Welcome to the CougCenter mailbag. If you want to participate next week, send your Washington State Cougars queries to email@example.com. On to the questions!
With this win now in the books, we can all see there's still room for improvement but if you had to predict where WSU will be record wise by the end of the season, what would you say after seeing the way they played on Saturday? Better than you initially thought, worse or around the same?
Cassino: If we’ve learned anything from the last two years, it should be not to overreact to Week 1. It’s the first time you line up against another team running a different scheme with a coaching staff that has different ideas on how to beat you, and you truly don’t know what you have until you line up against somebody in a different colored jersey. So this year’s Week 1 is clearly better than the last two years, so we can reasonably expect a National Championship.
Preston: JUST HANG THE NATTY BANNER NOW.
No different. They beat the Bobcats like they should have this year and every other before and after when they play an FCS team.
Nuss: If you all won’t be the conductor on the hype train, I will — ALL ABOARD WOO-WOO!!
My takeaway from the last two years isn’t that week one is meaningless, it’s that we can expect improvement from a week-one baseline. In that respect, the baseline is higher. And I think there are still plenty of places the team can improve from that result, and that won’t be lost on the coaches. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
Sherwood: I had us losing this one so at least one better! I won’t dare predict how this team will fare until I see them play a team that isn’t terrible.
I get that fans would have liked to see more than 31 points scored. But what I don't understand is the criticism of Luke Falk that immediately follows after acknowledging that Montana State was dropping 8 every time. How do you acknowledge that, and in the next sentence criticize him for not taking more shots down field? I think that we would be more critical if he was throwing into double coverage or triple coverage, which is riskier and has way less potential to be positive than a pretty much guaranteed 8 yards per play that we saw on Saturday. I totally understand wanting to see more points scored, but if you're acknowledging the reason why we didn't score more, how can you be critical? Would those people rather see 6 passes per game into double or triple coverage? Would that make everyone feel better? My gut feeling is it would not.
Is there a way for Falk to become a half-gunslinger? When he is at his worst, he is indecisive and will not take a shot downfield. Waits in the pocket for 8-10 seconds for the sack. This becomes apparent in games like the Montana St. game where it seems more like he's trying not to screw up rather than make the read and throw.
Cassino: I feel like we’re getting into #narrative territory here with the Falk holding the ball thing, a la Halliday interceptions. Counterpoint: How good is our O-Line if he’s holding the ball for 8-10 seconds?
Nuss: I would hope we would all agree that he’s not supposed to hold the ball that long, though, if the offense is running the way it’s designed — awesome protection or not.
Preston: Part of the way this offense hums on all cylinders is by taking those shots down field and being willing to go further than five yards down the field with a pass. Against Montana State, what Luke Falk did on Saturday works because you can simply out-athlete them on both sides of the ball. Against Boise State, USC, Stanford, etc.? No way.
He’s had the same problem for the third year in a row: a penchant for not going down field early in the season and not getting in rhythm for a few games. Even if he’d thrown into tighter coverages down field Saturday, I would’ve liked to see more of it, especially against a team that isn’t nearly the talent of any other that WSU will see the rest of the year.
Though, I will say (as Jesse did) I don’t want Falk going full Connor Halliday and just throwing the ball to whomever he wants, coverage be damned.
Nuss: There’s more than one way to complete a pass beyond throwing to a wide open guy, and I think that’s sometimes lost on fans who defend Luke consistently taking the “safe” throw. Sometimes, you throw it to your guy in a one-on-one situation and let him make a play. I mean, why are we recruiting all these guys who are 6-3 and taller if we’re not going to give them a chance to abuse a 5-10 corner?
Look, it was fine against Montana State to get the desired result, but as I said in a comment: Can we stop pretending it was great and acknowledge that playing it this way only led to four touchdowns? We should expect to score more than four TDs in nine drives against Montana State. It doesn’t have to be one or the other: We can acknowledge that what Falk did was largely prudent and good enough to win the game and simultaneously acknowledge that the team should have been able to bite off bigger chunks of yardage.
Sherwood: If anyone so much as takes away ONE touch from Boobie, so help me god.
Nuss: Don’t worry, nobody is touching your Boobie.
Sherwood: Not with that attitude!
"Claws are Out" vs "Way Back Home" — who ya got?
Follow Up: Is "Way Back Home" the new anthem for the WSU fan base a la Tennessee and "Rocky Top?"
Preston: A) Way Back Home running away with it. B) Rocky Top was written for Tennessee, right? I kinda feel like in order for us to equal that, it’s gotta be something written specifically for WSU. I’ll say no. But then again, I think a Cheeto is a chip.
Cassino: If it didn’t come from a potato, it ain’t a chip.
Man, I just managed to get Rocky Top out of my head from Monday. But I have an unabashed love for Rocky Top. We should just steal it like we stole the Gator Chomp. Don’t even change the lyrics. Just roll with it and make up some story about how it refers to the rocky hills of the Palouse or some nonsense.
Also, the correct answer here is “Say Go, Say Cougs” and I will not stand for these usurpers trying to claim the throne.
Nuss: I finally found another non-Tennessean who loves Rocky Top?!? I used to play as Tennessee in NCAA football just because of that. Oh, and “Way Back Home” is our thing now. It’s absolutely perfect for WSU — a little country, and it’s about people leaving and coming back, which ... duh. Our fans just need to embrace this and love it the way I do. And I hate country music!
Preston: I’ll bear the torch on this week’s HAWT TAEK: “Say Go, Say Cougs” or whatever it’s called is awful.
Cassino: .........We’re about to throw hands, Preston.
Nuss: I feel like I don’t even know you anymore, Michael.
Sherwood: After that “Do a little tailgatin’” video that surfaced last year, everyone else is competing for #2. And that #2 is Way Back Home. I still haven’t bought in all the way on that, but it appears everyone else has, so who am I to stand in the way of fun?
Nuss: I can verify that Kyle will never stand in the way of fun. #TeamBrownLiquor
What do you think the reasoning is behind Falk oftentimes refusing to just chuck a ball into the stands? Follow-up: How long until that gets him in real trouble?
Preston: He wants to make a positive play, which I get. I’d be the exact same way though I have the athleticism of a potato. He’ll get into trouble with this when he faces a defense that can really put pressure on him so ... this weekend probably.
Sherwood: Sounds to me like Ron is too cheap to buy his own damn football.
Nuss: We’ve seen Falk try and make a play until the very last nanosecond, even in the pocket, which is how his head often ends up bouncing off the turf. I’m sure it’s the same thing here. I would hope as a senior he would have learned that it’s OK to just flip it out of bounds before getting pummeled, but I guess not! I just hope he doesn’t die.
Is it just me or does it seem strange that a college kid has his own charity? Seems to me this is a really easy, and slimy, way to funnel cash to a player's family. I don't see how the NCAA could clear this. Can we just start a Luke Falk non profit and appoint one of his family members as president and give him 80% of whatever is donated?
1. The sponsor is a staffing company?
2. In the resources tab, the "Live Homework Help" link goes to the public library
Preston: Do we only think it’s slimy because Azeem Victor happens to play for Washington or that there’s ACTUALLY something underhanded going on? I’d like to air on the side of faith in the fact that Victor is genuinely trying to do something good for his community, rather than trying to grift people for dough. There are much quieter ways to get bag man money than setting up a website the NCAA can easily dig through.
Sherwood: Currently setting up a GoFundMe for Boobie’s “charity” to stay another year. BRB.
We didn't get a good look at our receivers against MSU, did you see anything promising or frightening that we lay viewers may have missed?
What do you guys expect out of Jamire Calvin his true freshman season?
Sherwood: Boobie has become a reception black hole. I expect Calvin to get out of the way.
Cassino: Slow, steady improvement over the course of the year for Calvin while he figures out the Pac-12. 20 catches is low end, 40-50 catches I think is a reasonable ceiling.
Nuss: I’d be very excited about 40-50. I could be wrong, but to my layperson eyes, it seems like Leach will often put young players in to run certain routes that they run well. I’m not sure Calvin will be in there for enough snaps to catch that many balls, especially with splitting time with Renard Bell — Robert Lewis only caught 33 balls last year and he played the majority of the snaps. I’d guess Calvin ends up under 30, but has some moments of brilliance that make us stand up and notice.
Cassino: Fair. I see his trajectory closer to Gabe Marks’ than to Robert Lewis’ though. Even taking position difference into account. Nothing wrong with 30 catches as a true freshman, however.
As far as the receiver corps as a whole, I think we saw pretty much what we expected, keeping in mind the limited touches. Kyle Sweet is steady and consistent, Isaiah Johnson-Mack is still figuring out how good he can be, CJ Dimry’s coordination will probably never catch up to his frame, and Tavares Martin is basically Gabe 2.0, especially running the Slant/Post in the red zone.
Nuss: I think Calvin’s talent is on par with Marks, but he’s not stepping into a situation where there’s very little talent around him, which — combined with the positional differences and playing fewer snaps — leads me to think he probably won’t do what Marks did as a freshman, despite being similarly talented.
And yeah — I don’t know how much you take away from anyone else beyond what we already thought we knew. Just too few targets to anyone else to really draw any new conclusions.
Do you think Aron Baynes had the eating chops to be a judge of Boston's Best Burgers?
Nuss: Maybe he’s talking about this? Anyway, all I can think about now is those sliders. Petite fried quail eggs? SIGN ME UP.
SpeedD is a sight to behold. I love the high energy motors. Not in love with the over pursuits and missed tackles. Do coaches downshift a bit against BSU?
Cassino: Not even a little bit. That’s little stuff you can correct over the course of a week of practice. Angles, alignments, gap fits, and so on. If you’re not hitting a gap on time, as in too late, that’s a matter of effort or desire or just plain not being fast enough. Tough to coach those things.
Sherwood: I think they have to for the next few weeks, when it’s just going to be a party in the backfield. Hopefully they have assignments figured out by USC because that’s a stiff learning curve from Montana/Boise/OSU/Nevada when the Cougs can out-athlete everybody.
Nuss: I can’t believe you didn’t use that space to advocate for Boobie playing defense.
Sherwood: Boobie overpursues goal lines. But I’d let him punt if he asked.
Nuss: Only if he can punt while running. Gotta maintain that strategic advantage.