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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s Pasadena Faceplant

It was a log worse than it looked.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Washington State at UCLA Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello, and welcome to, sadly, the first Sunday column following a Washington State Cougars loss. And man, what a weird yet convincing yet somehow seemingly close loss it was. In just about every aspect, UCLA dominated the game. Yet somehow, some way, WSU found itself with the ball and a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes. That despite a copious amount of giveaways that ruined scoring chances which, if converted, possibly would have meant a WSU win.

I’ll admit that it was odd to sit here and watch a UCLA team completely outmuscle and overwhelm a hapless WSU offensive line. Many times in the past, UCLA has had talent in the front seven, but hasn’t molded that talent into a nasty, deep, physical group of defenders. Well the Bruins sure do have some studs this season, and WSU’s offensive line was hopelessly overmatched. And yet! WSU led at halftime, the third quarter and into the fourth. Just weird.

The Good

  • I love that uniform combo. Too bad nothing good ever happens when they wear it!
  • Kapena Gushiken was really good, especially in the first half. He legally de-cleated a Bruins receiver, defended passes in the end zone, and made the defensive play of the season at the end of the first half, snagging an interception and going 88 yards to give WSU a miraculous halftime lead.
  • Hell of a start for the defense, with a Sam Lockett interception setting WSU up deep in UCLA territory. If only...
  • I thought UCLA’s kicker was pretty good!
  • Really pretty swing pass to Nakia Watson for WSU’s lone offensive touchdown of the afternoon.
  • Huge stop by the defense and then a Jaden Hicks blocked field goal kept the Cougs up by five points in the third quarter. I still can’t believe Chip Kelly didn’t go for it there.
  • Even though they were out there for what felt like 24 straight hours, and even though UCLA began to really lean on it in the fourth quarter - to the point that guys were leaving the game due to heat exhaustion, I give a lot of credit to the WSU defense for bowing up twice down the stretch and forcing UCLA punts.
  • I thought those gigantic banners that cover thousands of empty bleacher seats at the Rose Bowl were pretty cool. Seems like they’re big enough to envelop a couple European villages.

The Bad

  • Wrote the following note after one series, “This defense is going to give us problems.”
  • Two weeks to draw up some plays and that’s the end product, Ben? Oy.
  • It had been a while since I had to sit through a Ted Robinson crapfest. Can’t say I missed it!
  • I mean, that Cameron Johnson fumble inside the UCLA 10 was an absolute killer. WSU was poised to take a 10-0 lead, or 6-0 at a minimum. Instead, WSU gives the ball away. If that weren’t bad enough, Carlos Hernandez did it again when WSU moved into UCLA territory a few minutes later. When you’re on the road, playing as an underdog, and having a really tough time moving the ball, you absolutely have to hold on to the ball like it’s your first-born. Instead, WSU just gave fumbles and interceptions away. No surprise it lost.
  • Dean, you have to get more accurate, man. Even the makes are white-knucklers.
  • Cam Ward on Saturday brought back a lot of Cam Ward in 2022 memories. And that ain’t a good thing. That miss on a deep ball in the first quarter, followed by a needless sack pretty much told the tale. Ward was running around so often that even when he had a clean pocket, he was bailing out the back and running around without any hope of making a play. He’e deserved every ounce of praise that’s come his way this season, but Saturday was a poor performance. I’m confident he’ll bounce back.
  • In fairness to the QB, the offensive line couldn’t block three pass rushers for more than half a second. Three!
  • Jake Dickert called timeout on 4th-and-2 in order to prevent a penalty that would have made it 4th-and-7. You have to treat those three second half timeouts like they’re solid gold, and Dickert completely wasted that one, and another later on. I’m still available to serve as a gameday clock management consultant, Jake. Look me up.
  • Kyle Thornton is a good player. But if Kyle Thornton is matched up against a slot receiver, the scheme probably needs some tweaking.
  • I used to get really tired of those Pac-12 spotlight segments that the network kept running because nobody would buy ad space. Now I miss them dearly while the cycle of menopause spots, hilariously inaccurate employment agency ads and...Oregon political ads (?) run in regular rotation. Bring back the player spotlight!
  • Devin Richardson has been a solid linebacker this season. Devin Richardson gets lost in the wash way too often.

The Ugly

  • 4th-and-1, down eight points, needing to convert in order to have a chance with a couple minutes left. As WSU lined up, my 11 year-old said, “Please don’t run it up the middle.” To which I replied, “They’re not gonna do that, buddy.”

Narrator: “They ran it up the middle.”

What. The. F**********CK!!!!???? Had Arbuckle not watched the first 50 WSU plays?

  • UCLA ran 97 plays. WSU ran 59 plays. When you’re a team like WSU, who lives on razor-thin margins and has precious little depth, a play disparity like that is pretty much fatal. And WSU still could have won! Probably would have if not for the boneheaded turnovers!
  • UCLA had 24 first downs and 180 yards rushing. WSU had 11 first downs and 12 yards rushing. I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’d be willing to bet that teams on WSU’s end of those figures tend to win about .01% of the time.
  • The refs. My god, the refs. UCLA and WSU were both on the wrong end of multiple bad calls or non-calls. I thought the first UCLA touchdown that replay upheld was a good catch. Then there was the blatant OPI not called on a UCLA touchdown that was overturned even though there wasn’t much evidence to overturn it. That still wasn’t the worst one. WSU forced an obvious fumble that appeared to have been blown dead, with the ball going straight to Brennan Jackson. But replay ruled that it...wasn’t a fumble? What? Just total failure all around. I know you’re surprised.

So now the Cougs turn their sights back to Pullman for a home game with Arizona - a team that probably should have won at USC on Saturday! - next weekend. The real issue, in my view, is how WSU recovers from this one, especially the defense. I’m confident that the offense will be somewhere close to what we saw in the first four games. I am, however, rather worried about a defense that was on the field for nearly 100 plays in 90+ degree heat. Classic case of not letting a team beat you twice.



Analysis: WSU likely won’t face another defense like UCLA’s, but the Cougars have issues up front | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State’s offensive line could not move much of anything in this game, which was never more apparent than on the visitors’ final play from scrimmage, a fourth-and-1 near midfield.

Difference makers: WSU safety Kapena Gushiken dominant, but No. 13 Cougars suffer first loss | The Spokesman-Review
The Bruins’ defense, one of the best in the country, lived up to its billing – and then some.

Recap and highlights: UCLA defense shuts down No. 13 Washington State, as Cougars lose first game of season | The Spokesman-Review
In the days ahead, when Washington State looks back at its 25-17 loss to UCLA on Saturday afternoon, the Cougars will likely lament a host of plays.


This Week in Parenting

Writing this segment from a baseball field in Daphne, Alabama. This is my life now. It was finally a productive Saturday for the Wave baseball team. After two straight tournaments in which the 11 year-old’s team went a combined 0-4, we won both of our games, earning the #3 seed for Sunday’s elimination games. First game starts at 10:45. If we win, we play 545 p.m. And that’s just the semifinals. Did I mention that we’re an hour from home and it’s a school night? Won’t be super depressed if we don’t advance! And I know you’re reading this, kiddo. Sorry not sorry.

He’s also playing flag football during the week, as I’m sure I mentioned. They have jerseys that are orange on one site and white on the other. This week saw a tough loss to the team whose coach wears cleats, as the 5-stars gave up a touchdown on the last darn play to lose by one point to the rival Flaming Hot Cheetos. It’s pretty obvious that the team’s kids were allowed to come up with the name, because if the coach had been responsible, the team’s name would almost certainly be Junior High Flag Football is Serious and we Must Give It the Seriousness it Demands. Or something like that.

On the high schooler front, the Dolphins dropped another one this week, falling below .500 again to 2-3. On the bright side, the more somber bus ride back to school didn’t include any water bottles being thrown from the bus. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice. In related news, after the series of post-practice pick ups, in which the kid and his smelly post-practice clothes sit in my car for 10-15 minutes, I think said car is starting to resemble the one from that Seinfeld episode when Jerry’s valet had such bad B.O. that nothing could get rid of the smell. This may end with me driving the car to a sketchy part of town and throwing dropping the keys in plain view of the passers-by.

In non-sports minutiae, I was driving around with the 11 year-old the other day when I brought up some old stuff, as one does. We’d had an issue last year with the kid not eating the sandwich we prepared him for lunch. But instead of bringing it home to save for the next day, he just decided to dump it in the trash, where I could easily see it. Not exactly the best way to cover one’s tracks.

So the other day I asked him how many sandwiches he’s dumped so far this year. “I haven’t done that once. I swear.” While remaining skeptical, I followed up with a joking question, asking how many times he’d traded his sandwich away. “Like eight or nine.” Took me a second to realize he wasn’t kidding. I immediately realized that there’s a high likelihood that he’s been trading sandwiches (he says he’s only bartering half) for Sour Patch Kids, Skittles or some other tooth-ruining chunk of sugar. His story is that he’s only getting stuff like Goldfish in return. I remain skeptical.


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