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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s Apple Cup loss to Washington

A one-year reprieve was all we get.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Washington at Washington State Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well that was fun, wasn’t it? The annual rite of self-torture came and went on Saturday, and after a one-year reprieve, Washington State Cougars fans everywhere are now back in the all-too-familiar position of living with yet another loss to the cross-state rival Huskies. But seriously, why on earth do we do this to ourselves? These were much easier to digest when I just slept through them. Oh well.

For a while, it seemed like this one might come down to the wire, with the last team in possession of the ball needing a score to win. But as has often been the story in this series, superior talent and depth carried the day, as WSU had a couple too many injuries and too few clutch plays to keep pace. What we saw Saturday was what we’ve seen a lot this season, an offense that looked like a well-oiled machine during the first half, and then badly regressed in the second. That may be good enough against the worst teams in the conference, but it certainly isn’t when you’re facing a team in the top third.

As a result, WSU is about as average as average can get in terms of conference foes, with its wins coming over the four teams directly below it in the standings, accompanied by losses to the teams that finished first thru fifth. There’s a saying attributed to Bill Parcells, which goes, “You are what your record says you are.” While that isn’t always the case, it sure seems to succinctly describe Cougar Football 2022.

The Good

  • First half offense! It was clear early on that WSU would have to go score-for-score if it wanted to win, and that’s what it did, getting points on five of its six first-half possessions.
  • That first scoring drive came courtesy of Dean Janikowski, and that kick he made was probably the best kick he’s made at WSU, considering the conditions.
  • What a great play design on that fake punt. Turns out Nick Haberer has a decent arm, and Daiyan Henley could probably be a pretty effective tight end. But we already knew that, given that he’s super awesome.
  • Speaking of Henley, that was some play when he basically stole the ball from Cam Davis, giving WSU a chance to get back in the game.
  • That one time where WSU’s defense forced a punt was pretty good! Just don’t ask where that punt landed.
  • Cam Ward’s uncanny ability to wriggle out of pressure is truly incredible.
  • Underrated game for Leyton Smithson, who caught all seven of his targets for 58 yards. I thought Robert Ferrell also played really well. Seemed to be open quite a bit.
  • Donovan Ollie is an average receiver, but an all-conference blocker.
  • Speaking of blocking, Cooper Mathers absolutely bulldozed a guy, enabling a long gain on WSU’s lone touchdown drive in the second half.
  • Outstanding play design to get Nakia Watson open for the wheel route touchdown.
  • Speaking of Watson, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t close to 100%, but he was out there gutting through it. Can’t properly summarize how important he’s been this season.
  • My kids went to bed after the first quarter, so as far as they were concerned, WSU won the game, 10-7.

The Bad

  • We didn’t even get a play in before the broadcast felt compelled to show 2021’s WSU celebration. The purple-clad residents of Mount Sanctimony must have been pleased.
  • I thought Langford and Smith-Wade did ok, all things considered, but Langford cheated on one hitch-and-go, and WSU paid dearly in the form of an easy touchdown.
  • As great as Ward was at extending plays, his throws were awfully inaccurate throughout the game.
  • And could somebody please devote a practice period or two which teaches the mechanics of ball-handling near the goal line and first down marker? Cam needs it!
  • Jenkins, you’re not Barry Sanders. Hit the goddamn hole.
  • Is it just me or does Kalen Deboer always look like a guy who hasn’t taken a dump in five days, and was just on the wrong end of a suppository insertion?
  • I’d love to get inside Jake Dickert’s head at the end of the first half. WSU wasted precious seconds by not calling timeout near midfield, and it cost the Cougars an extra chance at a touchdown. In a game when you’re trying to match the opponent’s scoring ability, taking a timeout into the locker room and costing your team a chance at four extra points is really, really dumb.
  • Seven second before the half, and the announcer says, “A shot at the endzone perhaps?” YA THINK??!!
  • Horrible missed tackle by Brennan Jackson, which resulted in a 17-yard run.
  • Billy, you’re a big tight end. When you’re close to the sticks, lower your damn shoulder and get there.

The Ugly

  • The defense, nearly everything about the defense. Washington was clearly aware that Armani Marsh’s backup can’t play, and it exploited that weakness repeatedly. Couple that with a decided lack of pressure, and we got what we got.
  • I spent the better part of the season wanting to believe this defense was as good as its scoring average, while knowing deep down that it wasn’t anything special. I was ready to buy in, even with an average performance in this game. Instead, it became rather obvious that WSU’s defensive stats were largely a product of its schedule, because against the conference’s top offenses (I’m using Washington, USC and Oregon), the defense gave up an average of 39 points. And if Utah hadn’t been missing its top quarterback and running back, the Utes probably would have broken 30 also. Here’s hoping the bowl opponent has a bad offense!
  • I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while, but Saturday brought into sharp relief that WSU, specifically Eric Morris, needs to completely overhaul its second half offensive process. This isn’t merely a matter of poor adjustments. It is a systemic problem, and WSU can’t count on running and hiding from the opponent in the first half, then running out the clock before that opponent catches up. That never has been, and never will be sustainable. This is bigger than the players and the play calls. It has to be fixed.
  • I doubt WSU would have done enough to pull off a win, given Washington’s production, but the pass interference call on Langford was absolutely unconscionable. 35-33, and WSU was going to force just the second Washington punt of the game. Instead, the incompetent officials hand Washington a first down. But I’m sure they’ll be held accountable.
  • And if you know any typical Husky fans (first off, sorry) who want to crow about a missed targeting call, I regret to inform you that those people are complete idiots. If there’s any group of officials who live to review targeting plays and dole out ejections, they reside in our conference, and even they didn’t think Lockett’s inadvertent helmet collision with the Washington receiver met the minimum standard of a review. Plus, if the Washington coaches thought it was a penalty, they could have called timeout. They didn’t, because it wasn’t targeting, and as usual, those sidewalk alumni are morons.

Despite all of the flaws that were laid bare on Saturday night, as they almost always are when WSU faces Washington, This season has by-and-large been a good one. But for God’s sake can this team please win its bowl game and leave us with a good feeling for the offseason? I’m pretty damn tired of having fun for most of the year, only to watch the season end with an Apple Cup loss and bowl game no-show. I don’t think I’m alone.

As always, Go Cougs. But seriously please win the bowl game.


'It should scar them': Washington State surrenders 700 yards, Washington separates in second half for 51-33 Apple Cup win | The Spokesman-Review
The Huskies’ offense showed up. WSU’s defense never really did.

Commentary: The hardest part of losing the Apple Cup for Washington State fans isn't actually the loss, it's not winning when it matters most | The Spokesman-Review
Cougars fans grow up understanding that no matter how much crimson and gray they wear on game day, the Huskies are probably going to win the Apple Cup.

Difference makers: Washington passing attack led by Michael Penix Jr. proves to much for Washignton State | The Spokesman-Review
Nakia Watson – WSU’s junior tailback continued his strong late-season scoring streak, tallying 114 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on 22 touches.

This Week in Parenting

Since we spent the bulk of the week with the PNW family, I didn’t see the kids much unless they were hungry or needed something. They had a good time with grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins of course. Then reality smacked them in the face on Friday morning when it was time to head back home. But while we were there, we dropped by a local sports bar for lunch. After a basketball game ended, ESPNU decided to air the 1988 UCLA-Washington game. ThisThis was a good opportunity for me to show the kids the kind of “quality” that was a 1980s sports telecast. Early on, the 11 year-old asked where the score box was. Oh, sweet, young child.

When we got up Saturday morning, it was time to give the kids their list of chores. I didn’t feel like yelling across the house, and I knew the teenager was staring at his phone, so I sent him a text to summon him. Fast forward to Sunday morning, when he sent me a text to tell me that he has to be 30 minutes early to Boy Scouts on Monday. He was quickly counseled on the difference between using intra-house messaging to ask for one’s presence and using it to pass information that can just as easily be done in-person.

We all know that the Apple Cup ended rather late, especially if you’re toward the eastern portion of the USA. I didn’t get to bed until about 0130, so imagine my lack of enthusiasm when the 11 year-old careened into the bedroom this morning at 0650 to tell me that he wanted to watch Belgium’s World Cup game, which was to begin at 0700. I told him to watch on ‘mute” and tried to go back to sleep. So of course he lasted for like 10 minutes, then left the room with the TV still on.

Pretty great weekend!


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