What we learned from the Cougars’ win over Cal
By Jim Moore
Well, that was fun. Nice to see the Cougs bounce back from the Stanford drubbing to beat Cal 44-22 Saturday afternoon in Berkeley.
At 4-2, the Cougs already have more victories than they had during Mike Leach’s first season when they finished 3-9.
It usually depresses me when the Cougs reach the halfway point of the season because it means we’ve got only six games left, and it’s only early October. But this year we might be playing a 13th game for the first time since 2003, which will certainly be something new to look forward to.
Three things we learned:
Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the Cougars’ win over Cal Saturday. (AP)
1. Connor Halliday is the man.
There’s a Coug fan who was giving me a hard time on Twitter Saturday because I’m always backing Halliday. He thinks Washington State’s quarterback is “mediocre,” offsetting his occasional brilliance with frequent interceptions.
This guy on Twitter is a good guy – I say this having never met him, but I know that he goes to every Cougar game home and away and has done this for years. He lives in Las Vegas now, but for years he attended Cougar games from his home in Orlando, Fla. Even during the bad years, he’d get on a plane and watch that God-awful team of ours lose again. He has to be a good guy if he loves the Cougs that much.
So his assessment of Halliday is probably better than mine, most frequently made off of observations from my flat screen. I just like the kid’s gunslinger-ness, knowing that it costs us at times. But he’s also capable of making big plays. And he’s never boring, whether he’s flinging it all over the lot or filling reporters’ notepads with terrific quotes.
I can’t call a quarterback mediocre when he passes for 521 yards and three touchdowns like Halliday did on Saturday. Especially not when it happens in a Pac-12 road game.
2. Mike Leach is the man, too.
I’m still having a hard time embracing Leach the person, but it’s clearly evident that what he did at Texas Tech can happen at Washington State. The guy can flat-out coach. I had my doubts last year when it appeared that half the team bought in and half the team didn’t. He has changed the culture – if you want to use that buzz-phrase – for the better. With all the players on board, you can see the potential with this team.
3. Andrew Furney will be there when we need him.
I don’t even know this kid, but I love him like he’s one of my own. Furney whiffed on his first field-goal attempt Saturday but came back to hit three fourth-quarter field goals from 44, 41 and 28 yards. Hope to see him trotting out on the field with a chance to win the Apple Cup again this year.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Is the Cougars’ defense good, bad or something in between?
At this point, I’d vote for the latter. It’s not as good as the one that allowed 17 points over a three-game stretch to USC, Southern Utah and Idaho. It’s not as bad as the one that was beaten deep at times by Stanford and Cal. But when it gives up more than 500 passing yards like it did against the Bears, there are issues that need to be taken care of.
2. Are we a bowl team?
I know, this is a weekly installment in this here post, but there’s no definitive answer as yet. Looking at the schedule, we’ll be favored in just one of the six remaining games – against Utah at Martin Stadium on Nov. 23. We need two wins to be bowl eligible. Can we get one of those wins this week against Oregon State on Dads’ Weekend in Pullman? Can we beat one of the Arizona schools? How about the Dawgs on Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving? Vegas thinks we’ll go 1-5, but we could go 4-2 or heck, if you told me we could finish 2-4 and go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, I’d take it right now, no questions asked.
3. Do the Cougs have the best receiving corps in the Pac-12?
Quick answer: likely not. There might be some top-end receivers who are better than the Cougs’ top two or three. But look at them as a group – they’re outstanding. Counting running backs, the Cougs had seven receivers who caught at least four passes against Cal and 10 who caught two or more. All good stuff and necessary components in an Air Raid offense.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.