The Washington State (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) football team seemingly dared Oregon State to smack them on the chin last Saturday night. The Beavers accepted the challenge and knocked the Cougs out with the game in the balance late in the third quarter.
Some may suggest that after a second blowout loss in three games, this WSU team is staggering. Truth be told, that is about as far from accurate as any knee-jerk response to a lopsided 52-24 defeat as you could get.
There were a number of areas where WSU did well this past weekend. Perhaps the best performance turned in was the effort delivered by the offensive line.
Coming into this season, one of the weakest areas for Cougar football was the effectiveness of their OL. That is a fact, plain and simple.
The play by the OL has steadily improved week by week under the tutelage of the unit Coach Clay McGuire. McGuire has coached up players to compete at a Pac-12 level.
Over the past two games, the Cougar OL has allowed Halliday to be sacked just twice. Compared to last season and the beginning of this year, that is tremendous progress.
For any part/unit of a football team to be successful, there must be leadership. Senior center Elliott Bosch provides a calm, experienced matter-of-fact brand of leadership which is backed up by steady play on the field.
Much to the surprise of many, Washington State’s defense led the way to earning four wins in their first six games.
No surprise to this observer, the offensive line is poised to lead this team through the final five games on the regular season schedule.
Three seniors on the OL are playing at a level reflecting their maturity. Complimented by two talented guys on the left side in Gunnar Eklund at tackcle and Joe Dahl lining up next to Bosch at left guard, not only is there pass protection for the Cougar quarterback there is a hint of good things to come in the WSU running game.
With the game still on the line heading into the fourth quarter against OSU, Washington State had racked up 81-yards on 16 carries running the football. They would end the contest with 113-yards by handing the ball off 22 times. Let me do the math for you. WSU averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
In a pass first offense, gaining 100+ yards on the ground is a huge positive. To make that happen, the OL has to do what big guys like to do…move people off the line of scrimmage.
Most of Cougar Nation may still be scratching their heads wondering what the heck happened to the focus of their team in the fourth quarter Saturday night.
Well, the malady of losing focus in the OSU game didn’t infect the intensity and play of the WSU offensive line unit.
“I thought we (OL) played to the end, so I was proud of that,” said Bosch during post game interviews.
In need of quality leadership, this Cougar football team should rally to the sage advice of Bosch, “We need to learn as a team, not to look at the scoreboard. We need to be able to play through adversity.”
For the Cougs to enjoy success this coming weekend in Eugene, OR when they take on the No. 2 Oregon Ducks, playing their best football is mandatory. No question the recent play over the past three games suggests the big guys on offense lining up in the trenches are working together to make that happen.
“It’s not the end of the year,” reminds Bosch. ”We still have a lot of games left. It’s one bad game (losing to OSU) and we need to learn from it and get back on track.”
Can’t change what has happened but a united effort by players, coaches and fan support will dramatically effect the future of Cougar football.
Can’t wait to see what the team brings to the field at Autzen Stadium this coming Saturday evening.