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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s “One for the Thumb” win over Stanford

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Another streak continues!

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 16: Washington State EDGE Ron Stone Jr. (10) takes down the quarterback during the second half of a PAC 12 conference matchup between the Stanford Cardinal and the Washington State Cougars on October 16, 2021, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA. Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Good morning! Is it morning?! Over across the Atlantic, we feel a lot like Admiral Stockdale!

Why do we feel that way? Well, for nearly four years, when a Washington State Cougars game started during the witching hours (between 0100 and 0400), I would figure out a way to record the game and watch when I woke up Sunday morning, because almost nothing, especially a dumb football game was worth sacrificing most of my night’s sleep. That changed this weekend, due to sickness and guilt. The sickness part is easily explainable, because we all have it.

The guilt part is because of my man - and fellow Coug alum - Garrett. He’s nice enough to invite me over to watch the Cougs every weekend, and most weekends the game is either during the witching hours or I’m out of town/otherwise occupied. This season, I was out of town for four of the first six games, so when Garrett threw out the invite this weekend (probably out of habit more than anything else) I felt guilty about turning him down again, and happily accepted despite the 0130 start time. It also helps that Garrett has three TVs going, so we were able to watch WSU win while the UCLA Bruins were defeating the Washington Huskies, the combo of which is more exciting than any adult-themed internet site a guy can access.

It’s funny how one’s mentality changes when watching a game in the middle of the night, and it’s not exactly fair. But my thought process is akin to, “Look, Cougars, I spent nearly my entire Saturday at one youth sports event or another, caught a nap, and now I’m up in the middle of the night just so I can watch you guys play live. And since I’m an old person, I’m pretty much screwing my entire Sunday by being awake at these hours. The least you could do is reward me with a win.”

It’s totally dumb on my part, but I make no apology. Needless to say, I was immediately regretting my decision over the course of the first quarter. Then for the next two quarters I had made the best decision in years, followed by much of the fourth quarter in which I was once again pissed off that I’d sacrificed a night’s sleep to watch my team implode for the eleventy billionth time. But then...

AND THEN...

I OFFICIALLY DID NOT REGRET MY DECISION AND WILL PROBABLY DO IT AGAIN. As Garrett and I agree, it’s a sickness. Don’t pass the Tylenol.

The Good

  • The resiliency of this team, which has done a 180 over the last couple weeks. After several games of fast starts and wheezing finishes, the Cougs once again found a way to overcome a slow start and a late-game deficit to gut out a win. Credit to the coaching staff for keeping the team focused during what has been a tumultuous few months.
  • Max Borghi had to step up with an increased workload, and man was he up to the task. I’m confident in saying that this was his best performance of 2021, with 89 yards and two scores on 17 carries.
  • While it wasn’t perfect, Jayden de Laura’s accuracy on deep balls was much better against Stanford than it has been all season. This was especially evident on his second touchdown pass of the game to Calvin Jackson. de Laura knew he was going to get leveled - he did - but he hung in there and delivered a strike to Jackson for a touchdown.
  • Despite failing to generate pressure for much of the game, the guys on the edge sure stepped forward when it mattered. Ron Stone was a terror on the last couple Stanford possessions, and Brennan Jackson came up with the game-clinching fumble recovery.
  • Jackson doesn’t get that ball unless Quinn Roff knocks it loose. It’s probably nothing more than a sign of my incompetence, but I had no idea who Quinn Roff was until that play.
  • Speaking of Stone, seven tackles with two TFLs is pretty damn good for a defensive end.
  • Heckuva play by Ahmir Crowder to knock the ball away from Nathaniel Peat, one play after WSU failed to score inside the red zone. The Cougs wouldn’t miss their next opportunity.
  • Great job by Joey Hobert to hang on to the ball even though he was about to get smacked.
  • Kyle Thornton made a really good play to blow up a screen pass, which killed a Stanford possession and led to a punt.
  • de Laura seems to embody the effectiveness vs. efficiency argument, but he can sure be effective!
  • Not exactly the Air Raid, but three receivers with over 70 yards is a decent distribution balance.
  • Love the physicality from Jaylen Watson, especially the pass break-up that forced a Stanford field goal try.
  • De’Zhaun Stribling may have only caught two passes, but boy were they critical. First he ran a textbook whip route for a touchdown, then he caught the ball that set up the winning score.
  • The east end zone. How do we figure out a way to get the Cougs going that direction for all four quarters?
  • Luckily the west end zone removed its pool of lava just in time!

The Bad

  • Stupid penalties! To boot: The punter gets a personal foul. Jahad Woods commits a completely unnecessary targeting foul, and is ejected. 12 men are on the field for a two-point try, enabling Stanford to try again and convert. de Laura runs his mouth after WSU takes the lead, causing a WSU kick from its own 20 at a crucial juncture. Just can’t happen with such thin margins.
  • Did the students really start a “(bleep) the Huskies” chant in the second quarter? Did I really hear that? Do better.
  • Justin Rogers and Jayden de Lauria think the announcers need to do more prep work. God knows they had the time, since ESPN couldn’t be bothered to let them attend the game in person. I think my favorite announcer moment was when the PBP guy said, “We’ll be back in 30 seconds” and the subsequent commercial break lasted like three minutes.
  • You just can’t miss PATs, guys. That turned out to be critical, as Stanford would have needed a touchdown instead of a field goal on its final possession.
  • I really really really hope WSU’s lack of a competent place kicker doesn’t come back to haunt the team, because it sure sucks that there’s nobody dependable there.
  • Was it just me or was the primary camera’s quality very poor? The end zone shots were far more sharp.
  • Enough with “Sweet Caroline” already. We already have “Back Home” and it’s great, and “Sweet Caroline” is played out.
  • Anyone care to explain why Lincoln Victor got a carry at running back near the goal line?
  • As good as Calvin Jackson is - and he’s really good! - he drops way too many passes.
  • I don’t put that de Laura deep shot on him, though, as Jayden overthrew it.
  • I’d been wondering why we haven’t seen much of C.J. Moore this season. One possession eliminated all curiosity.

The Ugly

  • Please come back soon, Deon.
  • WSU’s linebackers are still missing far too many tackles, and it was crippling on Saturday.
  • The defense as a whole completely folded after Langford’s PI call, and Stanford did whatever it wanted for the next several minutes.
  • Speaking of that PI call, I’m especially thankful that WSU won, because if it hadn’t, nearly everyone would have pointed to that completely outrageous flag as the turning point, and I’d have been forced to write about how that singular call didn’t lose WSU the game. But at least the official who threw that egregious flag will be held accountable by the league office, right?
  • David Shaw has been a head coach since 2011 and he still can’t figure out how to use timeouts.

Two wins from a bowl game, which would be a remarkable accomplishment for this team, all things considered. Let’s keep it going, Cougs.

Football

With coach's future uncertain, Washington State shows more progress in third straight win | The Spokesman-Review
De Laura lofted a well-placed 32-yard TD to Harris in the second quarter, then floated a pinpoint ball to Jackson a drive later, putting incredible touch on the scoring pass despite absorbing a big hit as he let it fly.

John Blanchette: Here's looking at you Pat Chun, Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich is no martyr | The Spokesman-Review
Surely there was a reason the players picked the stirring 34-31 comeback victory over Stanford to punctuate by dumping the contents of a Gatorade bucket over Rolovich.

Washington State's Nick Rolovich 'waiting on an email' to determine whether he'll remain Cougars' coach | The Spokesman-Review
When a reporter asked Rolovich if he’d consider taking a vaccine if it enables him to preserve his job, the coach said “if that happens, you’ll be the first to know.”

Pac-12 recap: Utah controls the South, Oregon hangs on, Rolovich waits
The Cougars rallied twice to beat Stanford, erasing deficits in each half to emerge with a 34-31 victory.

This Week in Parenting

EDIT: In the interests of fairness, the youngest boy wanted to write part of this since it was recently his birthday, and we let the oldest write something for his. So without further ado, here is newly-minted, 10 year-old Carson:

So this week it was my b-day so you know what that means I got presents and I am not going to lie it was pretty good haul. I am a golfer and I don’t know if my dad has ever told you and who ever reads this article. I got some golf clubs, a towel, some tees, three balls and markers which all have the cougar logo besides the clubs and my grandma got me all this stuff. I was actually pretty happy to be at school this week but I usually I don’t like to be there. At a soccer camp I scored the only two goals for my team not to brag. The guy who set up the camp didn’t like me to score any more goals.

I mentioned last Sunday that we spent last weekend in Lithuania. On Friday as we were headed to a beer bar (totally Mrs. Kendall’s idea, you guys) the youngest spotted a place called “Cat Cafe.” He was curious about it, so in he went with mom. Turns out it’s a tiny restaurant with a bunch of cats walking around. (Un)fortunately, no tables were free and very few reservations were available over the weekend, so we moved on.

On Sunday, we were walking back toward our hotel, and the path took us past the aforementioned Cat Cafe. The boy once again wanted to inquire, and the young lady running the place was kind enough to squeeze us in at a table. You would have thought that she had presented him with a lifetime supply of ice cream and comic book movies. I’m not kidding when I say that he was absolutely over the moon.

This place had lots of rules, of course. We had to wear plastic covers over our shoes, cats couldn’t be bothered if they were asleep (they’re cats, that’s like 23.9 hours per day), etc. etc. I’m still not sure what to make of this, as it takes some serious, uh, creativity to pitch the concept of a restaurant where people eat while cats walk around takes some serious onions. But like I mentioned, the place was booked out, so I guess they’re doing something right. The Lithuanian Mead I had was pretty good, so there’s that.

In related news, the Kendall house is officially without a person of a single-digit age since the late 2000s, as the youngest is now a 10 year-old. He’s into golf now, so his present was a starter set of clubs. Here’s hoping they aren’t gathering dust in the corner of the garage six months down the road. He also had soccer camp on Saturday (they canceled the season due to the refugee contingency on the base, but made it all up with one 3-hour scrimmage session), and when I showed up for the last hour, he immediately flagged me down to tell me that he’d scored two goals. I asked how many passes he’d made, and was met with crickets. In his defense, youth soccer is basically a bunch of kids forming a blob, followed by one kid emerging with the ball, so there isn’t a lot of spacing.

Meanwhile, the 13 year-old had his third football game of the season on Saturday, and he’s settled in nicely at center. I saw him after the game, and he had a ton of scratch marks on his forearms, leading me to think he’d been in a physical game. Turns out all of the marks (and there were several!) were caused when he was messing with our cat. Despite that, his team won again, giving them a 3-0 record in this 4-game season. One game remains on the day before Halloween.

He has practice three times per week, and the coaches are always conducting lengthy talks with the boys at the end of each practice. I finally asked the kiddo what the coaches tell them. “How sorry we are” was the answer. I asked if this is always the message, and he said that it is. Now, I’m not selfless enough to donate my time to coach youth football, but I feel like you don’t need to tell a bunch of kids how bad they’re playing at every opportunity. Maybe it’s just me.

One more thing about the game on Saturday: four 8-minute quarters took more than two hours to complete. Why? Well, aside from a bunch of kids thinking they’re hurt when they really aren’t, the refs saw fit to throw flag upon flag upon flag upon flag. I’m pretty sure the Army-Wisconsin game took less time to complete, but at least these refs got to assert their authority.

Non-Sports

Sam Anthony, Facing Death, Found the Courage to Find His Father - The New York Times
After struggling with cancer for years, Sam Anthony was running out of time. Before he died, he found the courage to mail a letter that he had long been afraid to send.

Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge. — ProPublica
Judge Donna Scott Davenport oversees a juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tennessee, with a staggering history of jailing children. She said kids must face consequences, which rarely seem to apply to her or the other adults in charge.