Is Washington State’s season lost already after disastrous 0-2 start?
After Washington State’s 24-13 loss to Nevada Friday night, let’s look at the next 10 games of the season and consider the possibilities:
Best-case scenario: The Cougars beat Portland State and go 5-4 in Pac-12 play to finish 6-6 and play in their second consecutive bowl game.
Middle-case scenario: The Cougars go 4-6 the rest of the way and finish with a disappointing 4-8 record. To find four wins is difficult after the way they played against Rutgers and Nevada, but they could beat Portland State, Utah, Cal and either Oregon State or Washington if their offense and defense show up for the same game.
Worst-case scenario: We beat Portland State but lose every Pac-12 game, understanding that even Cal is not a gimme anymore, and finish 1-11. After Portland State, the only game we have a chance to be favored in is the Cal game, and the Bears won at Northwestern last Saturday, suggesting that they might not be awful anymore.
The really, really worst-case scenario: We lose the rest of our games, including the one to Portland State. That’s certainly possible the way we’ve looked in the first two games along with the fact that Portland State led Oregon State 14-13 at halftime before losing 29-14 last week. If we lose out, we’d have to forfeit our best comeback to Husky cheap shots, that being: “Yeah, but we never went 0-12 like you guys did in 2008.”
If you’re trying to stress the positives after watching us score 13 points Friday night, we will probably win a game or two that we shouldn’t with our prolific passing game and hopefully an improving defense.
But let’s face it, right now we’re terrible, bordering on awful. We’re not Paul Wulff Era bad, but there’s a huge gap between what we’re seeing and the expectations with coach Mike Leach.
We’re 9-18 since he took over three years ago. And let’s be honest – we wouldn’t have gone to a bowl game last year if we hadn’t replaced BYU with Southern Utah on the schedule, if we had played someone more competitive than Idaho, and if we’d played USC after Lane Kiffin was fired.
We’ve had four “good” wins with Leach as the head coach: USC, Arizona and Utah last year, and Washington in 2012.
Maybe it will turn around, if not this season, then next season. With Leach’s record at Texas Tech, you’re led to think it will happen at some point.
But what if the Air Raid system doesn’t work as well as it used to? Have other teams learned how to defend it? You could argue otherwise by pointing to Connor Halliday’s 922 passing yards in the first two games.
What about the Air Raid in the red zone? What about the lack of even a threat of a running game to keep defenses off-balance and help close out games? And maybe even give your own defense a break on the sidelines.
Thing is, I get the feeling if you criticize Leach, you run the risk of being anti-Coug. I’ve also been told over and over again that my problems with him stem from an interview two years ago in which he blasted me for wondering if the players had all bought into his system. We were 2-9 at the time and coming off a blowout loss at Arizona State. I thought some of the players quit in the game.
Agreed, that interview didn’t go well. It was awkward radio at its best, particularly when he said he was going to sic his backyard owl on my dog.
In time, I hope that what we’re watching now is part of a culture change, a necessary process for us to be consistently competitive down the road. If these are growing pains, fine, but there are a lot of things I don’t understand.
• How a coach who makes $2.25 million a year couldn’t figure out that taking three knees would’ve been the difference between winning and losing the New Mexico Bowl.
• How a coach who lost that game wouldn’t be accountable for losing that game.
• How the same coach would get a $500,000 raise after that game.
• How we could have had 12 men on the field on a crucial fourth-and-2 after a timeout in the Nevada game.
• Why we’re always in the dark about injuries, still not knowing what’s going on with Gabe Marks and the status of River Cracraft that prevented him from playing Friday night. As if revealing these high-level secrets would have, what, made us worse than 0-2?
If Wulff had lost the New Mexico Bowl like that, he would’ve been labeled a dunce and sent to the corner. He certainly wouldn’t have gotten happier totals in his direct deposits.
I guess we’re so hellbent on winning and so intoxicated with Leach’s record at Texas Tech and so done with being doormats that we’ll not only tolerate the flaws but reward them. Fact is, he should be lucky to have us, not the other way around.
Again, I hope I’m a clueless Coug who will soon learn that I was wrong again. But based on what we’ve seen thus far, I don’t get this infatuation with the supposed savior of Cougar football.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.