This past weekend, my wife and I ventured to eastern North Carolina for some much need time with family, especially our now seven-month old nephew. We decided to forego opening weekend in Pullman because a) the flight to Raleigh was surprisingly cheap (and thank you Based Alaska Airlines for that direct flight) and b) my brother-in-law, somehow, has every damn Pac-12 Network channel that can possibly be pumped into the eastern seaboard.
We arrived on Friday as the remnants of Hurricane Hermine pounded the area with upwards of seven inches of rain and howling wind. I was concerned earlier in the week that the weather would force our plane to be diverted or, God forbid, be cancelled. But once our pilot got us on the ground, after giving the shocks on the aft landing gear a good test mind you, I was happy to have made it without any hiccups.
We were enjoying time with family, our nephew had gotten to the age where entertainment usually involved mere eye crossing and noise making (right in my wheel house) and after a day of tropical storming, everything had calmed down and I'd be playing golf on Sunday. Our time in North Carolina was shaping up rather nicely.
Then I sat down on the couch Saturday night and watched Washington State lose to an FCS school. Again. Stupendous.
I went to bed ... less mad than last time? More numb to it? So stupefied by what I'd just witnessed that I laid awake for hours wondering why I even bother to try and take pleasure in sports of any kind in my life, further contemplating my existence on a little marble hurtling through space at speeds I can't possibly comprehend towards a black hole that will eventually swallow all knowledge of existence of anyone I ever loved?
Yeah, probably that last one. I think I nodded off around two or so.
Look, I've said time and time again on the podcast that sports are, well, sports. They have no actual, honest-to-God bearing on your life unless you've put money on the outcome of an event and even then, you shouldn't be betting in amounts large enough to effect said life.
Yet, like a parent telling their kid to stay away from smokes who turns around and lights up under the porch light in their robe, here I am, wallowing in yet another stupid, stupid sporting event that my life would be easier without.
But then again, that's why you're here too, isn't it? Because against all common sense and the interests of your mental health, which, if you're honest, shouldn't be this tied to the sporting performance of 18-to-22 year old boys ... you want to do it all again.
If you've come to this site for any time, you know I'm not much of the analyst type. We have an awful lot of talented dudes who do a much better job than I can. And even though I have a podcast and I actually talk for a living, I have a hard time articulating how I really feel without the written word.
So 522 some odd words later (528, economy of words Preston), I can tell you that, even though I don't know scheme in a way that others here do, I know one thing for sure: Alex Grinch didn't just get his lunch money taken. Beau Baldwin's coaching staff tied him to the tetherball post, hung him upside down, and used a hockey stick to beat the cash out of his pockets.
Washington State provided roughly the same resistance as the literal wind last Saturday, allowing Gage Gubrud to throw on them with the ease of Russell Wilson being thrown on an intramural flag football team in the offseason. The game plan was to apparently forget about a receiver who, despite every reason to leave for the NFL Draft inexplicably didn't ... well, I don't know, but Jesus, that dude is good. And there was a play where he was standing in the end zone, by himself, a crimson jersey not even within 20 yards. The kids in the damn CrimZone were closer to Cooper Kupp than anyone with a helmet on.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, worked against Eastern. Every time they touched the ball, the result seemed inevitable. The only pass break up came with Marcellus Pippins' desperately needed interception, which spared WSU the interminable humiliation of going down more than two touchdowns to an FCS school. Otherwise, Eastern marched north and south with the ease of Sherman getting to the Atlantic.
So much defensive progress last year ... all of it, seemingly evaporated. I didn't think WSU's defense would have an easy time stopping EWU; they'd dropped 40-plus on Oregon State, Oregon and Washington in the past. But the ease with which they scored still managed to surprise me.
WSU's task gets no easier this weekend. They play a well-oiled machine captained by a guy plenty of people wanted to see in crimson and gray but instead ended up in blue and whatever the hell BSU's secondary color is. WSU's offense won't have as easy a go of it this weekend, either; EWU's defense was by many measures one of the worst in the FCS last year and, though they made some plays Saturday, looked to be much the same as 2015.
Getting Shalom Luani back is helpful, no doubt. But the defense looked completely lost and I'm not sure a week of coaching in between weights, class, and just generally being a college student will get much, if anything, fixed by this weekend.
The nice thing about the Air Raid offense is that, generally, you can depend on about 30-32 points per game from it. All the defense has to do is exactly what they did last year: hold opponents to roughly four touchdowns a game and give the offense a chance.
Forty-two points should be enough to beat virtually anyone (hell, even 35 if we're being honest with ourselves about that last second score). The defense just needs to not get run over by an 18-wheeler powered by an engine they knew was coming for it to work.
That's why the defensive coordinator is our most important person.
My nephew's dad is a big East Carolina Pirates and Carolina Panthers fan. I've never cared quite as much about the NFL and I daren't torture the poor boy with Seattle Mariners fandom. So, for those two fights at least, I'm willing to lay down the battle flag.
But his mom, my wife, and I all went to Washington State. And we're fighting like hell to keep the crimson onesies, the gray knit caps, and the little Butch toys on him in favor of the ECU purple and gold. ECU at least has a somewhat decent tradition of bowl game appearances and the beating of fellow Tar Heel State opponents (Carolina and State, strictly, as I learned this weekend). WSU ... well, you know.
My brother-in-law's dad asked how the Cougs had done while we were hanging out with that side of the family on Monday.
"Well ... um ..."
"Oh don't tell me they Coug'd it?"
Yeah, I've got no hope for this kid.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, your most important person versus Boise State.