Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has a mantra that shapes just about everything he does strategically on the football field: "It's all about the ball."
Now, I recognize if you're not a USC or Seahawks fan, you likely find Carroll insufferable. However, you can't argue with the man's success, no matter what you think of him personally. And while he's certainly not the only coach to preach turnovers as a key to winning, he's got a borderline obsession with limiting turnovers on offense and generating turnovers on defense that is at the center of on-field strategies that have served him extraordinarily well, which makes him a convenient example* to use for the hook in my lede.
*Also convenient: I'm a Seahawks fan and if you don't like Carroll hahahaha we won the Super Bowl and I loooooooooooove him!
The 2013 and 2014 Cougars are a great example of it truly being all about the ball.
After two games, they've outgained their opponents 965-820.
After two games, they've gained more than a yard per play more -- 6.7-5.6.
After two games, they're minus-3 in turnover margin.
After two games, they're 0-2.
I'm not here to throw blame around -- a lot of other fans have got that covered. Besides, I just don't think we know enough to say for sure what happened, especially on Connor Halliday's three interceptions. The pick against Rutgers looked to be a miscommunication; the first pick last night could have been a case of Dom Williams running the route just a little too deep, or of Halliday throwing it just a little too far behind; the second pick last night could have been caught, but certainly wasn't the best throw.
And as for the lack of turnovers forced? Maybe it's the departures of Deone Bucannon and Damante Horton, who accounted for 11 interceptions and four fumbles forced all by themselves. Maybe it's just bad luckL According to SB Nation's esteemed Bill Connelly, teams in 2013 fumbled the ball on 2.1% of non-sack rushes. WSU has played a pair of run-heavy teams that have yet to put the ball on the ground even once in about 100 carries, even though you'd expect a couple of fumbles. Maybe the Cougs aren't pursuing the ball aggressively enough or hitting hard enough to jar the ball loose.
Whatever it is, this team is giving the ball up twice a game and has only gotten it back once, and if they continue at this pace, they'll be expected to win about two games.
According to that previous link, turnover margin explains about 37 percent of any given outcome.
For the Cougs right now, I'd say it's explaining a lot more than that.
WSU coach Mike Leach
On the offensive struggles...
"We need to coach better. Right now all we do is splatter plays. We have the ability to make a play; we don't have the ability to do it consistently. We have plenty of yards, plenty of plays, but we can't put it together."
On the defense...
"I thought we played better on defense (then we did last week)"
Message to the players...
"We have to stick together and work hard - we can't go soft. We have an inclination to make a good play then relax. We don't play the next play very well. We will make some plays, but we have to finish drives. We have to coach better, we have to stick together, and play together. Our offense played reasonable last week and the defense relaxes all day. The defense plays well this week and the offense will get a play or two then relax. Nobody can beat anybody on one side of the ball."
Senior QB Connor Halliday
On being hit early...
"I don't know if it rattled me, but anytime a quarterback gets hit early it speeds up the clock in their heads."
On the second quarter...
"I think we played pretty well in the second quarter. I think we played as a team in the second quarter. It didn't change in the third quarter, we drove down inside the 10 four or five times and we just got dumb penalties."
On the team's mindset...
"We need to get a win Saturday, get to 1-2 and then get to 2-2. Just keep battling."
Nevada coach Brian Polian
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this team. We found a way. We ran it well enough and we kept them off the field. I don't care how many yards we gave up, we bowed up in the red zone, we forced field goal attempts, and fortunately for us our guy had a better night than their guy did."
"We held a Mike Leech offense to 13 points, and that is an incredible statement to our defense."
Nevada QB Cody Fajardo
On the defense...
"I thought it was great, they forced two turnovers for us. We never felt pressured to score on every drive which was great."
Nevada DE Brock Hekking
"We wanted it more. Honestly when you look at a Pac-12 team they have all the bells and whistles, they have the nice uniforms, all of that. You know we are just blue collar guys, and this senior class has made it a point for this team to love the game of football and to leave it all out there."
- Darius Lemora (S) and Charleston White (CB) each made their first career start
- Lemora finished with eight tackles while White tallied two and a pass breakup
- Luke Falk (QB) made his collegiate debut, for one play following a Halliday injury
- Jordan Dascalo recorded his second career 50+yard punt
- Daquawn Brown made a career-high 13 tackles
- Halliday touchdown pass was No. 64 of his career, third-most in school history
- Halliday notched his 16th career 300-yard game
- Vince Mayle caught his second touchdown of the season and ninth of his career
- Erik Powell's 25-yard field goal was his second career field goal.
- Robert Lewis (WR) and Calvin Green (WR) each made their first career starts
- Quentin Breshears made his first field goal as a Cougar. Breshears kicked at Fresno State in 2012.
- Isiah Myers made a career high nine receptions and posted his second career 100-yard game