Despite the ultra-negative talk and thoughts from fans around the Palouse, the outcome of Rutgers literally stealing a game away from the Washington State Cougars Thursday night doesn’t doom the Cougars in 2o14, far from it actually.
Sitting in the stands after the ball careened off of the hands of River Cracraft and helmet of a Rutgers defender on 4th down was surreal and ultimately totally sickening. However regardless of the epic pit of despair in my stomach (and every other Cougar fan who saw the game), the positives for the Cougs far outweighed the negatives in the game from my point of view. I know the scoreboard doesn’t read that way, but thems the facts.
Later this morning we’ll look at a few Cougs that stood out for one reason or another, but for now, just evaluating the team’s performance when it comes to overall excitement on this young season, it has to be positive. The Cougs scored 38 points in the first game of the season and were mere inches away from putting up 55.
A field goal that bounced off of the uprights to end the half, a stop of Vince Mayle just short of a first down inside the 5 yard line and still another misjudged floater by Connor Halliday to Isiah Myers on the next drive, still early in the game and in the corner of the end zone… well, the Cougs coulda ran away with this one. And that’s not even counting the dropped punt by Cracraft that would’ve set WSU up inside Rutgers territory with a 4-point lead against a defense that hadn’t stopped anything all half.
High mark or not, I thought the Cougars had a shot at 8 or 9 wins this season if they could start out 3-0, I really did. Since that’s not possible, at this point I still think they have a very real shot at 7 or 8 wins, if they can come together like I expect them to after putting this game behind them after film this weekend.
The offense was all-but indefensible if not for some crucial drops and Cougar mistakes. That’s right, this had nothing to do with Rutgers, they couldn’t stop anything. The defense saw it’s share of struggles but really it comes down to having a cornerback that can cover a fade route across the field from Daquawn Brown and a leader in the middle that’s willing to get more out of his defensive front-7 (more on that in later article this morning).
Overall I’m still sick about the outcome of this game because it should have been a win. But looking at the whole picture, the offense never panicked and they did what they were supposed to do, for the most part. On the other side, the defense did enough at times but special teams put them back on the field in the worst possible moment of the football game.
Again, this should have been a win, but it just wasn’t and it’s not like Rutgers was some inferior opponent that shouldn’t have been on the field with WSU. If they lose to Nevada, regardless the reason… well at that point we would have a serious problem but Rutgers is a program very much like Washington State in their progression under their coaching regime. This came down to one or two plays and unfortunately, the Cougs came up short. Fortunately it’s just one game and the Cougs will get a chance to rebound this week before going home to beat down Portland State in anticipation of Oregon to open the Pac-12 season.
If WSU were to win the next two games, all of my bold predictions for the season are still in play, save for a game. The Cougs still have six games at home against only five on the road and the schedule hasn’t changed at all over the past 48 hours. They still play four teams that they beat last season; Arizona, Cal, USC and Utah with three of those in Pullman. Not to mention the Apple Cup is in Pullman as well. Oh, and clearly this is a better Cougar team, especially on offense. I can’t wait to see where this team goes the rest of the season and neither should you.