It’s so mentally draining to be just good enough to lose, and the Washington State Cougars are mastering the art of the broken heart. Saturday evening was just another downtrodden walk to the locker room after a defeat that had no “moral victory” or “we’re getting better” moniker attached to it.
Again a double digit halftime lead against the #1 team in the conference (the Cougs led Oregon by 10 at halftime in Autzen 3 weeks ago), again it was erased with relative ease, and again Washington State found their newest hero of the hour, only to find a goat in the end and foul their way to a loss with 4 seconds remaining in OT. Royce Woolridge was the temporary hero, scoring a career-high 36 including the game-tying 3 pointer with only moments remaining. Dexter Kernich-Drew was the goat, failing to play decent defense (as has been the case so many times this season) and allowing Oregon to win the game at the free throw line with one of the best shooters in the conference.
It gets worse. WSU had a 17 point lead on the Ducks at one point in time. That’s right, 17 points was the margin at 32-15 in favor of the Cougs before it turned, inevitably, in Oregon’s favor. It seems that’s the plight of Washington State, that no matter the margin, it’s not going to be enough. Whether it’s coaching errors, player errors, or a combination, it’s doomed to happen.
Lots of fans are throwing around the thought that we just don’t have the athletes that everyone else has, so that’s why we’re losing. But it’s not that simple. We have had two double digit halftime leads against UO, and a lead in the second half (in many cases late in the second half) in all but three Pac-12 ball games. There are now forces at play, a storybook that seems to write itself year-in and year-out in college athletics.
For Washington State, the title on the cover of their sad story reads “The Hero and the Goat”.