Good morning, and welcome to Cougar Football...Sunday? If you live in certain places, it’ll actually be Cougar Football Monday, but that’s beside the point. After a 21-day break, your Washington State Cougars are all set to take on the USC Trojans at 4:30 p.m. PST. If the game kicks as planned, it will be the first time this season that the Pac-12 was able to see all of its scheduled games take place on the same weekend. Only took five weeks to pull it off!
As has been the case for the entirety of this semi-season, we don’t actually know which players we’ll see Sunday on either side, though presumably quarterback Jayden de Laura will be playing for the Cougs since he’s full of antibodies by now. One mystery is running Max Borghi. He has missed the entire season with a back injury, and that kind of ailment is notoriously tricky. Even if Max is available, it remains to be seen how many snaps he would get since he hasn’t seen any game action. Luckily Deon McIntosh is rested and ready after taking nearly every snap during the first two games.
I think the key on Sunday will be whether the WSU back seven is able to competently defend USC’s stable of four-and-five star receivers. As we saw the last time WSU was in L.A., when quarterback J.T. Daniels employed the “throw it up and pray for pass interference” ploy to perfection, it will be critical that WSU’s DBs make plays on the ball that don’t draw the ire of the ever flag-happy #Pac12refs. Of course, now that I wrote that, USC will probably hand off 50 times to Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai.
I think the 13.5-point underdog Cougs have a legitimate shot to pull off the upset. Will they? Probably not. But if there’s one thing we know about USC, it’s that they are poorly coached and poorly disciplined. That almost always helps keep the opponent within striking distance.
So, what about the five conference games that took place on Saturday? There were certainly some surprising results, as usual. This conference just can not seem to get out of its own way when it comes to finding an elite team. Same as it ever (at least since 2008) was.
Stanford Cardinal defeat Washington Huskies, 31-26. Washington’s season-long trek with a horseshoe shoved up its backside finally hit a road block, in the form of a team that was an 11-point underdog and spent part of its practice week in a public park. It appears that, like his Seattle NFL counterpart, Washington coach Jim Lake subscribes to the nonsensical theory that you only win games in the fourth quarter.
Much like Pete Carroll, Jim is apparently unaware that while you can’t win games in the first and second quarters, you sure as hell can lose them. The Huskies still have a great shot to win the Pac-12 North, which they will do with a win over the increasingly crappy Oregon Ducks. So while they could be 1-3, and should be 2-2, the 3-1 Huskies didn’t suffer much more than abject embarrassment by losing to a bunch of drifters.
California Golden Bears defeat Oregon Ducks, 21-17. With every week that goes by, I am increasingly upset that WSU couldn’t close the deal with the unbelievably overrated Ducks. They are now playing like I thought they would at the beginning of the year, with brand new quarterback, brand new offensive line, average receivers and substantial losses/opt-outs on defense. But none of those losses explain away this garbage Oregon effort.
Outside a couple long passes at the end of the first half, 10-point favorite Oregon pretty much got its ass kicked up and down the field by the heretofore winless Golden Bears. It’s pretty clear that they miss the pounding style of running back C.J. Verdell, and their slappy at quarterback is not someone who will win a game for them. Despite all that, the Ducks have a great chance to win the North if they can beat Washington next weekend. What might have been, Cougs.
UCLA Bruins defeat Arizona State Sun Devils, 25-18. It may not surprise you to learn that, after a month off, ASU was not exactly sharp in the early going. Matter of fact, they didn’t wake up at all until it was probably too late, as they went into halftime trailing 17-3. Still, it looked as if they’d taken control shortly after, as they cut the Bruin lead to 17-10, and then had a great shot to tie it up. However, the refs decidedly to start calling penalty after penalty, such as twice flagging the Sun Devils for ineligible man downfield (which happens all the time and is almost never called).
So how did ASU respond? They one-upped the refs by repeatedly turning the ball over deep in UCLA territory. First it was a fumble, then an interception after ASU had cut the lead to 17-12. Despite all that, ASU still scratched ahead, 18-17, amid another shower of yellow. Flags, that is. Credit to UCLA, who was unfazed, and marched down for a touchdown which provided the winning margin. I am incredibly impressed with the UCLA defense, which has improved immensely this season. Their two losses are by a combined nine points, and they very well could have beaten Oregon while playing their backup quarterback. Not too shabby.
Utah Utes defeat Oregon State Beavers, 30-24. The game wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, as Utah held a 30-10 lead in the fourth quarter. The Beavers fought back, closing the deficit to 30-24 with five minutes remaining. But despite his best efforts, the Utah lead proved too big for Kyle Whittingham to choke away, and the Utes held on. The winning points came courtesy of septuagenarian Britain Covey, who returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown before being escorted back to the retirement home. That old guy has some spunk!
Some credit is due to the Beavers, even in defeat. Not only were they playing without injured starting quarterback Tristan Gebbia, it also appears that they did not have the services of all-everything running back Jermar Jefferson. Had yours truly known that, I probably wouldn’t have taken the Beavs to beat the 11.5-point spread. The record may not reflect it, but OSU is a darn decent team, which is a monumental improvement.
Colorado Buffaloes defeat Arizona Wildcats, 24-13. Quite the defensive battle for a game whose closing total was 59.5. The 7.5-point favorite Buffs looked to have a battle on their hands, as Arizona led 13-0 less than a minute into the second quarter. But then Arizona remembered that it’s Arizona, and that would be all she wrote. Colorado seized the lead roughly 10 minutes later, and went on to choke out the Wildcats for an 11-point - and spread-covering - win.
Neither team did much through the air, but hoo boy were there some yards to be had on the ground. As a team, Arizona rushed for 268 yards, with running backs Michael Wiley and Gary Brightwell both gaining over 100 yards. As impressive as that seems, their combined total of 239 yards was 62 fewer than Buffalo Jarek Broussard had on his own! A great running back named Broussard? Get outta here! Broussard finished with 301 yards on 25 carries (12 YPC). Is that good? The win improved Colorado’s record to 4-0, and Karl Dorrell is almost certainly guaranteed to garner Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors. I can not believe I just wrote that.
The Wildcats are as terrible as we all suspected, but my hope for WSU’s chances Sunday lie in the fact that this same Arizona team was a couple plays from beating USC. Clay Helton, ladies and gentlemen.
Sunday's game between Washington State, USC to feature contrasting spread offenses in run-and-shoot, Air Raid | The Spokesman-Review
USC’s top four wide receivers, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Drake London, Tyler Vaughns and Bru McCoy, are all over 140 yards on the season, but tight end Erik Krommenhoek has been QB Kedon Slovis’ most reliable option in the end zone, with a team-leading two touchdowns.
Two-minute drill: Keys to victory Washington State against No. 17 USC | The Spokesman-Review
While USC’s defense isn’t among the conference leaders in yards per game allowed, the Trojans are conceding only 24.6 points and their propensity for causing turnovers is a big reason why.
This Week in Parenting
Not a lot of content this week, so just a couple quick-hitters. I took the boys to the Base Exchange yesterday, and while we were waiting in line to enter - due to the newly-instituted and nonsensical entry/exit procedures - the nine year-old was looking around the food court and asking if we could get lunch there. One of the places is food court staple - and personal favorite - Manchu Wok. However, when the nine year-old talks about it, he pronounces it “Minshew Wok.” I am not about to correct him.
One of the nine year-old’s quirks is his affinity for asking random “what’s your favorite?” or “what do you think...?” questions. Among his go-to’s is “where do you think we’ll live after this?” when we’re eating dinner. He never fails to bring up New Mexico, because that’s where he was born. When asked why he always mentions New Mexico, he started pounding his chest and screamed, “It’s in my blood!” I tried not to laugh. I failed.
I’ve mentioned before that the boys start school an hour late on Thursday. Does this mean they sleep an extra hour? Quite the opposite. They immediately seize upon the opportunity to watch some TV in the morning. A couple Thursdays ago, I emerged from the shower to find them watching a movie. Captain America? Batman? Star Wars? Lol nope. They had awoken to watch the 1965 production of “Battle of the Bulge” starring Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw and a spry, young Telly Savalas. The 12 year-old definitely didn’t influence that pick.
Best beer I had this week: More beer in the mail meant more greatness, despite the fact that the UPS driver in our village is a lazy jackass who took the box straight to the distribution point without knocking on the door, but I digress. This week’s favorite, courtesy of my Drikbeer subscription, was Corner Piece by Prairie Artisan Ales. What could be better than beer combined with birthday cake?!
Best Beers 2020: Tavour Drinkers Ranked Their Favorite Beers This Year - Thrillist
Drinkers who use the Tavour delivery service rated their favorite beers of 2020. You order them no matter where you live.
Revisiting Hitler’s Final Days in the Bunker | The New Yorker
We find the downfall of a dictator comforting, but the story is not that simple.