Expectations across Cougar Nation were high going into the Pac-12 Northern Division matchup between No. 5 Stanford (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) and Washington State (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12).
Cruel reality reminded WSU faithful you best learn how to walk before trying to run.
After 60-minutes of Pac-12 football, the scoreboard displayed the harsh facts of what can happen when an established program executes and a rebuilding program lacks the maturity required to play with the elite of college football.
Writers weren’t at a loss for words in offering critical reviews.
“Instead of pulling off a stunning upset that would have signaled another step in their resurgence, the Cougars were left physically beaten and battered by the Cardinal.”
— Tim Booth, The Associated Press
“Washington State’s football season took a sobering turn Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, where No. 5-ranked Stanford not only schooled the Cougars but battered them.”
— Bud Withers, Seattle Times
“Washington State had some opportunities to give Stanford a scare early on, but the Cougars’ mistakes continued to mount until a pair of pick-sixes in the third quarter eliminated any chance of a comeback…”
— Connor Tapp, SBNation
From my chair, the only surprise Saturday night was my selective memory which failed to register two important components if there is to be a resurrection of Cougar football.
Just because Coach Mike Leach has brought this squad along steadily doesn’t mean the Cougs are close to reaching their destination. And even warriors, which is how I would describe the WSU defense, can have the wind knocked out of their collective effort.
“Kevin Hogan saw what Washington State was trying to do, pushing its defense closer to the line of scrimmage and daring Stanford to try and go over the top. Hogan and the Cardinal were more than happy to pick apart the Cougars defense by going deep.”
In general, most are crediting Stanford for playing outstanding football rather than target the mistake-plagued performance of Washington State.
If there is something to be taken away from the drubbing the Cougs were subjected to in Seattle, its the expectation this team will rebound, regroup and get back up off the turf they found themselves splattered on repeatedly by a bigger, more mature Stanford roster.
The Cougar D found out what it’s like to be on the sidelines watching the work of an opponent’s dominating defense.
“Against the Stanford defense, WSU’s hurry-up offense had 322 yards passing but succeeded mainly in hurrying itself to the sidelines.”
— Tom Fitzgerald, San Francisco Chronicle
Washington State took three steps forward by riding a nice win streak going into this past Saturday night.
No question every phase of Cougar football took a step back, momentarily stalling steady progress made over the past ten months.
Early in the second half, Coach Leach huddled his guys on the sideline attempting to get his team to reclaim their focus. This meeting was in response to two Cougar quarterbacks getting knocked down and out. Both got back up but only one could carry on. Connor Halliday conceded he was in too much pain to continue. Austin Apodaca recovered enough to get back in the battle.
The desire to compete was there, but the ability to execute to near perfection slipped.
This time around Washington State would taste the bitterness of defeat.
Forced to face a very long drive back to Pullman, these young student-athletes had to deal with time for reflection, reaffirm their convictions and embrace the lessons learned.
WSU shook off the effects of getting pummeled in the third quarter. Clearly they regained their ability to focus on playing aggressive offense and defense in the final 15-minutes. And for those applying the caveat Stanford starters were on the sidelines at that point, it’s fair to point out Washington State had many of their 2’s and 3’s on the depth chart out on the gridiron.
“This might yet prove to be a turnaround season for WSU, one that could reasonably end without a losing record if the Cougars continue improving. But Saturday – and Stanford – proved that WSU’s progress will not come without sacrifice.”
— Christian Caple, Spokesman-Review
Heatedly debating playing ‘home’ games in Seattle? Mocking the passion of Cougar Nation by posting videos of some fellow dumping a bag of popcorn over his face out of boredom? Ranting about the crowd on hand flooding out of the stadium when the game got out of hand?
Personally, I can’t wait to see what Coach Leach and this team does next Saturday against the Cal Bears down in Berkeley. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the only game the Cougs play next week.