Dec 21, 2013; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach in the second half against the Colorado State Rams during the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cougars 48-45. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Cougar nation is angry, shocked, and ultimately hurt. The consistent cry is that Coach Leach has poor clock management skills. There may be something to that. Many call for a stronger run game for these exact situations, and that makes perfect sense. The quarter not given to Leach is that the game was won, but for anomalies. Leach played the odds, he played conservatively, and every expectation would have gone exactly on the other side.
We can look at the fumbles in a bit, but let us remember what led to an historic, incomprehensible collapse. It took a death by 1000 cuts type game to arrive there, little missed holds (remember yelling about some blatant misses and then saying to yourself, ah, who cares, we’re killing them), and massive sustained drives by CSU to arrive with a chance to win. It is not the officials fault, but letting the 0-line play reached ridiculous proportions, culminating on the two point conversion that would not have reached a review if not for three holds on the edge allowing Alexander to kiss the pylon with the ball.
Fine, that all happened, but now we are seeing four scape goats who, while culpable, and receiving an unfair burden.
First, the most ridiculous blame goes to QB Connor Halliday, who, other than am inconsequential INT to begin the game (thanks to Nolan Washington for rendering that meaningless), played a near flawless game. Connor basically showed us what we get in 2014, and that does not seem to be enough for WSU fans.
The second and third chastised Cougs are backs Teondray Caldwell and Jeremiah Laufasa. Yes, they fumbled. That happened, that sucks. How often have we seen that from them? Well, in the case of Caldwell, not since Oregon State, in the case of Laufasa, never. That is a lot of touches for each without coughing the ball up, which lends credence to expecting them to hold onto the ball. In fact, between the two of them, with 132 touches combined, they had fumbled twice. There was a 98.5% likelihood that they would not fumble. Some statisticians would even say that there was a .02% chance of it happening on subsequent offensive plays. The numbers were on the Cougs side, and it was nearly impossible for what happened, to happen.
Percentages were also on Leach’s side when he instructed Caldwell to return the final kick off. According to this study, there is a 1% chance of losing a fumble on a kick off, excluding on-side attempts. Leach was likely hoping for a quick pass down field to get Andrew Furney in a place to attempt a winning field goal.
Instead, all hell broke lose. This is not necessarily any individual’s fault, but a collective tragedy of errors and statistical anomalies. Go forth Cougar fans, and celebrate the holidays with your family, and know that if this truly breaks the program, it is on the fans, not the folks on the field. If we are the family that we purport to be, this is the time to embrace, not chastise, a time to heal, not to rub salt into our own wounds. We as fans do not control what happens on the field, but we do control our actions and reactions, trust me, the players hear your words more than they will acknowledge, so console and build up the players, or just shut the hell up.