Being a Washington State football fan is what I imagine it's like to walk around a public dog park in the dark of night. At some point you're going to step in a pile of shit. It's inevitable. The only question is when is it going to happen and how much shit is going to stick to your shoe. Washington State not only stepped in it to start this season, but slipped, fell and ate a mouthful.
The Cougars dropped to 0-2 to start the season, losing to Nevada 24-13 in Reno Friday night. The performance was a familiar one. A litany of problems. Some big, some small, all costly. If the defense got a stop, the offense couldn't get anything going. When the offense finally started to gain a little traction, the defense got gashed. Washington State turned it over twice and didn't force a turnover. WSU simply is not good enough to win games with a mediocre performance and calling the Cougars mediocre on Friday may be kind. Did Nevada catch some breaks and get a fortunate call or two? Yes, but WSU deserves all of its 0-2 record.
With the loss, a bowl game is a distant afterthought. A laughable one, even. The question now is can the Cougars win a game. They should beat Portland State next week and you may want to enjoy all 60 minutes of it because there is no guarantee it won't be the last until 2015.
There were several. The two missed field goals certainly didn't help. WSU's defense was OK for most of the game, but couldn't rise up when it needed. Facing a 3rd-and-8 with 6:30 to go, Nevada connected on pass to move the chains and keep grinding clock. The drive eventually ended in a field goal to make it an 11-point game with less than five minutes to play. Whenever WSU needed a stop, a catch, a kick, anything it came up short.
How about on 4th-and-3 with WSU trailing 21-13. The Cougars opted to run the ball and came up short. Ballgame.
Four quick thoughts.
1. Is WSU incapable of playing well offensively and defensively in the same game? Is there a Pac-12 rule against this? The defense couldn't stop a thing last week but the offense put up 38 points. Washington State's defense was much better against Nevada. An interception put them in a bad spot, the officials completely botched a pass interference that led to a touchdown instead of a field goal, yet WSU still held tough for the most part. Was it great? No. It was, however, more than enough if the offense had shown up.
WSU moved the ball well at times. The Cougars just didn't finish drives. A penalty, a drop, an interception, a missed field goal, whatever. They just left way too many points on the board.
2. River Cracraft was sorely missed. The offense wasn't great, but the Cougars were playing with arguably their best receiver and one of Halliday's favorite targets. Cracraft missed the game due to injury. Robert Lewis did an adequate job filling in at the Y receiver spot. Still, Cracraft has a knack for making a big play when needed and being in the right spot at the right time. It's impossible to know how much of a difference he would have made, but safe to say he was missed.
3. The game was a total mess, in all facets. The play on the field was sloppy. The officials were borderline incompetent, going both ways. The announcers were so bad I almost wished Greg Heister was calling the game. Almost, I'm not that crazy. Even the production was terrible. The camera followed a loose shoe at one point, thinking it was a fumble. A shoe!
4. There are 10 games to go in this season, but it's very hard to not consider it a lost season. If the Cougars can't beat Rutgers and Nevada, how many Pac-12 games are they going to win? Mike Leach likes to say the goal is to win one game a week. Well, they better win next week or they may be sitting on the goose egg all season.