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A few longwinded thoughts on WSU’s 38-24 loss to Oregon

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It was close, kind of.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning from a southbound - but luckily wifi-enabled - Deutsche Bahn train car. Your Washington State Cougars suffered a tough yet largely predictable loss on Saturday night, falling to the College Football Playoff Committee’s 3rd-ranked Oregon Ducks. WSU hung tough after digging itself an early 14-0 hole, but ultimately just could not overcome a few key mistakes. Since I wasn’t able to watch most of the game, you won’t get the usual Sunday exercise in minutiae, but I’ll toss out a few tidbits based on what I saw and what the box score suggests. First up, the coaching situation.

Dear everyone, let’s try and stop the micro-analyzing of WSU’s head coaching position, and Jake Dickert’s future therein. Pat Chun has to take a holistic view of the job (wins/losses, recruiting, ability to build a staff, ability to lead young men etc.). Spouting after this game that Dickert isn’t fit for the job is just as stupid as saying that if WSU goes to a bowl or beats Washington, Dickert is the guy. Just stop it already and let things play out. Thankfully, none of us has any say in the hire.

On to the broadcast. I don’t know why ESPN even bothers to carry Pac-12 football because it clearly does not care about production quality. While I didn’t notice on my phone, the highlights seemed to indicate that the over-the-air broadcast took place somewhere between 480p and 482i. And did I really hear Rod Gilmore refer to Max Borghi as Max Berghi in the fourth quarter? Gilmore should have been fired 10 years ago for gross incompetence, but since ESPN couldn’t care less about the Pac-12, management keeps trotting him out there.

Given the decided talent gap (yes, kids, stars matter. A lot) WSU needed to play the perfect game and hope that Oregon would be as generous as the Arizona State Sun Devils were when it came to losing the ball. And while the Cougs continued to stay on the right side of defensive fumble luck - they recovered both Oregon fumbles - it was going to take a couple more miscues from Oregon, and none from WSU. Unfortunately, WSU fell victim to one of the dumbest rules in sports.

For the life of me, I cannot believe that there is such a staggering difference between fumbling the ball out at the opponent’s 1-inch line and fumbling out of the opponent’s end zone. The price a team pays for the difference of a couple inches is far too punitive. How hard is it to make a rule that says the offense must move the ball back to the 10 or 20 yard line if it fumbles out of the end zone? Just require that team to make the same distance it had to before. For example, if a guy fumbles out of the end zone on 3rd and goal, put the ball at the 20 and make it 4th and goal, etc. Maybe that isn’t the perfect solution, but there is a better way and nobody in charge seems to care.

It was pretty clear coming into the game that Oregon’s decided strength was running right at the opponent, which has also been a weakness for WSU this year (see: Oregon State, BYU, Utah). Making Anthony Brown use his arm was the only way for the defense to succeed, unless Oregon gave the ball away. Well let’s see, Oregon’s QB and top two backs combined to carry the ball 44 times, and averaged north of seven yards on each run. Meanwhile, WSU only had two tackles-for-loss. Once the Ducks got into the fourth quarter up 10 points, it was all but over, because their decided talent advantage in the trenches enabled them to mash WSU up the middle, and there was nothing the Cougars could do outside of a near-miraculous (and probably poorly-called) goal line turnover to stop it.

One key sequence that seemed to decide things came midway through the third quarter. WSU faced 4th and 2 at its own 49, and Dickert opted to punt. Now, there are times when I think that’s not the worst decision, but when you’re a two-touchdown underdog, playing on the road against a team that is hellbent on running the ball and draining the clock when it’s ahead, you should really go for the two yards. If nothing else, just give it to McIntosh and trust that he can bulldoze his way to the marker (he averaged 6.3 YPC).

Instead, WSU punted, Oregon held the ball for the next 7:03 and took a 10-point lead. Then WSU went three-and-out, holding the ball for all of 50 seconds. Just like that, the worn-down defense was back on the field, and it took the aforementioned strip to keep Oregon from salting the game away until a bit later. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that 99% of Oregon fans were praying that WSU would opt against going for it, and sure enough, Dickert obliged.

I’ve been highly critical of Liam Ryan over the years, and I still don’t think that he’s anything better than decidedly average left tackle, but he shouldn’t be on the receiving end of much criticism this week. Kayvon Thibodeaux is the best defensive player in college football, and has severely hindered offenses (and guys much better than Ryan) all season. There was no reason to believe he wouldn’t do the same thing Saturday. Independent of that, it didn’t help anyone that Brian Greene was absent once again. It’s clear that he’s a difference-maker up front, and WSU really needs him back.

Hats off to Nick Haberer, who seemed to have a decent game, averaging 42.2 yards-per-punt. That is way better than what we’ve been seeing. On the other side of special teams, Oregon punished WSU with its kick returns, which shouldn’t be happening in this era of college football where touchbacks are the norm.

On the gambling front, thanks for kicking down the back door, fellas! Hopefully anyone who placed a wager got in at the opening line of WSU +16.

Hats off to the coaches and players, once again, for having the guts and will to never think things are over. They could have caved when nothing went their way early on, and again as Oregon was trying to punch in the game-clinching touchdown. In both instances, they fought to the last inch and kept things within striking distance. Oregon just has too much talent; WSU, like always, will be living on the razor’s edge between winning and losing.

All in all, my friend Brian put it best.

The loss stings somewhat, even though it was mostly predictable, but making this season a success is still well within the realm of possible. If the Cougars can manage to beat the 1-9 Arizona Wildcats on Friday night, they’ll clinch yet another postseason birth. I, for one, never would have seen that coming when September ended. So please, please please turn out and support this team on Friday. It will be Senior Night, and God knows those guys have been through some shit over their WSU careers. The least WSU fans could do (again, if y’all have the ways and means) is turn out and voice full-throated support. And yes, students, that starts with you and your willingness to delay staying in the bedroom at your parents’ house for one extra night. I know you can, but if history is pretense, I doubt you will. Please prove me wrong.

Go Cougs.

Football

No. 5 Oregon turns back challenge from Washington State, keeps CFP hopes alive | The Spokesman-Review
The No. 5 Ducks answered a considerable challenge from Washington State, keeping their hopes for a College Football Playoff berth alive by turning back the scrappy Cougars in a 38-24 victory Saturday at a rocking Autzen Stadium.

Recap and highlights: No. 5 Oregon takes control of Pac-12 North, inch closer to playoffs with win over Washington State | The Spokesman-Review
UO averaged 6.5 yards a carry, while WSU managed just 3.6 on the ground.

Washington State Falls on the Road to No. 3 Oregon, 38-24 - Washington State University Athletics
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak over Pac-12 opponents for the Cougars.

This Week in Parenting

Had a long weekend, so it was time to hit the road. Well, the railroad. We made plans a while back to visit Berlin, and when the kids asked where we were staying, my instincts got the best of me and I said we’d be staying in a youth hostel. Since they’ve never been in one (I haven’t either but suspect it’s a lot like some of my deployment situations), there were several questions.

Will we have our own room? (no)

What are the beds? (bunk beds)

What about a bathroom? (shared with everyone else)

How many people are in the same room? (no more than 20)

Mrs. Kendall and I kept the gag going all the way. As we were leaving our point of origin, I called the hotel to let them know that we wouldn’t be checking in until about 11 p.m. When one of the boys asked why I had to call and tell them, I said it was because the hostel manager needed to make sure that nobody else was sleeping in our beds when we arrive. Things were abnormally quiet on the ride to the hotel, and I’m pretty sure there was a not-insignificant amount of anxiety among the kiddos. When we finally arrived at the hotel (not a hostel!) all the 10 year-old could do was shout “that was not funny!” over and over while the older boy breathed a huge sigh of relief. Probably one of the better ruses Mrs. Kendall I pulled on them.

As far as Berlin, it was a nice city and there were obviously a lot of things to see and do. As is our tradition, we went on a forced march in order to garner another Boy Scout patch, walking through Berlin’s historic trail. It’s cool because it shows you things that you wouldn’t ever notice. The boys were game throughout, as the oldest was charged with navigating the first couple miles. But instead of entering points of interest, I made him enter all of the waypoints in latitude/longitude coordinates. We then printed a map and entered those same points into my phone, and it was up to him to get us from site to site using a magnetic course derived from my phone’s compass. It was kind of fun to walk toward the rear for a change, shouting questions like “How much further??!!” and “Where are you taking us?! This is dumb!”

Both boys ended up doing the majority of the navigation, and things worked out just fine. Just don’t get me started on the assholes in the restaurant where we ate lunch, who felt it wasn’t necessary to tell me their credit card machine wasn’t working until AFTER WE’D EATEN. Now I’m pissed again.

Non-Sports

North Carolina man Dontae Sharpe pardoned 24 years after wrongfully imprisoned for murder - The Washington Post
Dontae Sharpe had just finished discussing potential avenues with his legal team for getting pardoned for a murder he did not commit when he received a call from one of his attorneys.