By Jim Moore
The Cougars are 2-5, beating Eastern Washington and UNLV. We’re 0-fer in Pac-12 play, even losing to Colorado after blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead.
If you haven’t noticed, we’re not very good. I usually don’t like bye weeks because that means there won’t be a Cougar football game on Saturday. But I’m happy we’ve got a bye this week for the following reasons:
• It gives us two weeks to prepare for our next game at Stanford.
• It gives us two weeks to get healthy if we have injured players.
• It gives us two weeks of outrageous comments from Mike Leach instead of only one.
• More than anything else, I’m happy we have a bye because we’re not going to lose this week.
I hate turning sarcastic when it comes to the Cougs. I want to be optimistic. But the constant losing is getting to me. We’ve lost 46 of our last 57 games.
I know we need to be patient and understand that we have a new coach who needs time to build his program and that he probably doesn’t have players that are talented enough or don’t fit his system well enough.
But if I’m being honest, I thought at the very least we’d be entertaining and fun on offense. I thought we’d lose our share of games, but we’d lose them 53-38, not 19-6.
I thought we’d make it to a bowl game at 6-6, not needing a win in the Apple Cup to salvage our season at 4-8.
I thought Leach would make an instant impact, but I guess I was wrong about that. I trust that it has more to do with the players at his disposal than the coach himself.
Next year – ah yes, next year – things will be better. Thing is, I thought next year was this year. With the Cougs, it’s reaching the point of feeling more like next decade instead of next year.
Here’s what’s crazy: to some crimson bleeders, when you criticize the Cougs, it’s as if you’re being disloyal or aren’t smart enough to understand what it takes to build a winning football program. I don’t think I’m being disloyal, but I’ll give you that I might not be smart enough to understand the process.
I’m just sick of losing all the time. Of the 11 teams we’ve beaten in the last five years, I can only think of two that were quality teams – Oregon State two years ago and Arizona State last year. Maybe you could make it three if you throw in SMU in 2009; the Mustangs or Ponies or whatever the hell they are made it to a bowl game that season.
WSU is averaging just over 21 points per game with Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, down from 29.8 last season. (AP)
Three wins over decent teams in five years. I think when you have three good wins in five years, you’re allowed to be sarcastic about the alma mater’s football team.
I mean, come on, it’s not like we have through-the-roof expectations for Cougar football – just give us a winning season every now and then, and we’re pretty much good with that. In those losing years, at least give us an upset once in a while, a few wins in the Apple Cup, and we’ll be more than accepting.
I know (think?) that Leach will turn this thing around. In the meantime, the most interesting thing about Cougar football is Leach and his comments about some of his seniors being empty corpses and some of his receivers being soft. He knows what he’s doing as a coach, but I wonder if it’s productive to call out your players like that. If I’m one of those empty corpses, I don’t think I’d be motivated by my coach’s remarks.
So we have a team that lacks talent and includes players who aren’t completely in line with the new coach. It’s a losing combination that will hopefully start to disappear next year.
But there are still five games left on this year’s schedule. We play at Stanford, at Utah, home for UCLA on Dads’ Weekend, then off to ASU before we play the Dawgs at Martin Stadium the day after Thanksgiving.
Generously, the Cougs win two of their last five – most likely beating UCLA and UW – to finish 4-8. Not so generously, the way they’ve been playing, the Cougs could dropkick all five and finish 2-10. Let’s face it, we’re going to be underdogs in every game the rest of the way.
I guess I’m more down than usual because I thought we’d give Cal more of a fight than we did. We were at home, coming off a good defensive performance at Oregon State. For Cal, it was a classic “sandwich” game, coming in between a big win over UCLA and a clash with Stanford on Saturday. Yet the Golden Bears pretty much owned us like everyone seems to own us anymore.
But I already know how I’ll feel next Saturday around 3 p.m., just before kickoff in Palo Alto. I’ll be thinking if Jeff Tuel can have a good game, and if Marquess Wilson can have a good game, and if our defense can play the way it did against the Beavers, then maybe we’ll have a shot at knocking off Stanford.
I’m sober and thinking this now; I’ll have had a few pops before the game next Saturday and likely thinking that we’ll not only beat Stanford, but maybe we’ll blow ’em out, completely forgetting that Stanford is a hell of a lot better than us.
That’s the way it is with Cougar football – you get frustrated but never give up hope.