By Jim Moore
Let’s start with some fun facts about the Cougs:
• They beat Idaho 42-0 Saturday night and are now 3-1, halfway home to bowl eligibility.
• They previously hadn’t shut anyone out since 2003, which so happens to be the last season in which they appeared in a bowl game.
• They’ve won four of their last five games counting last year’s Apple Cup.
• They have a coach in Mike Leach who was caught on the Pac-12 Network telecast saying “[expletive] you” to Idaho coach Paul Petrino.
It’s a surprising start to the 2013 season, and one that looks like it could continue when Pac-12 play resumes against No. 5 Stanford Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
Three things we learned:
1. The Cougars are a bowl team.
I’ll put eight carts before the horse when I say that. I know we’re still three wins away, but the team we’ve been watching this year is eight points away from being 4-0.
The Cougs have a shot at beating everyone left on their schedule aside from Oregon. That includes the Cardinal. Really winnable games include Oregon State, Arizona State and Utah at Martin Stadium. Winnable games include Arizona and Cal on the road. And I’ll have to put Washington as a sort-of-winnable game, but I’m guessing that by late November, the Dawgs will have reverted to their losing ways.
2. Connor Halliday is guaranteed to drive us nuts all season long.
In every game, he makes great throws and terrible throws. He threw two interceptions against Idaho, but he’s also had nine touchdown passes in his last six quarters. I still love the kid, but can you imagine the Connor crush we’d all have if he could eliminate the bad throws?
3. The defense is solid.
It was better than the offense last year, and this year it’s been nails. Opponents have scored only 17 points in the last three games, and the Cougars have not allowed a second-half touchdown all year. Washington allowed more than 700 yards in one game to Baylor two years ago in the Alamo Bowl. The Cougs have not allowed a combined 700 yards in their last three games.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Can they truly beat Stanford?
I’d like our chances more if this game were being played at Martin Stadium. Even though the crowd will be pro-Coug Saturday night, CenturyLink seems more like a neutral site to me and must seem like a road game to the players.
But the Cardinal, as impressive as they were in the first half against Arizona State on Saturday, squandered most of their 29-0 lead before winning 42-28. They appear to be vulnerable and lost to an inferior Husky team in Seattle last year.
2. How good are these receivers?
Naturally, I wouldn’t trade them for any set of receivers in the country. Why? Because they’re Cougs. But look at how productive they’ve been. Leach likes to spread it around in his Air Raid offense so that defenses can’t key on any one or two players.
This year it’s working. Every time you look up, you don’t know who caught the ball this time – Rickey Galvin, Kristoff Williams, Dom Williams, Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle, River Cracraft … Halliday has endless options.
3. How will this defense fare against a better offense?
You might be saying: “Wait a minute, wasn’t the defense listed in the ‘Three things we learned’ section? Yep, but as good as it’s been, I just wonder how it will stack up against a team with a good quarterback. Auburn, USC, Southern Utah and Idaho didn’t have one.
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.