I was on ESPN Radio in Pullman a few weeks back after the Cal loss and was asked if it was "crazy" to say Washington State still had a chance to get to a bowl game. At the time, the Cougs had taken every team they played to the wire, including Oregon. It looked like WSU could hang with anyone. I answered that while it was not likely, the feeling that the Cougars would be "in" every game allowed some sanity in thinking they could win enough to reach a bowl.
The last two games have destroyed that notion.
WSU was close late against the Cardinal. Even if it was a blowout in every sense except the scoreboard (although losing by 17 is considered a blowout by most programs that haven't endured the repeated 60-point spankings this one has), some Coug fans could still feel that Washington State had a chance in that game.
That wasn't the case against Arizona. The Wildcats pounced early and the game was never close. Finally, the one thing that was keeping hope alive for the Cougs, that they were finally good enough to avoid this sort of embarrassing performance, has been debunked.
So where do we go from here? WSU isn't officially out of the running for a bowl game. If you are a supremely optimistic fan, hold on to that for as long as you are able. If you need some encouragement to do so, recall that Washington State is the only team to hand Utah a loss this season.
But that's not really where I'm at for the last four games. I look at USC next week and a trip to the Tempe death trap the following Saturday and don't see WSU coming out of that with two wins -- it'd be lucky to snag even one.
For me, I'm going to continue rooting for individuals to do well. Connor Halliday is the first to come to mind. I'm going to do my best to appreciate the special season he is having and hope he keeps logging the numbers that allow him to set as many records as possible. I was initially baffled that Halliday was still in until the end last night, but at least he got to tack on an extra 150 yards and two touchdowns to his totals and came out unscathed.
Along with Halliday, I'll root for other seniors like Vince Mayle, Isiah Myers and Rickey Galvin to do well. I'll hope that River Cracraft can stay healthy and continue on a track that sees him break records by the time he is a senior.
I've always done this as a Mariners fan. They have been largely terrible for the last decade, but haven't been totally devoid of guys to root for. In particular, I'd always check the box score to see how the young guys fared, or would take special interest in their at-bats even when the game was out of hand.
Coug fans can also take an interest in how the offensive line develops - they'll all be around next year. We can watch the young secondary, and hopefully not be totally depressed at what we see.
That's why I'm still at least a little bummed that I will miss most, if not all, of the game next Saturday. I'm visiting a friend in North Carolina and we are heading to a beer festival that starts about when WSU will hit halftime. It figures that the one time a mega-late start would have been helpful the Cougs are starting in the middle of the day, but those are the breaks.
I'm sure many of you will still find reason to watch the Cougs the rest of the way. We are surely used to the losing by now, but this team has enough youth to keep an eye on and plenty of guys that are easy to root for. And who knows, maybe they rise up and ruin another team's season along the way?