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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s win over Idaho

Coulda been worse, but not a lot worse!

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

Good morning, Cougar fans, and welcome to what is still a — rather tenuous — undefeated season. As unimpressive as your Washington State Cougars seemed to be for large chunks, it could have been worse. How much worse? I probably don’t need to remind any of you about 2015, 2016 and 2021. Also, as my fellow authors will attest, we’ve been all about positivity around here for at least a year now!

In all seriousness, there have been good teams throughout history who struggled mightily against an inferior opponent out of the gate, only to rebound and have a successful season. Additionally, there’s an old saying that a team improves the most between its first and second games. Who knows how true that is, but one can only hope that’s what happens with WSU, because hoo boy is there a Columbia Gorge’s worth of space for this team to get better.

And if you asked Jake Dickert this morning whether he’d rather have his team build from a 59-0 blowout win or a 24-17 knee-knocker, I’m willing to bet the coach would prefer the latter. These folks are weird like that, but anytime you can come away with a win while identifying myriad shortcomings, you’ll have a rather pleased group of coaches.

The Good

  • Defense! Well, for the most part. There were a few moments, particularly late in the game, when the guys had us clenching various body parts.
  • That defense recorded its most tackles-for-loss since 2015 (14), and most sacks in a game since 2017 (7). The sacks were spread widely, with Daiyan Henley, Brennan Jackson, Ron Stone, Armani Marsh, Jaden Hicks and Travion Brown getting credit for at least a half-sack. Andrew Edson led the way with 1.5. Jackson, in particular, seemed to hassle the Idaho quarterback throughout the evening.
  • That Nevada trio was quite the boon on Saturday! New coordinator Brian Ward called a solid game and dialed up some creative blitzes, including one overload blitz when Idaho faced 4th-and-9, which resulted in an Armani Marsh sack. Then there was Henley, who was all over the place, leading the team in tackles, tackles-for-loss, and snagged the game-saving interception. New safety Jordan Lee also made some solid plays, and displayed some great speed to stop a couple of potential big plays.
  • David Gusta didn’t make any tackles, but he sure made a big play, breaking up a 4th-and-2 pass to stop and Idaho drive. The Cougs used that short field to take a 17-10 lead shortly afterward.
  • 1.8 yards-per-attempt for the Vandals on the ground. Prettay, prettay good!
  • Heck of a play for Chau Smith-Wade on his interception, which set WSU up for the tying points in the first half. He also made a great tackle on a punt later in the game.
  • Idaho converted its first two 4th-down attempts, then WSU stopped four of the next five.
  • Can’t help but be happy for the Nard Dog. After nearly two years away, Renard Bell scored WSU’s first touchdown, and made a great 4th quarter play when he shook a tackler and picked up a big first down.
  • It’s only one game, but Nakia Watson looks to be quite improved. He set a career high with 117 yards rushing on just 18 carries. One play stuck out to me in the third quarter. Facing 3rd-and-6, Watson took a handoff and juked a defender in the hole, picking up nine yards and extending a drive that ended in a touchdown.
  • Happy to see freshman Jaylen Jenkins get another shot after his fumble, and he took advantage with a touchdown catch.
  • That fake toss/endzone throw to Stribling sure fooled me! It apparently fooled the defense as well.
  • Once again, this comes with all the “first game” and “FCS opponent” caveats, but the Cougar offensive line performed pretty well on the whole. Heck, the team averaged nearly six yards per rush.
  • Four touchbacks from Cougar kickers? I didn’t know that was possible!
  • I don’t know what Dean Janikowski did in the offseason, but his leg appears to be stronger by leaps and bounds. More on Dean later.
  • Credit to Idaho’s new coach, who appears to be the college football version of Chris Farley. He called the game like any FCS coach should, going for it on 4th down multiple times and not playing scared. I’m still not sure if I’m on board with Eck calling two straight times out to ice the kicker, then cutting a WWE promo before halftime, but maybe he’s just what Idaho needs after the Petrino debacle.
  • Vandal receivers also made some damn good catches, much to my chagrin.

The Bad

  • #Pac12refs were largely (and luckily) absent for much of the game, but what the heck was with the offensive pass interference call? Thankfully it was reversed, but it was obviously a legal play.
  • Lots and lots of room for Cam Ward to improve. While you could see flashes of his ability, they were much fewer and further between than I anticipated, given the hype. Ward had several scramble plays that produced nothing. And I don’t know if it was first-game adrenaline or what, but he sorely lacked touch on several throws, gunning fastballs when a changeup was needed.
  • 40 passes to get to 215 yards. Yuck
  • As much credit as Eck deserves for taking chances, Jake Dickert does not. Facing a 4th-and-2 near midfield in the first quarter, Dickert elected to punt. In Idaho’s ensuing possession, they went for it on 4th-and-5 from nearly the exact same spot, converting and getting a field goal later on. That said, no coach in his right mind should have gone for that 4th-and-goal late in the game when a field goal would all but seal a win. Dickert made the right call there. The bigger issue is that WSU had two plays from four yards out and couldn’t punch the ball in.
  • Also on the coaching front, I don’t think Jenkins should have been put in the doghouse for so long after his first fumble.
  • Smith-Wade made a couple big plays, but man did he ever whiff on a couple tackles that really hurt.
  • Not sure who’s telling Renard Bell what to do on those kick returns, but please tell him to let the ball go near the sidelines. He fair caught two balls that might have gone out of bounds otherwise.
  • Daiyan Henley deserves a ton of credit for saving the game with that interception, but WSU also lucked out, as you can (kind of) see in my low-quality screenshot. Idaho had a receiver running wide open at the 12, but Gevani McCoy thankfully tried for the deep shot.
  • And you can bet that had Idaho scored there, the Vandals would have gone for two.
  • Thanks to Ryan Leaf for providing some unintentional comedy. JB Long correctly pronounces Moscow, then Leaf corrects him with the wrong pronunciation! Come on, Man.

The Ugly

  • Fumbles and the associated fumble luck. Can’t happen, fellas. It’s also rather unlucky that WSU fumbled three times and lost all three, but again, STOP FUMBLING PLEASE. That’s why WSU had to sweat out a win over an inferior opponent.
  • Another reason WSU fans had white knuckles at the end? That kicker. While he seems to have greatly increased the distance on his kicks, the accuracy went in the opposite direction. I won’t fault him for missing the 51-yarder, but his one make from 34 squeaked in, and when presented with a chip shot to seal the win, he missed. Can’t happen.

So there you have it. Thankfully, WSU was saved from the ignominy of a third FCS loss in its last eight season openers. The competition now ramps up exponentially, as a trip to Madison to face some great running backs awaits. Go Cougs.


'This is not going to steal our joy': Washington State opens season with ugly win over Battle of the Palouse rival Idaho | The Spokesman-Review
WSU was given a tougher-than-expected test from the pesky Idaho Vandals throughout Saturday’s Battle of the Palouse at Gesa Field.

Daiyan Henley's interception preserves win for Washington State against Idaho | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars own a 73-16-3 all-time record against Idaho in the rivalry series that’s been played regularly since 1894.

Recap and highlights: Washington State survives the Battle of the Palouse with 24-17 win over Idaho | The Spokesman-Review
The end result was a win, but against a Football Championship Subdivision foe, Dickert and the Cougars won’t be happy with the way they played.


Hopefully many of you stuck around Pullman on the long weekend in order to support the soccer team! The Cougs face Denver Sunday.

Soccer Hosts Denver Sunday Evening - Washington State University Athletics
Washington State welcomes the University of Denver to Pullman, Sunday night, for the first time in program history.

This Week in Parenting

As shaky as the Cougs looked in their opener, the mighty Gulf Breeze Dolphin freshmen took that to another level, falling 26-0 in their 2022 debut. That was Thursday, but it’s Mondays that stink the worst. Monday is the only day when the freshman has a scheduled event after practice, which theoretically ends at 6 p.m. However, he usually doesn’t get done until at least 6:30, then I have to race him 20 minutes away to Boy Scouts (as he changes clothes in the car), which goes from 6:30 to 8. You’ll be shocked to learn that my car smells like the bottom of a laundry hamper by the time we get there. Then when Scouts ends, it’s back home for a late dinner and homework, so he often doesn’t get to bed until 10:30 or so. We definitely get repeated cases of the Mondays around here.

We did find time this week to take in a minor league baseball game this week, as the home town Pensacola Blue Wahoos took on the visiting Montgomery Biscuits. Yes, that kind of biscuit. Montgomery’s slogan is “Butter Up” which is an all-timer if you ask me. The Biscuits DH was former Coug Kyle Manzardo, who was kind enough to chat us up, sign an autograph and take a picture before the game, as you’ll see below.

The vibes got better for Manz(y)ardo, as he had a couple singles, then drilled a 3-run homer over the right field fence to put the game out of reach. I got some odd looks for clapping, but whatever. Unfortunately for Kyle, he was only the #2 star of the show. After some prodding, the 10 year-old accompanied a team employee onto the dugout for a little dance-off. I’ll let him take it from here.

Just another day around here.


The Gunships That Didn't Shoot: The Two AC-130J 'Ghostriders' That Flew 30 Hours Over Kabul - Coffee or Die Magazine
As Kabul collapsed in chaos, two AC-130J Ghostrider gunships flew for 30 hours over US diplomats and military forces.