Perception and reality are sometimes hard to distinguish in sports, especially during college football bowl season. However, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard says that fair or not, Minnesota’s manhandling of Washington State during Tuesday’s Holiday Bowl looks bad for not only the Cougars but also the Pac-12 as a whole.
Huard provided color commentary for the ESPN TV broadcast of WSU’s 17-12 loss, a game in which the Cougars were physically dominated and couldn’t move at their typical high-octane pace. The Golden Gophers entered the game without 10 players, including four defensive backs, due to suspensions. Huard said the perception was that the Cougars’ Air Raid attack should have thrived, but in reality the Cougs desperately missed senior wide receiver River Cracraft, who was lost in November to a torn ACL, and that the team lacked speed and physicality against Minnesota.
Huard said that perception leads to reality, and three straight losses to end their season hurts the Cougars for next year in terms of momentum as well as their sales pitch in recruiting.
“I would contend that perception does not matter in professional sports, it’s a bottom line business. You win, you lose, every team plays and go to the playoffs,” Huard said. “In college football, where there are voters, committees, where there is recruiting 24/7/365, that perception does matter. And why last night, for Mike Leach, Washington State, their alumni and their AD Bill Moos, there was a great level of disappointment. You want to finish that thing right. You want to win nine games in back-to-back seasons. You want to put those two losses at the end of the year behind you. You want to push into the final month of recruiting season, where, for years, this is the period where Wazzu loses recruits. Where they lose Bishop Sankey (to Washington) in the last month, where you have got to desperately hold on as much as you can to whom you have recruited when the rest of the vultures come in and try to pare them away from you and pull them away from you.”
Beyond that, the Cougars had been 7-0 in the Pac-12 prior to their season-ending losing streak, and they were competitive in the losses to UW and Colorado. And WSU’s loss doesn’t bode well for perceptions of the Huskies’ chances of being physical enough to compete in the Peach Bowl against mighty Alabama.
“Perception mattered a little bit last night,” Huard said. “It matters for the conferences: right, wrong or indifferent. And last night not a good night for the Pac-12 and unfortunately for Wazzu.”
Mike Salk, however, believes that judging a conference based on one team and one game is the “height of stupidity.” He noted that there are multiple distractions during bowl trips and he believes that bowls with no playoff implications are more exhibitions than anything else. There is also the fact that some teams match up better with others.
“I try not to buy into the transitive property in sports. It doesn’t usually work that way, especially in football,” Salk said. “The transitive property in sports says that if A beats B, and B beats C, then A has to be better than C. That’s just not true in sports because of matchups, and especially in football, you can’t look at any one or two games and determine what’s going to happen in a third. So I don’t care that this happens in terms of what it means. I don’t even care what it means for Wazzu. I don’t think it means anything.”
As for fans’ perceptions Huard during the Holiday Bowl, listen below to some of the Mean Tweets he received while calling the game.