’t need to take any chances by sitting his two best players on offense, provided they were somewhere near 50/50.

Afterward, Mike Leach dragged out the standard tropes about his players lacking toughness and feeling entitled.

“And if we get any resistance, we fold. And what’s amazing is most of these guys were on the same team last year that was a tough team. … And we’ve got nearly the same guys and they’re not tough.”

Heard it all before, coach. Here’s a thought: Maybe take a look in the mirror and face the fact that you and your staff have been borderline incompetent when it comes to recruiting defensive players over the last few years. I realize the defense suffered some key departures, including a very unexpected one, but there shouldn’t be a dropoff this precipitous. Regression? Sure. Wile E. Coyote over the cliff? Absolutely not. And while I’m at it, maybe figure out a way to keep your left tackle from piling up more false start penalties than Russell Okung and Germain Ifedi combined.

This bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Hopefully when the team gets on the plane to Arizona, they’re refreshed and ready to attack the second half of the season. From a fan’s perspective, I’m just hoping this season doesn’t fall so far that we miss out on a thirteenth chance to see the Cougs play. Right now, that prospect has gone from unthinkable to nowhere near out of the question.

Next week, we’ll take a look at just how possible we think bowl eligibility is.

Football

Analysis: Washington State offense, defense trade struggles in 38-13 loss to No. 19 Utah | The Spokesman-Review
The Utes’ offense punished the visitors through the air, on the ground and through the air again, while Utah’s defense stymied Anthony Gordon and the Air Raid en route to a 38-13 victory in front of 46,115 brave fans on a wet and rainy night in Salt Lake City.

John Blanchette: Whatever you choose to call it, Washington State shows lack of electricity | The Spokesman-Review
Larry Scott can’t get his league’s games on DirecTV, and now he can’t get them on Dish, either. But apparently he has enough pull to harness lightning.

Utes bounce back with a dominating effort, beating Washington State 38-13 - The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah righted itself in the rain at Rice-Eccles Stadium and finally beat Washington State.

Soccer

One team to be proud of!

Second Half Success - Washington State University Athletics
On a cold, wet, and sloppy night at Lower Soccer Field, #21 Washington State (8-1-0, 1-0-0) found a way to rally in the second half to down the previously unbeaten Oregon State Beavers (8-1-0, 0-1-0).

This Week in Parenting

Crappy dad that I am, I missed the second straight weekend of the boys playing flag football, preferring instead to take part in a day of uninhibited sobriety at in Stuttgart. According to reports, the seven year-old scored a touchdown in his game while the 11 year-old’s team got boatraced. If you’d seen the 11 year-old’s team practice for more than a couple minutes, this would not be a surprising development.

Regarding the younger boy, you may recall last week when his opening game was canceled due to the fact that the jerseys for the kids in that age group were missing. This week, we received the email that the jerseys had been delivered...to Osan Air Base. Where is Osan, you ask? Maybe it’s just down the road from our base? IT’S IN GODDAMN KOREA. In absence of jerseys, the players wore the “penny”-type numbers that we’re all familiar with from youth sports. This led me to wonder, why weren’t the kids given the pennies and allowed to play last week? Do the people who run the program really have that much inability to think about things like this? YOU HAVE ONE JOB.

Of course, this is the same management team that didn’t think it was important to mow the grass or rake the dirt on the baseball fields for the first six weeks of last season. Again, I’m probably expecting too much.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: It’s a little outside of a week, but after the Wisconsin game last Saturday, I conducted a forced march with my dad and brother to the Great Dane Brewery. Once there, I tried an Mmm Peach Mint Saison. It was rather different and very good. Plus, the Cougs were still unbeaten when I drank it, and I’m trying to remember the good times.

Best Craft Beer Breweries of 2019: Who is Changing the Game Right Now? - Thrillist
Identifying the 13 essential breweries of now, the year of our Lord 2019, was an exercise in self torture -- making a list of 100 would be tough.

Non-Sports

A Brutal Murder, a Wearable Witness, and an Unlikely Suspect | WIRED
Karen Navarra was a quiet woman in her sixties who lived alone. She was found beaten to death. The neighbors didn't see anything. But her Fitbit did.