What we learned from the Cougars’ loss to Stanford
By Jim Moore
Let’s get right to it …
Three things we learned about the Cougs after their really disappointing 55-17 loss to a Stanford team that I actually thought we had a chance against (how dumb was that?):
1. Washington State is not ready for prime time.
It’s one thing to hold your own against Auburn and to beat USC and its lame-duck coach and to wallop vastly inferior opponents like Southern Utah and Idaho. Then, as we found out Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, it’s quite another to face the fifth-ranked team in the country. In spite of their performance, the Cougs are improving but aren’t ready to compete with upper-tier programs in the Pac-12 yet.
2. The Cougars’ pass defense isn’t as good as I thought it was.
We entered the game with the No. 2 ranked pass defense in the country, but Kevin Hogan made us look like we had the 2,000th-ranked pass defense. Time and again, Stanford receivers — most notably Devon Cajuste — got open deep behind our defensive backs. Not sure what that was all about, but it wasn’t fun to watch. We were expecting the Cardinal to run the ball, and they surprised us by winging it all over the lot. Our pass-rush was pretty much non-existent.
3. WSU shouldn’t play conference games in Seattle anymore.
Next year we’re playing Rutgers at CenturyLink on Aug. 29. That’s OK. It’s a non-conference game. But it’s time to end the conference games here. We don’t really have a home-field advantage here. I’m sure we would’ve lost to Stanford anyway, but I’m guessing it would have been a better game at Martin Stadium. Only 40,095 fans showed up Saturday night. It has to seem like a road game for the Cougar players. Plus it wrecks the Martin Stadium home schedule for season-ticket holders. This year’s schedule for games in Pullman — Southern Utah, Idaho, Oregon State, Arizona State and Utah — is the worst ever.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Why I had only three shots of Fireball before the game.
I should have had six, even seven, and that would have made it easier to take when Stanford scored three rapid-fire touchdowns in the third quarter. I continue to be amazed, after watching Cougar football for 40 years, how I can get so fired up for big games over and over again only to be continually let down. You’d think at some point I’d learn from the past and go into a big game expecting the worst or at least lowering my expectations. But that never happens. Remind me of this in three weeks when I’m conjuring up ways we can beat Oregon.
2. Who WSU’s quarterback will be next week at Cal.
It might be a mystery until kickoff at 1 p.m on Saturday. WSU doesn’t reveal injuries. When he was smacked to the turf by a Stanford linebacker, Connor Halliday looked like he hurt his left shoulder and might have suffered some type of injury to his rib cage, too. If he can’t go, Austin Apodaca will start. He did OK in his first lengthy relief appearance, passing for two garbage-time touchdowns.
3. Why our punter, Michael Bowlin, wears those ridiculous neon-green shoes.
Listen, if you’re going to wear neon-green shoes that clash with the Cougs’ crimson-and-gray color scheme, you have to boot the heck out of the ball. You have to be a very good punter. You have to have fans marveling at your talent and saying things like, “Man, those shoes really work for Bowlin!” But Bowlin shanked two punts against Stanford and has been so-so at best all season. Hey Michael, ditch the shoes or start punting better. One or the other.
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.