Biggest fears come to fruition for Cougars in Apple Cup loss
The Huskies crushed the Cougs 45-10 in the Apple Cup Friday afternoon, and I admit to leaving Husky Stadium before the Dawgs scored their last two touchdowns on whatever they were – another pick-six, a fumble return, I’m still not sure, and I didn’t check the box score to find out.
I heard that we committed seven turnovers, and I saw most of them. It was my biggest fear going into the game – well, actually my biggest fear was that Luke Falk wouldn’t start, and he didn’t.
I’m still unclear on that. Mike Leach said after the game that it was Falk’s decision not to play and that the coaching staff supported him. But it left open the possibility that he was cleared by doctors to play but chose not to anyway.
Maybe he talked it over with his parents and other doctors, and after two consecutive weeks of banging his head on the turf against UCLA and Colorado, risking a third straight week of it happening again didn’t make sense.
Leach never reveals anything about injuries, so we’re left to speculate, and if it was his personal choice, good for him. It he were my son, I wouldn’t have wanted him to play either.
What’s better, a 45-10 loss in which Falk suffered no further damage or a 28-27 win if he’d played and was hauled off again late in the game after one of the Dawgs threw him to the turf?
In that scenario, I’ll take the loss 100 times out of 100. OK, you got me there, the Cougar fan in me will say 99 times out of 100, just to be honest.
So I guess my second-biggest fear happened. Best case, Bender is a potentially good quarterback. But to expect him to perform beautifully and consistently in his first start was foolish, particularly on the road against the Pac-12’s best defense.
Going in, I worried that Bender might throw interceptions and be victimized by strip sacks. Along with the pick-sixes, we had a Bender fumble late in the second quarter, costing the Cougars a chance at a field goal and a 17-6 deficit instead of 17-3 at halftime.
Bender wasn’t helped by the many drops from his receivers, including an early one by Dom Williams that probably would have resulted in a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
But forget about Bender – I’ll cut that kid considerable slack – I just can’t understand what happened to our defense. We limited Christian McCaffrey in the Stanford game but made Myles Gaskin look like the Heisman Trophy candidate. I’m not sure how many yards the Husky freshman ran for, but it was way too many, though I have to say that that kid is pretty damn impressive.
The most disappointing part of the game happened after Marcellus Pippins’ interception return put us in position to score our only touchdown and trim the Huskies’ lead to 24-10 in the third quarter.
You would have liked to think the defense could have stopped the Huskies and given the offense a chance to make it a one-score game. Instead they let the Dawgs drive the length of the field and turn it into a three-score game again.
It was pretty much a nightmare and I didn’t do enough day drinking to ease the pain. Regardless of our convenient built-in excuse of the Huskies beating us with a backup QB, the way they played, and the way our defense played, we might have lost with Falk anyway, and let’s not forget that we beat the Ducks when they played with a backup QB too.
I’m trying to remember we finished the regular season at 8-4, our best year in eons, and that’s one less win than Paul Wulff had in four years. And Falk will be back for our bowl game. But to lose like that, no matter how you break it down, was certainly disappointing.
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.