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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s loss to Oregon

Seemed like WSU might win, if you don’t pay attention.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Welp, I’d say “good morning”, but I’m pretty sure most of you would strenuously object to Sunday morning’s status. There are many thoughts regarding Saturday’s Oregon Ducks’ 44-41 defeat of the Washington State Cougars, but one that keeps sticking with me is this: if you’d told me before the game that WSU would score 34 points (I’m not gonna figure in the garbage touchdown at the end, sorry not sorry), and hold the lead for 55 minutes and 17 seconds, I’d have been near certain that the Cougs came away with a win. But alas, Oregon rallied late for what seems like the eleventy billionth time to beat WSU.

I don’t know how everyone else was feeling, but there was not one second of that game during which I thought WSU had any semblance of control. It felt to me like WSU was doing just enough - a big offensive play here, a miraculous pick-six there - to possibly survive Oregon’s seemingly relentless onslaught of explosive plays. And sure enough, the dam that WSU spent 55 minutes building finally broke, mostly under the weight of a fatal possession after Oregon pulled to within 34-29.

So while many in national college football media seemed surprised by the game’s final five minutes, I’d bet that most Cougar fans simply shook their heads and wondered what took Oregon so long. Well, that’s what I did, anyway. Such is the state of things when one side’s roster is full of 4-and-5 star recruits, while the other side’s...isn’t.

The Good

  • Cam Ward was outstanding, and what I saw Saturday was the guy I’ve been waiting to see for a month. He never wavered, despite what was in front of him, and showed the kind of playmaking ability that so many people had told us to to expect. Aside from pulling several plays out of his backside, such as the flip to Nakia Watson that resulted in a huge gain, he threw for two TDs, ran for another and averaged 7.8 YPA. If WSU gets that game out of him every week (not likely because he’s not a machine), this will be a successful season.
  • But seriously plays like the one Ward made, when he seemed to be going down but flipped the ball to Watson for 25 yards are demonstrative of some serious game-breaking potential.
  • Then on the same drive he did it again on 4th and seven! Somehow finding Watson for 12.
  • Amid a barren wasteland of this defense’s performance, let’s raise a glass to Travion Brown. When Oregon got inside the red zone, Brown was seemingly everywhere, hitting running backs in the hole and chasing down plays near the sideline.
  • Robert Ferrell has been a revelation since getting healthy enough to play, and it’s clear that he and Ward have a really good rapport.
  • The receiving corps as a whole did its part Saturday, with four receivers catching at least five passes.
  • I’ve long been in the camp that’s decidedly against the receiver pop pass, but WSU had a couple good ones Saturday, including one that totally fooled the Oregon edge players, resulting in a Ferrell touchdown.
  • As bad as the WSU defense was (more on that later), I give them credit for bending but not breaking inside the red zone, particularly in the first half.
  • There was no bigger red zone stop than the one where Francisco Mauigoa stepped in front of a Bo Nix pass and took it a staggering 95 yards for a score. Had the Cougs won, it would have been up there among WSU’s greatest defensive plays in recent memory. Instead, it’s a footnote. But man, what a play it was.
  • Mauigoa also had a great stop on Oregon’s first 2-point attempt.
  • Renard Bell is so fun to watch. He was killing Oregon from the slot. Just wish he could get the ball somewhere past the line of scrimmage.
  • Pretty funny play in the third quarter when Ward caught the Oregon corner napping and hit Stribling for a huge gain. Unfortunately, WSU had to settle for a field goal after Stribling’s toe hit out of bounds.
  • Ward showed tremendous poise on a trick play in the third. WSU set the play up perfectly, but Ward had a defender bearing down on him and still completed a pass to Ferrell for 16 yards. That sparked a drive that ended in a Cougar touchdown.
  • Solid day from Dean Janikowski, who hit both of his kicks.

The Bad

  • We’ll start with a self-own. I have no idea why, but I thought the game started at 4 p.m. where I live. It started an hour before that, and I didn’t realize it until WSU had scored its first touchdown. Here’s my sign.
  • Maybe we should pump the brakes with comparing this defense to the great ones of years past. Bo Nix (Bo Nix!) absolutely strafed WSU, to the tune of 9.7 YPA and three touchdowns.
  • Here’s what we wrote last Saturday, regarding opponent explosives in the pass game:

CSU’s top four receivers caught passes of 27, 25, 22 and 19 yards respectively. Those kinds of coverage busts will not go unpunished next Saturday.

Sure enough, six different Oregon receivers had catches of 21 yards or more. It only felt like twice that.

  • After a tremendous initial injection of mojo that came with the anthracite uniforms, the last three acts have gone rather poorly. Of note, opponents have scored 123 second-half points in those games. Is it time we put an end to what may be a cursed uniform combo? People are asking!
  • I’m not a defensive coach, but I’ve watched enough football to know that when I see a linebacker matched up out wide with a running back, it’s probably bad for the defense. This happened on 4th and 2, in the fourth quarter, when Kyle Thornton lined up across from Bucky Irving. A stop there, and WSU probably wins the game. Instead, Nix took advantage of the mismatch, hitting Irving for 21 yards. 90 seconds later, Oregon was in the endzone. If I noticed it, I wonder why the defensive staff thought it was fine.
  • Kind of curious whether any of WSU’s defensive ends got close enough to the quarterback to see which number he wears. Most of the time it felt like they were watching the game from my couch.
  • It’s becoming very clear that Eric Morris is calling plays designed to mitigate the clear disadvantage WSU faces with its offensive line. This offense is sorely lacking a downfield passing game, and it isn’t because Ward lacks an arm, or because WSU’s receivers can’t stress a defense vertically. It’s because the coaches don’t trust WSU’s offensive line to pass block for the requisite amount of time. That’s why we see screen after screen.
  • One good example (among many) of the line’s ineptitude: on that impeccably-designed trick play/screen pass where Ward had to hurry his pass to Ferrell, WSU had four linemen out front to block, but Christian Hilborn just let a defender run past him to make the stop.

The Ugly

  • I remember the last few years when the gang and I would bemoan another Liam Ryan false start or swing door sack, and lament the fact that WSU couldn’t find anyone better to step in. Well now that’s the issue with the safety position. I know there have been injuries there, but the current situation isn’t tenable and the playing back there is not a P5-level defender.

I should probably just call the rest of this the honorary officials and announcers section.

  • I mean, what on earth was going on with the refs? On that maliciously-botched sequence of downs in the second quarter, Jake Dickert was clearly telling the linesman that they’d miscounted the downs. Instead of blowing his whistle and talking to the crew to get things correct, the stooge in stripes just ignored WSU’s coach and they played on. And for the life of me, I don’t understand why (well ok, I do), they thought it was fine to replay the downs, but made WSU start with 3rd and 17 instead of 2nd and 18, which is where things should have resumed. I guess such solutions require logic and common sense. And if that weren’t bad enough, Oregon’s next possession began seven yards ahead of where it was going to.
  • Then there was the time an Oregon defender ripped Donovan Ollie’s helmet off during a tackle. What was the punishment? Ollie had to leave for a play!
  • It wasn’t enough that the guys on the field were wearing clown shoes, “expert” Mike Periera also had to don the makeup and big nose when he speculated that Cam Ward didn’t have a first down and may have fumbled on a keeper in the second quarter. Of course neither of those opinions was close to being true.
  • Oregon corner jumps offside on punt, causing WSU gunner to move. The call? False start.
  • Brando and Tillman didn’t have as bad a day as the officiating crew, but man, they were not good. We’ll start with Tillman talking about Victor Lincoln and Antonio Pool.
  • If there were a drinking game for every time they mentioned “points-per-possession”, I’d be in detox for at least a week. You mean it’s important to score points when you have the ball? Who knew??!!
  • On the play when an Oregon defender hit Cam Ward in the fact, rightfully drawing a flag, Ward threw the ball away and it landed right next to Nakia Watson. That didn’t stop Brando and Tillman from talking at length about how Ward would have been flagged for intentional grounding had he not been hit in the face, completely ignoring the fact that WATSON WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE.
  • And of course nobody on the crew, not the announcers, not the spotter, not the producer, not the director, had any clue that the refs skipped a down in the second quarter. Too busy filling every millisecond of airtime with words to take a breath and figure out what was going on.
  • Never gamble.

All that said, Saturday’s game against Cal will, in my opinion, go a long way toward telling the tale of Cougar Football, 2022. If a bowl is the goal, the Cougs absolutely need this one, because after that it’s back-to-back road games at USC and Oregon State followed by a visit from Utah. It’s also homecoming. Go Cougs.


Jacob Thorpe: Collapse aside, Washington State has proved it can play with anyone | The Spokesman-Review
By turning their quarterback loose and playing with aggression, the Cougars had responded to each previous Ducks score with one of their own to stay in control. But on that drive and the ensuing defensive possession, WSU looked like a team hoping the clock would win the game for them.

Washington State defense bends, eventually breaks in 44-41 loss to No. 15 Oregon | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars withstood Oregon’s big plays for the better part of three quarters, but in a game that saw them roll up 624 total yards of offense, the Ducks capitalized in the most crucial moments, handing WSU its first loss this season.

'You gotta execute in the biggest moments': Washington State falls flat in crunch time, suffers heartbreaking loss to No. 15 Oregon | The Spokesman-Review
Oregon piled up 29 points in the fourth quarter – 14 in the final 2:46 – and stunned WSU in a thrilling Pac-12 matinee on Saturday at a sold-out Gesa Field, handing the Cougars a 44-41 loss.


Cougars use dominant fifth set to complete road win at Southern Cal - Washington State University Athletics
The win was the third-consecutive road win for the Cougars at USC and fourth win out of the last five matchups overall.

This Week in Parenting

Dolphins win! Dolphins win! The sports week wasn’t a total loss, as the Gulf Breeze HS freshmen overcame what felt like 100 turnovers to post their first win of the season, 27-12. The kiddo is mostly a backup on the team, but he got in for a few plays at the end, and was really fired up after the game.

The news wasn’t so good on the 10 year-old front. After two weeks in the cast following the bizarre elbow dislocation - the orthopedist still seems highly skeptical of the injury’s origin - the tech cut away the cast and freed the arm. But then the doc walked in, sat down and dropped the hammer. No physical activity for another two weeks, meaning that he will miss the first two soccer games, and then has to show the doc that he can do a pain-free pushup before he’s allowed to compete again.

That meant that he had to sit on the bench and watch the Oreos (that’s their name, don’t wear it out) storm back from a 3-0 deficit to win, 9-6, in the season debut. The coach was nice enough to let him be the captain, which meant that he underwent a few rounds of paper/rock/scissors for the right to kick the ball off. Afterward, he claimed that he lost on purpose to ensure his team’s ability to have the second half kick. I expressed skepticism as to whether someone could intentionally lose paper/rock/scissors, but he stuck to his story.

Random things overheard in the house this week:

  • “I don’t want to sound snobbish but Greek olive oil just hits different.” Yeah that doesn’t sound snobbish at all.
  • “Burping with ice cream in your mouth tastes weird.”
  • “What’s up, broskito?” (Or is it brosquito?)
  • “I have to say, your bathroom looks extravagant.” (Mrs. Kendall has been working hard to organize this house after our 17,000 pounds of crap (about 13 of which is alcohol) showed up.
  • “My bus driver isn’t a Karen like the last one was.”

Out of the mouths of babes.


Despite decades of slimeball behavior, Brett Favre’s “aw shucks” southern guy demeanor has led to free pass after free pass. Hopefully this will spell the end of that.

How Brett Favre Got $6 Million in Welfare For A Volleyball Stadium
“Multiple prosecutors” are still examining the facts and making decisions about criminal charges in Mississippi’s sprawling welfare scandal that saw millions in funds meant for poor families go instead to wealthy celebrities, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White said on Thursday, Sept. 15.


Oath Keepers and Stewart Rhodes got their start in Las Vegas | Las Vegas Review-Journal
For Stewart Rhodes and the Oath Keepers, an extremist organization born in Southern Nevada, the 2014 standoff with law enforcement authorities outside Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch was a chance to make a splash within the anti-government movement.

False Nostalgia
The "good old days" weren't all that good—but they're still messing with politics.