Washington State needed that. After a shaky start to the season and a huge win over Oregon last week, the Cougars needed to come out and blow Oregon State the heck out. Run them off the field, leave no doubt, and simply bury an opponent that had no real business being on the same field as them.
If you were thinking this would be a letdown game after Oregon, the Cougars perished the thought quickly. As Oregon State flailed away, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Cougs on homecoming weekend, Mike Leach's team blocked and connected on its counters. For a team trying to figure it out as the season plays out, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Looking at the schedule before the season, and how this team looked on paper, one would've expected the Cougs to run Portland State and Wyoming off the field. Rutgers was a toss up, it seemed, but we were looking for Washington State to blowout its FCS opponent and Wyoming. That's what good teams do to opponents that should be overmatched.
Instead of dwelling on missed opportunities, though, look at the growth of the team. Washington State played a nearly perfect first half on the offensive side of the ball. There was a special teams mistake, but the Cougs should've walked away with a touchdown on every drive -- only a field goal broke the streak.
It was complete domination, a Mike Leach offense clicking like it should and moving the ball at will. It felt good. It felt damn good.
Consider this: The Cougars haven't put up 52 points in a win over a conference opponent since 2003. That one came against Oregon at Autzen, a 55-16 week after the Ducks beat Michigan and landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. They hadn't beaten a conference opponent by 21 or more since 2013, a road win over a bad Cal team. This could've been worse, too, had the Cougs kept things up after halftime.*
*It looked like they tried to slow things up and run out the clock after the half. None of this was familiar to them, and it might have led to the second half letdown.
It's been a long time since Washington State thoroughly demolished a conference foe. That means something.
This was a step in the right direction for Mike Leach's Cougars. Just as last week against Oregon wasn't some program-changing win, neither was this week. But it was a sign of health: blowing out an overmatched opponent, and showing some consistency and improvement following a big win, should be encouraging.
Even though the second half brought back memories of blown leads and an inability to finish an opponent, the Cougs still won by 21. They still put 52 points on the board. And yes, they still need to figure out how to play with a lead.
But just about every time Oregon State opened the door, the Cougs barged in and popped the Beavers in the mouth. A fake punt? Block and counterpunch. Onside kick? Block and counterpunch. Every trick they tried to pull as the ship was sinking in the first half? Block and swing for the fences.
Instead of knocking themselves out, though, the Cougs buried their opponent. After being on the wrong side of these kinds of beatdowns for years, it felt great to be the ones delivering the punishment for once.
Good things are happening. You should be excited, and cautiously optimistic, for what comes next.