Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (44) is tackled by Washington State Cougars safety Deone Bucannon (20) at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
For the second game of his second season at the helm of Washington State football, Coach Mike Leach and the Cougars venture to the LA Coliseum Saturday evening to take on the #22 USC Trojans. It’s an early Pac-12 conference game which should reveal plenty about both teams.
The Cougs are coming off a tough loss to last season’s SEC doormat, the Auburn Tigers. No question Auburn is improved. No question the Tigers have several issues to resolve if they are to continue winning.
In a pass/fail college football system, Auburn passed their first test.
USC opened their season with an unremarkable win over Hawaii. If you are one of the few who saved that game on your DVR, don’t delete it! Should you ever contend with insomnia, a few minutes of viewing that game will have you drifting off to dreamland.
So what does Washington State have to do to earn a Pac-12 win Saturday night?
Before answering that question, let me share a favorite quote from a man who knew how to win football games:
"Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.– Vince Lombardi"
Washington State will earn a win over the Trojans if they do one thing Saturday.
If you have a competitive roster, your team will win by executing football basics better than the other guys. It’s just that simple.
Coach Leach and his staff have made great strides in upgrading the caliber of student-athlete on the WSU roster. If you doubt that assertion, watch the WSU vs. Auburn game again.
In terms of athletic ability, the Cougs have a competitive collection of players who have tremendous potential as a team.
Individually, there are a few exceptional talents.
Senior safety Deone Bucannon has worked to become a player destined to be an early round NFL draft pick next spring.
Sophomore WR Gabe Marks stands out among a stable of extremely capable receivers ready to test the USC secondary.
The ingredients are in place for Washington State to once again accomplish great things on the gridiron. Referring back to the season opener, the reason the Cougs came up short on the scoreboard was inconsistent execution. They played hard for 60-minutes, but their effort was thwarted when they shot themselves in the foot on a handful of plays.
When adversity smacked WSU down last week, they repeatedly jumped right back up with the resilience required to win.
Forget the history between these two schools. Yes, USC has dominated WSU on the field of play when viewing the big picture.
Set aside the wisdom of Vegas odds-makers who project USC as a 15 1/2 point favorite on their home turf.
Watching the WSU/USC game Saturday night will offer the chance to see two football programs in flux. Coach Leach is working to rebuild Cougar football. USC Coach Lane Kiffin is working to erase the mediocre results of a year ago.
By the wee hours of Saturday night, we’ll know which team is better at one significant factor contributing to playing successful college football.