Oct 19, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (14) catches the ball for a touch back against the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Over this Cougar football season there has been a lot of negativity from the fan base about the coaching style and quarterback play at Washington State University.
After reviewing film and taking a closer look at the turnovers and failed 3rd downs and empty trips to the red zone, I uncovered a more pressing issue and perhaps the real cause of Washington State’s scoring not matching the yards they are putting up. Something the average fan doesn’t see.
In order for Washington State to get to a bowl this year they have to beat two of the following teams; Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Washington.
In order to win any of those last 4 games, the Cougars will have to see improvement in two main positions on offense and no, that doesn’t mean putting a freshman in at quarterback or changing the offensive strategy. In order for the Cougs to do something they haven’t done since 2003, get to a bowl, they must improve play at wide receiver and offensive line.
First off the wide outs. Everyone looks at Connor Halliday’s numbers and See 17 Ints in 8 games and think “we have a quarterback problem”. I looked a little deeper and learned what we really have is a wide receiver problem. Out of the 17 Ints thrown by Halliday, 9 of them were avoidable if the wide receivers had done their job or been running the correct pattern.
What makes a team successful is having every position operating at a high level. The wide receivers can play amazing and then they can play lazy and undisciplined (fumbles, dropped balls, falling down on routes as shown in the image above and running the wrong route all together).
In the Cougars 4 losses there is no doubt that turnovers have played a huge role, the other knife stabbing the Cougars offensive production is dropped passes. Time and time again wide outs have been in position to make a play and dropped the pass. This happens too often on 3rd down and kills good offensive drives and sometimes costs us points.
In extreme cases the ball bouncing off of a receivers hands have resulted in a few interceptions. Now these things are bound to happen when you’re putting the ball in the air 60 times a game but it needs to be drastically improved and reduced to be successful in the final 4 games of the season.
This is a young, inexperienced wide receiver group so it will only get better but it needs to see improvement fast. This bye week should allow great improvement on these areas and I at least hope to see the results when the Cougs take the field on halloween night to take on the Sun Devils.
The second pressing issue is a little more obvious and that is our offensive line. Although the Cougars O-line has seen drastic improvement since last year, this group needs to take the next step over the bye week because the road doesn’t get much easier when looking at the remaining opponents’ pass rush.
In Leach’s offense, opposing defenses can count on WSU passing about 95% of the time. If the Cougars do not have one of the sturdiest lines in college football, that leads to a lot of sacks and turnovers, no matter who (currently on the Cougars roster) you put back there to throw the ball around.
Washington State does not have a single mobile quarterback available to them so the line has to give whoever lines up in the backfield enough time to operate. Over the past 2 games the defense has rushed seemingly at will.
I think this bye week is timed perfectly for this Cougar team and these are both issues that can be fixed in the middle of the year with coaching and maybe a little bit of healing for injuries. A lot of people are blaming Halliday and Leach for the Cougars shortcomings in the losses but this is what really needs to be fixed, these are the real issues.
We could put in every back up quarterback we have and would get the same result if these issues are not addressed. However if we do fix these things we will be on our way to our first bowl game since 2003 and Connor Halliday will be leading the way.