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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s bowl clincher over Arizona

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The Cougars did what good teams do to bad teams.

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 19: Washington State wide receiver Joey Hobert (12) celebrates a blocked punt during the second half of a PAC 12 conference matchup between the Arizona Wildcats and the Washington State Cougars on November 19, 2021, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA. Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Good morning, and happy day after the day that the Washington State Cougars clinched a bowl for the sixth consecutive non-pretend season. Still feels great! The Cougs did what good teams should do to bad teams on Friday, i.e. they got out to a lead and never really let the Arizona Wildcats back into it. Once Joey Hobert blocked the punt through the Arizona end zone, WSU pretty much put this game away. At least, I think the blocked punt went through the end zone. I don’t know if anyone actually saw it happen, and I felt sorry for Maurice Jones-Drew when he was clearly confused as well.

Ok, a normal person probably thought WSU put the game away right then, but yours truly has far too much scar tissue to be convinced of such things. I didn’t breathe easily until Calvin Jackson, Jr. was streaking toward the goal line to put the Cougs up by 26 in the fourth quarter. It was then that I began to soak in the fact that the Cougs were once again going bowling, in possibly the most bizarre way we could have imagined.

I mean, five wins in the Pac-12, with one game to go? Did anyone see that as likely when WSU walked off the field having been defeated by Utah State? How about after they gave away yet another second half lead in Salt Lake City? If you did, you’re either delusional, Nostradamus’ cousin or both. But this team epitomized how resilient young people can be, as it rallied to win three straight games as an underdog, overcoming a variety of months-long, coach-induced distraction and controversy to somehow, some way, remain mathematically alive in the Pac-12 North title race with one game to go.

So how did that bowl-clincher go? Let’s talk about it!

The Good

  • On a personal level, it’s good to not be let down by the good guys when you wake up at 0245 to watch them play live. That alarm clock was a rough one to answer early Saturday morning.
  • The senior sendoff. Holy cow, what a way to go out, both in terms of the result and the route taken to get there. All touchdowns scored by seniors, and the only turnover was created by a senior!
  • And we got to see those seniors, and everyone else, in actual high definition! Quite the improvement over the previous week. Ok, we got to see a bunch of fog in HD, but that wasn’t the fault of the producers.
  • Antonio Pule - apparently also a senior? - had a great few series early on. He was getting quick penetration from his tackle spot, and blew up Arizona’s 4th-and-1 play on its first series, with a huge assist from Francisco Mauigoa.
  • Abe Lucas is a grown man. This was especially evident on a first quarter short side option pitch when he blocked a guy 20 yards down the field and clear out of bounds (the :55 second mark of the highlights below).
  • How great was Max Borghi Friday? He deftly evaded 11 Wildcat defenders for much of the night, and even Arizona’s 12th defender (the umpire) on his first touchdown.
  • The old draw play seemed to work ok throughout the game.
  • The receivers sure made some Cracraft-like catches near the sideline. Looking at you, Travell. And you, De’zhaun. Well done.
  • Quinn Roff, ladies and gentlemen! He may have only had two tackles, but both were TFL and one was a sack.
  • Seemed like the key sequence - if there was one in a 44-18 game - came near the end of the first half. Arizona scored to cut WSU’s lead in half, and after a sack (more on that later) the Cougs faced 2nd-and-16 at their own 19. Another bad play and Arizona would have good field position with a chance to tie going into halftime, while receiving the second half kick. Instead, WSU was in the end zone just two plays and 21 seconds later. WSU then forced another three-and-out, and was never seriously threatened again.
  • Jayden de Laura still makes some questionable decisions, but his deep passing accuracy has been markedly better as this season has progressed. That first touchdown to Jackson could not have been placed any better. Same with the third quarter strike to Harris.
  • It was very good for WSU that Will Plummer is not an accurate passer.
  • Speaking of Borghi, it was cool to see the end zone view of his 43-yard run in the third quarter, because he absolutely undressed two would-be tacklers who were waiting for him in the hole.
  • There’s not a lot that beats a blocked punt for the good guys, especially when it results in points.
  • Credit where it’s due, Wildcats. Y’all may have the Pac-12’s worst team, but at least someone in the athletic department had the sense to ditch the awful uniforms you’d been wearing in recent years and revert to one of the best combos around. You’ve got that going for you, which is nice.
  • You also have an awesome kicker, Wildcats. Wish he was on our team!
  • My first memory of Jahad Woods in Martin Stadium is when he stripped Sam Darnold in 2017, enabling a WSU fumble recovery and win. So I am thrilled that Woods snagged an interception during his last game in Martin Stadium to cap things off.
  • It seemed crazy how well the same play continued to yield huge returns, but damned if WSU’s draw play didn’t produce multiple explosive gains. Stuff like that is so damn frustrating when you’re on the wrong end of it.
  • 6.2 yards-per-carry and 8.3 YPP. Pretty good!
  • With four more touchdown passes Friday, and despite not starting the opener (thanks, Nick!) and missing a chunk of the USC game / the entire Utah game, Jayden de Laura is going to finish the season as the Pac-12’s leader in both passing yards and touchdowns. But I’m sure the coaches and writers will figure out a way to make him Honorable Mention.

The Bad

  • According to multiple weather-centric websites, the chance for precipitation at game time was 15%. Welp.
  • I mentioned the sack that preceded the WSU explosives late in the second quarter, and something tells me that it gave the offensive line coach an aneurysm. An Arizona defender absolutely embarrassed Liam Ryan and Jarrett Kingston, splitting both of them and sacking de Laura. Later on, Kingston was benched in favor of Brian Greene, who filled in at guard instead of his usual center spot. It still boggles my mind that there’s no left tackle on WSU’s roster who can pass block better than Ryan.
  • The offensive line as a whole seemed to revert to its early season form, and that’s not a good thing. Too many running plays that never had a chance, and too many pass plays where de Laura was forced to scramble as soon as he got the snap.
  • Same went for the defensive edge pressure. While Stone and Jackson have had some tremendous games, their impact against Arizona was largely absent.
  • I will never understand how a wide receiver commits a false start.
  • Old guy observation - I have no idea how those players see clearly through the visor when it’s snowing and their breath is fogging everything up.
  • Fumble luck giveth, and fumble luck taketh. On Friday, said luck avoided the Cougs as Arizona recovered all three of its fumbles.
  • Chau Smith-Wade’s genes failed him. He was in perfect position, but just wasn’t tall enough to bat the ball away, and Arizona scored.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the color analyst - Jones-Drew in this case - compared Borghi to Christian McCaffrey. I know, I was surprised too!
  • God help anyone who tries to discern anything from the All-22 for much of this game. Ryan and Kingston are probably hoping every game is played in a blanket of fog. Another great example of the fog’s effect was the second Harris touchdown, when I was basically looking for the official’s signal because I had no idea what was happening.
  • The refs seemed not terrible, which is an improvement, but the pass interference call on Jaylen Watson was complete garbage.
  • As effective as Harris and Jackson were, there wasn’t a lot of distribution in the passing game. Donovan Ollie seems to be a guy who hasn’t come anywhere near preseason hopes.

Good + Bad

  • Watching the highlights with the boys, they kept asking whether the guys doing all the scoring were seniors. When I kept saying “yes” they exclaimed “Everyone is a senior!” So while it was great that the seniors were going out in style, it would have been cool to see some young guys (who will play beyond this season) in the end zone as well!
  • Given the thick fog and my aviation background, I was curious as to Arizona’s ability to fly out of the soup after the game. Turns out that instead of the planned 11 p.m. departure from Pullman, their charter instead left from a presumably fog-free Lewiston after midnight. Insult to injury.

The Ugly

  • Actual injuries. First it was Arizona’s Jerry Roberts getting rolled up on the first play, which unfortunately looked pretty serious. Then it was Daniel Isom limping off once the game was well in hand. The drop from Isom to his backup is quite pronounced, and if Isom misses the Apple Cup, that will really hurt the Cougars.
  • The game took just one minute short of four hours to complete. It only felt like twice that.
  • I know the weather stunk, but the seats were still depressingly bereft of fans. What a shame.
  • It’s Apple Cup week

In sum, it was really great to send the seniors out with a decisive win that clinched yet another bowl game. It’s been quite a journey to get to this point, and I am more proud of these guys than any other senior class since I’ve been a fan (and that’s a lot of senior classes!). They were recruited by Mike Leach, inherited by Nick Rolovich and sent off by Jake Dickert. All along the way, they have stayed true to the team mindset, and have given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to keep the winning tradition alive. My hat is off to all of them.

Now go beat the (4-7 and non-bowl-eligible) Washington Huskies.

Football

'We've been fortunate to do this for so long': Washington State linebackers Jahad Woods, Justus Rogers turn in unexpectedly historic careers | The Spokesman-Review
It’s been a familiar sight since 2017: Woods lined up at his weakside post alongside Rogers, manning the middle.

Saturday Night Five: Down goes Oregon, Chip Kelly’s big win, QB questions for Washington, inspired play from Utah and WSU
The Cougars and Utes are currently playing with a level of inspiration, regardless of location or opponent, that’s unmatched within the conference. Both deserve whatever success awaits.

Arizona football vs. Washington State final score: Wildcats get lost in fog, are blown out by Cougars - Arizona Desert Swarm
The Cougars got 310 of their 482 yards on eight long runs or passes in a 44-18 blowout of the Wildcats on Friday night.

This Week in Parenting

Grandma and Grandpa Kendall arrived today (Sunday) for the first time since the spring of 2019 (thanks, COVID!), so Mrs. Kendall and I have pretty much lost all control of anything resembling discipline. If you have kids, you know.

Prior to the grandparents arriving, it was time to clean things up. One chronic area of disrepair is the boys’s sink, where toothpaste collects like modern-day stalagmites, because God forbid the little bastards wash things down the drain. So when I ventured into the wasteland that is the kid bathroom, I was greeted by lumps of purple toothpaste adhered to the sink. When I asked the 10 year-old why there was so much toothpaste left there, he immediately blamed his brother, because of course.

There’s just the little fact that his brother uses a different color of toothpaste (blue vs. purple), so we knew who was at fault. Related: I have no idea why two kids who share a bathroom can’t figure out a way to share a tube of toothpaste, so this is a campaign of learning for yours truly. Anyway, the circular logic that the 10 year-old used was something to behold - and rather admirable - given the fact that his attempts to pin the sink’s disrepair on his brother flew in the face of logic and reality.

Before the brushing of the teeth, the boys sampled some more dessert from the Halloween haul (they get dessert on Thursdays and Sundays). The 10 year-old chose some of his fun-sized Hershey’s chocolate bars, prompting Mrs. Kendall to remark, “you have such simple tastes.” His response, “yes, but I’m such a complicated boy.” I won’t argue with that.

Comino the Cat is also elated with the news that the Cougs are bowling once again.

Non-Sports

Kevin Donovan’s car was stolen from his driveway in Toronto. It was tracked to a Halifax port, bound for the Middle East | The Star
What happens to your car when it gets stolen and how that’s changed during the pandemic, as numbers have been on the rise.

Radicalization's path: In case studies, finding similarities
In the months before he was charged with storming the Capitol, Doug Jensen was sharing conspiracy theories he'd consumed online. But it hadn’t always been that way, says his brother, who recalls how he once posted the sort of family and vacation photos familiar to nearly all social media users.