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Random Thoughts on WSU’s 21-19 loss to BYU

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That was not the outcome we wanted, or really expected.

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 23: Washington State EDGE Willie Taylor III (27) links arms with teammates prior to a non-conference matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Washington State Cougars on October 23, 2021, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA. Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Good morning. There are two principle positives that I was able to glean from Saturday’s Washington State Cougars loss to BYU: it was a beautiful day and it ended quickly. Other than that, this was a monumental bummer; WSU really needed this win to bolster its bowl chances, and BYU is an average and beatable team. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and in another episode of “life isn’t the movies”, WSU wasn’t able to overcome one of the toughest weeks in athletic department history and write its Hollywood ending.

The players who were abandoned by their head coach (and several assistants) came out determined to put the events of the past week behind them, and for a minute there, it seemed like that was exactly what they’d done. But then the reality of a tough, hard-fought game set in, and WSU just couldn’t muster enough to overcome the opponent. Man, this one was a bummer. But instead of the usual G/B/U routine, I just thought I’d throw out some random thoughts.

  • Can’t think of a word to describe Saturday’s fan showing other than appalling. Regardless of your stance on what happened with the former head coach, any WSU fan with the ways and means to show up and support the players should have been there. Instead, a beautiful day, great start time and unique Pullman opponent revealed more aluminum bleachers than WSU fans. “Thanks” to the fans who did show up, and shame on those of you who could have but didn’t.
  • Sometimes an easy score to open the game can actually be a mirage. Guys relax and tend to believe that all of the scores will come that easily. As we saw with both teams, scoring touchdowns isn’t easy against a non-garbage defense, and WSU - in particular - took forever to regain its focus on offense.
  • Seems like we see stud after stud come from Australia and boot the air out of the ball throughout the college landscape. So how on earth did WSU manage to find the worst of the bunch? But at least he made us forget about his awful punts by botching a snap that would cost WSU dearly down the stretch. Mission: Accomplished.
  • I still can’t figure out what’s up with Max Borghi when it comes to hitting the hole. He had another very good game Saturday, but he continues to try and bounce runs to the edge, at the expense of yards that are available within the play design. That said, Max has looked almost completely like the old Max of late, which is great.
  • There are few more enjoyable quarterbacks to watch than Jayden de Laura when he’s dialed in, but man, his head seemed to be in a different area code for the majority of Saturday’s game. He threw one awful pass that was easily intercepted, and two others that should have been. It’s understandable, given that he’s probably trying to figure out his next steps, and is having to deal with the fact that his mentor is no longer coaching him. But he owes it to the rest of his teammates to remain dialed in for the entire game, and that just wasn’t the case against BYU.
  • WSU has often had a shortage of talent and ability in the middle of the defensive line, but the way its seasoned linebackers are playing this year is beyond embarrassing. I can’t count the number of times they make a brutally incorrect fit, or fit correctly and then get either juked or run over. Again and again, Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers are made to look like D3 also-rans, and that was the case again Saturday, all the way to the final play when BYU ran off-tackle on 3rd-and-8. It ended with the running back dragging Woods for a full three yards and getting the first down, on a play when everyone watching knew what was coming. One of the most disappointing things to see is a player with so much promise as a freshman who is no better as a senior.
  • Speaking of guys who should be better, Liam Ryan killed two drives near midfield with holding penalties. Just can’t happen, and it has happened more times than I can count over the years.
  • I love this crew of receivers, which is better than I’d imagined it would be, and that’s without the ‘Nard Dog.
  • Credit to BYU, who didn’t hold at all! Matter of fact, it didn’t commit one within-the-play penalty for the entire game! Wow, such discipline!
  • I liked the call on the two-point conversion. As soon as Victor streaked around the end with the ball, I thought they really had something, but BYU just played it well. (wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as Liam Ryan was flagged for being illegally downfield)
  • If you’re a gambler (touches nose), the Cougs have beaten the spread as underdogs for five straight weeks. That’s something. Ok, it really isn’t much but we’re grasping here.

I’m sorry that those skew well toward pessimistic, but damn that game should have turned out differently. Win it, and WSU only needs to beat lowly Arizona to reach a bowl. Now, the odds of a bowl berth go from 75-80% to under 10%. And I don’t want to hear about how this is the year WSU has a shot to win the Apple Cup. I won’t believe it until I see it, and even though Washington sucks, it is still far superior in terms of talent.

To be honest, a big part of me will be ready to flush this season as soon as the clock hits 0:00 in Husky Stadium. It will give us a chance to move on from 2021, and bring on the optimism that (almost) always comes with the arrival of a new coach. But these players and the coaches who chose to stay with them deserve a reward for this season and period of tumult, and if they view a bowl game as a reward, it’s really gonna suck to see them not get it. While this game was frustrating in that regard, it’s the way they squandered the opener that will really stick in the craw.

Despite all of that, Go Cougs.

Football

'We didn't roll over': Despite week of upheaval, Washington State trades punches with BYU in tight loss | The Spokesman-Review
Making their first appearance since head coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants were shown the door Monday for failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the Cougars (4-4) traded punches with visiting BYU (6-2) until the bittersweet end of a 21-19 decision Saturday in front of a sparse crowd at Gesa Field.

Difference makers: Max Borghi's three touchdowns not enough in loss to BYU | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State couldn’t bottle up BYU’s bruising, balance-footed running back, who seemed to bounce off at least two tackles each time he touched the ball.

John Blanchette: Washington State finally able to focus on football, for the most part | The Spokesman-Review
It’s unlikely anyone indulged the fantasy that anyone – players, the remaining coaches and the program’s constituents – would magically move on from this upheaval in a mere 24 hours or so, as diligently as the Cougars tried.

Soccer

Big game in Pullman on Sunday, as the women’s soccer team takes on UCLA. Let’s hope WSU Soccer gets the win!

A final bow - Washington State University Athletics
The Cougs have a chance to play themselves off the bubble as they host #8 UCLA Sunday. The Bruins sit three-points ahead of the Cougs in the standings. The last time the Bruins came to town in 2018 the Cougs came away with a 1-0 win over the then #2 ranked UCLA.

This Week in Parenting

Somehow, some way, little league baseball continues unabated in western Germany. Saturday brought a 105-minute, one way road trip to watch both kids play respective games against some German baseball academy. The boys did their best, but both ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. But thankfully it was freezing cold, which totally helped. One thing that really did assist the viewing enjoyment was Bundesliga soccer. Once I was able to get the VPN to work over the German cell network, I watched Dortmund’s injury-riddled squad cruise to a 3-1 victory, maintaining second place in the standings.

This week brings the last tranche of football practices, in advance of Saturday’s game down in Stuttgart, which is one of the world’s worst 130-mile drives because Germany is constantly “fixing” its roads with no rhyme, reason or warning, and the great Autobahn myth never survives first contact. But after sitting through myriad weeks of Tuesday-Thursday practices which don’t end until 8 p.m., meaning that we don’t get dinner on the table until at least 8:30, it’ll be nice to get our weekday evenings back. Well, that is until winter sports start and we’re back in the same routine. Kids - Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live with ‘em.

Finally, given the barrage of warnings that shoppers need to get Christmas gifts early this year due to the worldwide supply chain constipation, I had the boys draw up lists. At one point, I was asked if they could populate a Google doc. Ask them to spend five extra minutes to prepare for a test and their world explodes. Ask them to spend a few minutes on a Christmas list and they’ll put together a document that would make King John’s Magna Carta look like something scrawled on a bar napkin.

Non-Sports

The Death of Ronald McDonald
At one point, the fast food mascot was more recognisable than Jesus Christ. What happened?