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Ask CougCenter Anything: Does WSU really need nose tackles?

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Maybe a different recruiting strategy is in order.

Munich Zoo Presents Twin Polar Bear Babies
New recruiting strategy.
Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images

Welcome to the CougCenter mailbag! If you want to participate next week, send your queries to cougcenter@gmail.com. On to the questions!


Are we moving to a SpeedD because it is the best defense option to deal with Pac-12 foes or is it more a matter of we cannot recruit D tackles? Also, along that line, are there no bodies in the O-line mix that could be moved to defense?

Rick C.

Nuss: Is it OK to just say yes to both?

Sherwood: Yes.

Dudley: I definitely think that if we could get some big nose tackles, we’d take them. But since we have trouble landing them, we’re forced to go smaller and I think the whole “SpeedD” thing is part spin. Sure, it’s good to have a speedy defense and I have no doubt that’s what they’re going for, but I don’t think they’re avoiding nose tackles on the recruiting trail because they’re tend to be fat and sometimes slow.

Cassino: Necessity is the mother of invention. But I still think it’s six in one and a half dozen in the other. If you’re struggling to land 1-techs and true noses (and that pool is pretty limited to begin with) then you adapt your defense to rely on them less. So you have less of a need to recruit them. So they become even less of a thing. And so on. Assuming that defensive scheme works, it is what it is.

Sherwood: “It is what it is.” GET HYPE, COUGS!

Nuss: It’s also worth noting that we just don’t face very many pro-style, bruising teams in a given year — Stanford and ... USC sometimes? Makes sense I guess to play the percentages and try to just be fast against spread attacks. Also, it’s why we might see a swing back this direction at some point.

Craig: It seems it would be better to have bigger tackles for a #SpeedD. Little dudes need those big linemen occupied so they aren’t swallowed up. You can still be fast and have enormous people in the middle. They never have to go very far.

Polar Bear Twins Celebrate Second Birthday
Someone sign these guys up.
Photo by Joerg Koch/Getty Images

Sherwood: There’s nothing in the rule book that says Polar Bears can’t play on the defensive line.

Craig: But the Polar Bears would have to wear sunglasses on day games, and the NCAA doesn’t allow tinted visors.

Sherwood: Build the dome. Bring on the #BearLine era.

PJ: There are a few polar bears who have nothing to do after those Coke commercials finished their run. I don’t think their five-year clock has started.

Craig: I hear there’s a dome just down the road from Martin Stadium. Maybe they’ll let us use it if we ask nicely?

Preston: “Move offensive linemen to defense” is a tale as old as time and the song as old as rhyme in this case is Dan Spitz ... who actually went the other direction and was terrible. It’s just not easy to convert guys to the other side of the line, simple as that.

As for the first part, what Nusser said. It’s both. True nose tackles are really, really hard to find and even if you do, it’s even harder to get them to Pullman.

Craig: I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize our massive offensive line that Pro Football Focus says is the greatest of all time.

Sherwood: It is what it is. The greatest of all time.


My question is should we as alumni be putting forth more effort to create a more hostile environment in Martin Stadium and if so, what would be the best steps to improve?

I've been to 7 of the other Pac 12 stadiums for Coug Games and would say our environment is about middle of the Pac. Nothing like Oregon where alumni and students are yelling on every defensive down and also standing far more often than we do, but also far far better than Stanford with silent alumni and half the students are studying for mid-terms in their seats. Do we want to get louder and yell on a more consistent basis or will that upset too many alumni who prefer to watch the games quietly on their butts? Or are their other ways to make Martin Stadium a more difficult place to play for opposing teams?

Thanks!

Mark A.

Sherwood: Look, I just put bears on the field, so if that doesn’t get you juiced, I can’t help any further.

Dudley: I think there are tons of things Washington State Cougars Athletics can do to amp up the energy—not just during the game but prior to as well. Controversial Opinion Alert: Get rid of the marching band at football games. I know the team runs out through it while it’s playing the fight song, but there are so many more creative things the athletic department can do to get fans energized without the band. Tradition and all, blah blah blah. Get rid of it. Now, yell at me.

Cassino: Address your hate mail to kevin.dudley (at) cougcenter (dot) com.

Dudley: I’ve always wondered what hate mail from band advocates was like. Can’t wait.

Cassino: If it’s not singing telegrams, I quit.

Nuss: This stuff just has to be organic, I think. I’ve been in a lot of stadiums where it’s forced, and it is an insufferable fan experience. The reason Oregon is loud is because their team has routinely kicked everyone’s asses for 20 years.

Dudley: Totally agree on it being organic. Arena football is way too forced. I never want Martin Stadium to be like that.

Nuss: Think about that homecoming video to “Find Our Way Back Home.” Guarantee they had no idea that would resonate like it did. Now it’s one of the coolest things we do. NO, YOU’RE CRYING WHEN STEVE GLEASON WINKS AT YOU.

Craig: Martin can get very loud, especially for it’s size. I just think there may have been a tradition built through the Bad Times of people just not caring much to cheer and scream and yell. But for special occasions, Cougs can bring it.

Sherwood: That Oregon game last year was loud as hell.

Nuss: As was the Stanford game the year before that, and the Oregon game the year before that. When the team is successful and there are stakes, we can get pretty wound up. But I don’t know if it’ll ever be as crazy consistently as some other places, mainly because I don’t know if we’ll ever be that good that consistently.

Craig: It was also super loud for three downs at last year’s Apple Cup!

Preston: I’ll mirror what everyone else said, it’s gotta happen all on its own. WSU has spent years getting their proverbial rear ends kicked at home; only when they’ve had sustained success of actually handing out the ass whoopings will it change.

Also, put the band in the CrimZone, Kevin. The students are too damn close to the field anyway and a horrifically timed penalty is coming this year, I can feel it.

PJ: WSU needs all of its fans to be loud. It can only help. As far as making it a difficult place to play, the most important part of that is having good players. It’s amazing how much tougher it was to play at Century Link in 2012/2013 than in 2008/2009. Why is that? It wasn’t because people figured out how to yell louder, it was because the players were better. (for you 12s out there, 2008/2009 were years when you weren’t aware that Seattle had a pro football team)

Those Oregon fans wouldn’t be nearly as boisterous if their team had gone 9-40 over four years. That said, I don’t really care if fans prefer to sit on their butts, so long as they’re giving to the program. That’s far more important that screaming yourself hoarse on 3rd and 11.


What are the best seats in Martin Stadium?

Ken S.

Nuss: The ones where they sell alcohol so you can drink away your sorrows after losing to an FCS team for the third year in a row?

Sherwood: I had seats in Section 26 in the front row for about a decade. High up enough to see the game and a front row seat to read all the clever Date Dash shirts walking through the concourse. Now I’m old and I don’t want to sit on a bench and want a glass of bourbon so I moved upstairs. Nobody can hear my sweet #BearLine jokes up there, though.

Dudley: The ones far away from the band.

Sherwood: THAT BAND HAD A FAMILY

Preston: Wait, I want all bourbon and comfy seats too but I’m only 29. I do have a lawn I can tell people to get off though.

Craig: For comfort, the suites (duh). Stay dry always. Great elevated view. They bring drinks to your seat. But don’t expect to yell and scream or anything like that. Also, Taylor Swift is 27 and she can afford upstairs seats, Preston. No excuses.

Preston: I’d love to sit up there, Craig, but only in my Wildest Dreams.

Craig: Just Shake It Off. There aren’t enough club seats for everyone.

Dudley: Got to sit in the suites once. So nice. And I couldn’t hear the band. Bonus!

Sherwood: Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes, Kevin.

Preston: Kevin, did you have an ex-girlfriend who used to be in the band or something?

Dudley: I don’t want to talk about it.

Cassino: Don’t forget the dot between Kevin and Dudley on that address, folks.

Craig: Safe to say Kevin and that girl are never, ever getting back together.

PJ: How did we get two Taylor Swift references into one question? You guys are peerless. The best seat is next to my season tickets because you have more leg space for nearly every game, and you can hang out with my nephew who is seven and knows more football than 95% of adults I know.


Michael Preston seems to be pretty down on the cougs this year all things considered. He keeps saying "I'm usually the guy saying we're going to win 10 games", but this year he seems more down on them than others. He is more worried about the receivers than everyone else, and is super concerned about the D-line, which is more understandable. However, we haven't won 10 games in a long time. Does that mean this his doubting of this team could actually be a positive sign?

Richard G.

Nuss: ANSWER FOR YOURSELF MICHAEL

Sherwood: I’m both offended and touched that Preston is the new torch bearer for Team Gravitron.

Cassino: #FIREPRESTON

Preston: Probably! Listen to this week’s CougCenter Hour to find out more!

Dudley: What a dunderhead.

Craig: Preston has been dieting, so he is cranky.

Preston: I JUST WANT A DAMN CHEESEBURGER, AND BURRITO, AND PANCAKES.

Craig: Real question though: If the WSU line was Polar Bears, how many wins would you predict for the Cougs?

Preston: A national championship but soooooo many ineligible receiver downfield penalties. And a few manslaughter charges.

PJ: We’re slowly molding Preston the same way I’ve been molding my wife. Two formerly positive, happy-go-lucky souls are being worn down by sarcastic, “behind every silver lining there’s a dark cloud” pessimists. Preston took a few years to crack, but Stockholm Syndrome finally took hold.


It’s been stated by Texas Tech fans that Mike Leach’s teams are going to lose games that they are not supposed to lose and win games that they are not supposed to win. Sadly enough, we’ve had FCS losses the past two seasons under Mike Leach. How does this stack to the losses that Texas Tech had against teams that they were not supposed to lose to?

Rithy M.

Nuss: I have no earthly idea where this misguided myth came from. Leach was pretty much the definition of consistent at Tech, beating bad teams and losing to good ones. For your consideration:

  • Overall at Texas Tech: 84-43 (.661)
  • Non-conference games, regular season: 32-6 (.842)
  • As a ranked team vs. unranked opponents: 19-2 (.905)
  • Conference games: 47-33 (.587)
  • Vs. ranked opponents: 12-31 (.279)

His non-conference record was pretty much impeccable, and that’s mostly because he scheduled almost exclusively from the MWC, Sun Belt, WAC (R.I.P) and Big West (R.I.P.), then proceeded to beat the tar out of them — as a Big 12 team should.

Texas Tech Red Raiders v Texas A&M Aggies
Mr. Consistency.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Of note, here are those six non-conference losses: No. 13 Ohio State and No. 17 North Carolina State (2002); North Carolina State (2003); New Mexico (2004); No. 20 TCU (2006, when TCU was in the MWC); No. 17 Houston (2009). That loss to the Lobos is the only thing that could even be considered in the realm of a “bad loss” on the order of Portland State and Eastern Washington, and that’s not even really true — New Mexico won seven games that year and was ranked 45th in FBS by Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System.

(The only time they scheduled a non-patsy and won was when they beat Ole Miss in 2002 and 2003; that 2003 Rebel team wasn’t ranked at the time, but turned out to be very good.)

We can quibble about details in terms of games they should have won or lost — I’m sure Tech fans can point to Big 12 games that turned out the opposite of what they felt they should have — but this is a pretty good 1,000-foot view of the body of work, which runs directly contrary to the popular narrative.

Make no mistake: Losses such as the ones Leach has suffered at WSU were nowhere to be found when he was at Tech.

Sherwood: Cougs losing dumb games is not a new phenomenon. The new boss is same as the old boss in this regard. Until we implement #BearLine.

Craig: I’m glad we still have Tech fans around to tell us about Mike Leach. Five seasons really hasn’t been enough time to get to know him yet.

Dudley: Mike Leach beat EWU in 2008 at Texas Tech. He’s 1-1 against them at WSU. So that loss stacks up poorly, to say nothing about the Portland State loss.

Preston: We talking sovereign immunity or football?

Cassino: I’ve started to think this means more along the lines of “lose games in dumb ways”, like the random 12-3 loss against (I think) TCU. Losing to TCU isn’t terrible, but losing like that had to be mind-boggling for Joe Techfan to watch. But we actually won one of those! The Damante Horton game, aka the We Got Lane Kiffin Fired game.

Nuss: It’s just so weird. On the “crazy wins” side, I presume Tech fans like to point to the win over No. 4 Texas in 2002 — which I understand was a new phenomenon for them — and also the wins over No. 4 Cal in the 2004 Holiday Bowl, No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007, and of course No. 1 Texas in 2008. Four wins over top five opponents is really cool, and I guess that’s how a thing like this gets created and perpetuated? But it’s not indicative of the body of work at all.

And that’s not to slam the body of work, by the way. If he ends up doing here what he did at Tech, I’m pretty darn happy.

PJ: Jeff’s first remark nailed it. “The Air Raid is the ultimate equalizer that allows a team to punch up” is another myth, along with the “Leach loses games he should win and wins games he should lose” trope. These statements are not backed up by the facts. Leach went 5-15 against Big 12 South powers Oklahoma and Texas. He’s 4-11 against Oregon, Stanford and Washington. For Leach’s entire head coaching career, he’s mostly won the games he should, and lost the games he should. And without looking it up, he’s probably about .500 in the tossups.

Nuss: Just like pretty much every other above average coach. Which, again, is nothing to look down at!


OSU. From my conversations with friends, a lot of people think OSU is going to be a cellar-dweller forever. I disagree. They played much better the 2nd half of last year and have been recruiting as well or better than us over the last 1-2 years. I think OSU will win 2-3 conference games this year and then next year they will be winning 5-6 conference games. We can't assume victory(granted, we never can, see Big Sky opponents last 2 years) against Oregon State, right? All we can assume is that it will most likely be a fairly competitive game into the 4th quarter.

Nathan S.

Nuss: I want to note that this question was sent in before Colorado State eviscerated the Beavers on Saturday.

Cassino: If that game is within 20 points going into the fourth, I will have serious concerns. The Beavers might have taken a step back. Which is fine, progress is not always linear.

Nuss: I would also like to note that I know a team that looked bad losing to an FCS team each of the last two years before rebounding to win 17 games. Is there a chance OSU isn’t nearly as bad as they looked on Saturday?

Cassino: Yep, here’s your crusty old football coach maxim for this week: A team will see its greatest improvement between Game 1 and Game 2. You don’t know what you have until you line up against somebody in a different color uniform and you see the results on film.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Colorado State
Not great.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I still think we’re a lot better than they are though. Like.... a lot.

I’m going to regret saying that come September 17th, aren’t I?

Preston: We were down 21-0 to nothing to them last year. I take nothing for granted.

Craig: As long as they don’t beat WSU to this Polar Bears idea, then they will stay near the bottom for the foreseeable future. It’s a tough division when the Cougs are decent.

Sherwood: Oregon State seems like it’s in year 2 or 3 of the Wulff era, only I’m pretty sure they’re going to pull out of the terribleness eventually. I don’t think Colorado St is that many points better than the Beavs and they will still probably surprise one or two teams this year. They’re not even the worst team in the division so they’ve got a LONG way they can fall.

Craig: So you are saying that OSU isn’t exactly The Story of Us?

Sherwood: I Knew You Were Trouble.

PJ: This stuff is all cyclical. I’d have given my middle nut to be in OSU’s spot 8-9 years ago. It was just two years ago lots of people thought Cal was on the come. Now they’re Out of Style. After Mike Leach went 3-9 in two of the first three seasons at WSU, there were probably a ton of people (raises hand) who thought WSU would be eternally clawing for 5th place in the North. I’d have taken a season like 1989 any day of the week over those dark years we were having. OSU will never find a better coach than Gary Andersen, so if he can’t get them turned around, they’ll have to either re-hire Dennis Erickson or dig up Mike Riley’s grave and turn it into Weekend at Bernie’s VII.

As for the opening weekend/FCS problem WSU has had, there’s a Blank Space where the win column should be. BUT GOD DAMNIT WE ARE WINNING THIS GODDAMN GAME SATURDAY GODDAMN NIGHT AND I WILL NOT BE WORRIED ABOUT THE GODDAMN OUTCOME AT THE START OF THE GODDAMN FOURTH QUARTER YES YOU GODDAMN HEARD ME.