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Mistakes kill WSU in 30-14 loss to USC

The Cougs frustrated us all Saturday.

Washington State v USC Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Good morning. This won’t be the typical good / bad / ugly column that the four of you read on Sundays. There are a few related reasons for that, but the long and short of it is that yours truly spent much of Saturday not watching college football, and much of the Washington State Cougars loss to the USC Trojans was viewed via a cell phone.

But even though the viewing experience was rather hit-and-miss, I can say that in hindsight, I didn’t think I’d be as frustrated as I am with the way that game played out, and much of that frustration is due to the fact that WSU could have won, if only it had minimized the self-inflicted wounds. We were talking in the chat Sunday morning about how much more evenly WSU played USC than it did Oregon. Yes, WSU led most of the Oregon game, but it just felt like a matter of time before the roof caved in, and that finally happened, with Oregon winning by a field goal. Against USC, WSU was right there for much of the time, yet lost by 16.

The prevailing thought coming into the game was WSU couldn’t have any stupid turnovers. And guess what? It didn’t turn the ball over! It averaged 5.0 yards per carry, better than USC’s average! It held Caleb Williams to barely 50% passing and fewer than 288 yards! How could WSU lose by such a margin?

Welp, WSU lost in a similar manner to how WSU often loses games like this. Just think of it as a math formula: Less talented players x self-inflicted wounds + officiating malpractice = A loss for the good guys.

There will never be a remedy to the first part, as most Power Five teams WSU faces will have a talent edge. And the third part is almost baked in at this point, to the degree that one of the few people who covers the Pac-12 has written about how WSU always seems to be on the wrong end of officiating incompetence. We can’t even allow an offensive lineman to hit someone trying to kill his quarterback unless that hit is within a very specific set of subjective parameters. Madness.

But it’s that second part of the formula that is especially galling, because it’s the one component that WSU can control, yet here we are, bemoaning another loss.

A couple (of many) examples:

  • USC faced 3rd and four on its first possession, and WSU batted down a pass to bring up fourth down. Except that decided to line up offsides, giving USC a first down and keeping a drive alive that ended with a touchdown.
  • Leading 14-10 in the second quarter, WSU had USC in 3rd-and-19 from the WSU 24 when Caleb Williams threw incomplete, setting up a probable field goal try. But wait! Raam Stevenson was now the person who couldn’t stay onside. Given new life, USC’s possession again ended up in the end zone.

I tell my football-playing 14 year-old that doing three things on defense will almost certainly make you successful: Alignment, assignment, effort. On Saturday, WSU failed at the first one! Multiple times!

That was 14 USC points that probably should have been three. Seems to me that would have had an impact on the outcome. There were countless others during the game, adding up to the old “death by a thousand paper cuts” style of loss for WSU. And that’s a shame, because if those two teams play 10 times, I’d bet the Cougs win three or four. But they only play once, and thankfully, it appears as though WSU may never play in that venue against that team ever again. Count me among the people not mourning the loss.

There were a couple bright spots as well on Saturday, chief among them was true freshman Jaylen Jenkins. That kid has come so far since his first game fumble, and will be a difference-maker for this team. Hopefully his increased snaps going forward are due to production, and not because Nakia Watson isn’t available.

Cam Ward wasn’t great, but it seemed like he was pretty good, especially given the fact that he was under near constant duress. His stats weren’t anything special, but he kept his cool and didn’t make any of the backbreaking mistakes we’d seen in previous games. Going forward, he’s going to have to transition from “guy who doesn’t hurt his team” to “guy who gets his team into the win column.” I’m confident he can do that.

Unfortunately, that was about it. The offensive line is nearly irreparable (imagine Luke Falk behind this group), Daiyan Henley has looked decidedly “meh” in the team’s two biggest games, the receivers were subpar, and starters Renard Bell, Armani Marsh and Nakia Watson had to leave the game due to injury.

But despite all that, there’s much more reason for optimism! As frustrating as Saturday was, this is a team capable of winning eight games and making this a successful season. That starts next Saturday at Oregon State, which seems to toe the same razor-thin line that WSU always has. WSU head to Corvallis looking to win its ninth consecutive game of the series, and is currently a 3-point underdog.


No. 6 Southern Cal pulls away in the second half, tops visiting Washington State 30-14 | The Spokesman-Review
The sixth-ranked Trojans held WSU off the scoreboard after halftime and churned out a few lengthy scoring possessions to stay unbeaten and deny the Cougars an elusive win in L.A.

Washington State receiver Renard Bell, running back Nakia Watson sidelined with injuries during game against Southern Cal | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State came into the game with a healthy roster, but the Cougars lost a couple of their top contributors to injuries during Saturday’s 30-14 Pac-12 loss to No. 6 USC.


Volleyball hosts Oregon State Sunday on Pac-12 Washington - Washington State University Athletics
On the heels of its first top-25 win of the season on Friday night, Washington State volleyball (11-5, 3-2) will host Oregon State (6-9, 1-4) on Sunday at noon in Bohler Gym. Sunday's match will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Washington.

This Week in Parenting

It was another tough week for the mighty Gulf Breeze Dolphins freshmen. Last week, they lost a 13-12 heartbreaker when a 2-point conversion failed late in the game. Then, on Monday, they played another school’s JV squad. This wasn’t the first time the freshmen faced a JV opponent, but man, the difference in size is remarkable. The Dolphins hung tough, but just didn’t have the horses against a team that appeared to be fielding college sophomores.

But there was a bright spot. Near the end of the game, the kiddo got a few snaps at corner back. Parenting is funny. As great as it is to see your kid get in the game, it’s equally as terrifying, especially when the boy is out on an island. It reminds me of that old Adam Sandler sketch when he’s yelling encouragement to his teammates while internally praying that the ball isn’t hit to him.

So of course, facing fourth and long, the other team went deep at him. There were nerves. But lo and behold, the pass fell incomplete! He was so close in coverage that the ball hit him in the back. But we’ll save the “try to get your head around” lesson for another day.

The principle reason for the tight coverage? Let’s go back to early that morning. “Dad, do you have a white t-shirt I can wear under my blues uniform? We have an inspection today.” Well thanks for the advance notice. Since I’m 6-4 and 205 pounds, you’ll be surprised to learn that I did not have a shirt that fits a kid who goes 5-10 / 125. But I did have a pair of uniform socks that fit him. Naturally, he didn’t think it necessary to take a pair of game socks with him to school. Instead, he just let things ride with the Junior ROTC inspection-worthy black beauties.

Oh to be young again.

On the 10 year-old front, I’ve been working PA for his games this season, as I angle to succeed Glenn Johnson. Mrs. Kendall was out of town, so he joined me in the booth for the game. Inevitably, he got hungry, so I threw a 20 at him and sent him to the food truck. He returned with a cheesesteak and $3 dollars in change. After he destroyed that, and some fries, I sent him to the bathroom to wash his hands.

He returned several minutes later, and since he is who he is, I told him to present his hands so I could detect whether soap had been used. Nope. Back down he went. This time, he swore up and down that he had washed his hands, thoroughly, with soap and water. Again I smelled his hands, and then uttered a sentence that I’m fairly certain has never been heard, “I know what soap smells like and it isn’t cheesesteak.” Again, he was relegated to the bathroom. Finally, on try #3, he seemed to successfully complete the mission. Kids are the best. Kids are the worst.


The United States of Confederate America - The Atlantic
Support for Confederate symbols and monuments follows lines of race, religion, and education rather than geography.

Colorado’s Parental Responsibility Evaluator System Is Broken — ProPublica
In Colorado family courts, parents can request an expert evaluation of their case, which sometimes includes allegations of abuse. Mark Kilmer is routinely appointed to evaluate families despite his own history of domestic violence.