Trying to ignore a live sporting event so you can watch it later is probably a fool's errand, but that's what I tried to do yesterday. I was busy checking out polar bears, bonobos, orangutans, pandas and giraffes and made the decision to stay off social media in an effort to avoid any updates. After all, I knew I could stream the game on WatchESPN later that night, and watch it as if it was live.
But it's impossible to inform everyone of your intentions and right as the game ended, I received a text from one of my good friends: "Go Cougs. I almost had a heart attack."
So the finish was spoiled. I was happy, but certainly not as elated as I would have been had I watched the game live. And perhaps in lacking that feeling, I feel a whole a little worse about the game than I would have.
Now, there were certainly more things to be encouraged about than last week's giant pile of panda excrement, tops on that list being that WSU went across the country and came back victorious. But beyond that, seeing Luke Falk take the option to run a little less, and pass a little more against an overmatched secondary was good. Also, when the Cougs did run it was as effective as you'd like it to be in the Air Raid.
The offensive line gets a lot of credit for that. And also for the days and days and days Falk had to throw in the pocket. This was against a solid Rutgers defensive line, so there's hope that the big dudes up front will be as advertised this season.
Keith Harrington (or is it Justin?) is fast and fun. Gabe Marks is good again. River Cracraft is awesome. Oh, and that 90-freaking-yard-drive was dang awesome. So dang awesome.
With all that awesome, there were still plenty of hings to work on. Even in Falk's 478-yard day, there was still some of the hesitation that proved costly against Portland State. At Rutgers, it didn't always end in an incompletion, but that was thanks to tough catches by his wideouts.
The third-and-10 conversion on the opening drive comes to mind. Falk hit Marks for 25 yards down the middle of the field. The throw was on the money, but Marks had to absorb a pretty big hit to hang on to the ball. The replay showed Marks came uncovered pretty early, but Falk hesitated ever so slightly, double-clutching before chucking towards his receiver.
This seems like nit-picking, but those windows are going to be tighter in Pac-12 play. It's unlikely that WSU faces another secondary that bad. Quicker decisions are vital, and that's an area for Falk to improve.
Good news? He is, by all accounts, a film junkie. So he'll see it, and he'll work to fix it. That's something that is always better to do after a win.
Other things...other things...How about that kick coverage and return game? Yikes. Okay, let's move on.
For the defense, this was a classic example of "it's better to be lucky than good." Rutgers moved the ball easily in the second half , but it was a few critical mistakes in WSU territory that did them in. First, the fumble by Josh Hicks on the the WSU 32 was a heckuva play by Peyton Pelluer. But great plays don't always end up in recovered fumbles, and this one did at a perfect time.
Then there were the called-back Rutgers touchdowns. They were both penalties, for sure, and both were critical for the touchdowns to occur. But man, it sure is nice that they both knocked Rutgers back out of field goal range as they gained yardage at will.
I recognize that penalties and turnovers are often the result of the defense putting pressure on the offense, but in wins those mistakes often come at opportune times. They did yesterday, and the WSU defense should be grateful.
That being said, hey the D forced three turnovers! That's what we heard would be different all offseason. Is it a sustainable way to defend? No, but hey sometimes it works out pretty well, especially when the offense is putting points on the board.
Wins are fun. Now, can they start doing that in Martin Stadium, too?