10 for ’10 – Looking Back at WSU

So yeah, it’s almost New Year’s.  And as such, all the rage is to weigh in/belly up/etc with predictions for the upcoming year.  Don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon enough (later this week).  But for now, we thought it would be kind of cool to look back at the year that was, before we look ahead at what will be.  So we decided to give our own “Top Ten of 2010″, from a WSU P-O-V.  Enjoy!


Happy Humpday Cougs.  And hey, if you are like me up here in the Mill Creek convergence zone this morning, it’s SNOWING!  Hooray snow.  Anyway, 2010.  Here we go:

10)  PAC-16, DONE DEAL! Or so the headlines screamed for a few days last June, remember?  It was an exciting few days, to say the least.  Just the very idea that Texas, Oklahoma, etc would be signing up with the rest of the PAC was pretty hard to believe, but things seemed “locked and loaded”, as the LA Times story indicated.  But in the end, it was all just a big ‘ol Texas power play, and the Longhorns got exactly what they wanted – they stayed right where they already were, but got rid of some malcontents (Nebraska and Colorado) while getting even MORE money out of what’s left of the Big 12.  Well played, Bevo.  Which leads me to…..

9)  HELLO PAC-12! We welcome with arms wide open the runnin’ Utes of Utah and Ralphie, straight outta Boulder!  Meanwhile WSU is placed in the Pac-12 North division, along with UW, the Oregon schools, Cal and Stanford.  

It was somewhat controversial in regards to giving up the LA market, but worst-case scenario appears that a Pac-12 north school will play an LA school on a semi-regular basis, at least once every other year.  And as Bill Moos said, everyone in the conference had to give up something, but they all ended up gaining a lot.  But the biggest winner – BY FAR – in the rising tide of funds that should wash over the conference once the TV deals are in place?  WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY.  For no other school in the conference has a smaller budget, donor base or media market, yet more than likely when the dust settles, the Cougs are going to see a huge increase in athletic department dollars.  Not only are we not booted out of the conference, but we’re going to share and share alike – for the most part – in these new funds.  Say it with me now….HOORAY PAC-12!

8)  Cougs Show Life Against the Best of the Best – There it was, plain as day on one of the toughest schedules in the nation – the “gauntlet” of Oregon, Arizona and Stanford from October 9th to October 23rd.  Three straight games against the three best teams in the conference, all ranked opponents, two of which would end up in BCS bowls for 2010.  After struggling against Oklahoma State, USC, and squeaking by Montana State among the early games of the season, it looked like this thing could fall off the cliff.  But instead, something rather amazing happened.  This young, beat up, tired team without a bye week got off the mat and fought back when they could have laid down!  They hung in there and slugged it out with three of the best teams they would see on their schedule.  Against Oregon, it was a two-score game into the fourth quarter, with WSU at the 10-yard line and looking like they were about to make it a one-TD lead.  But a costly interception in the end zone would end the upset hopes in a 43-23 loss to the Quacks.  


That loss was followed by a tough one to Arizona, 24-7, but they still hung in there and left everything they had on the field.  Finally, they went down to Palo Alto, where visions of 58-0 danced in their heads (the last time WSU went to Stanford in ’08).  But again, instead of laying down and getting run over by a Heisman finalist and a BCS bowl team on their home field, the Cougs lost by 10, 38-28.

I know, I know.  It’s a results-oriented business, and the end-result here was the same.  More losses for a program far too accustomed to losing in recent seasons.  But the signs were there, and there was hope.  People started to believe what we were hearing behind the scenes.  The improvement and young talent, we were FINALLY seeing some tangible evidence that it actually existed.

7)  The Young Defenders Bring it – We heard about this hard-hitting safety and strong, fast, physical linebacker as frosh making an impact during fall camp.  But Deone Bucannon and CJ Mizell burst onto the scene, and appear to be some real pillars of strength as the defense starts to grow up.  Bucannon logged an impressive 83 tackles for the year, actually leading the team in total tackles.  Bucannon also had a couple of sacks and two INT’s, and had several hard hits out of the safety position.  The kid was pretty much all over the field.  Pretty impressive for a true frosh, who only started EIGHT games in 2010!  CJ Mizell meanwhile had a bit of a, oh, how shall we put this – a “rocky” start to his career?  Plagued by inconsistency in practice and rumors of being homesick, Mizell finally put it together, starting the last six games at middle linebacker.  The frosh would rack up 57 tackles and a couple of sacks, as well as several big-time tackles along the way.  Oh yeah, he also put away the Montana State game with a late interception as MSU was driving for the potential winning field goal.

But it wasn’t just Bucannon and Mizell.  Others like Nolan Washington, Tyree Toomer, Daniel Simmons and Sekope Kaufusi would all become fixtures on the defense.  And OK, sure, overall the D struggled immensely, finishing last or next-to-last in several defensive categories amongst the Pac-10 schools.  But at least they shoved the youngsters out of the nest and we got to see if they could fly.  That’s what you get with youth, big moments of promise wrapped in huge mistakes and inconsistency.  Taking the lumps in 2010 with this kind of youth sets up next year – and beyond – really well!



 6)  Marquess Wilson Stuns Cougar Nation – The lanky, athletic wide receiver was turning a lot of heads in fall camp.  He appeared to have everything, with size, speed, hands and leaping ability, to where some teammates started to say to watch out, Wilson will “Randy Moss you”, in that he’ll just go up and pick the ball out of the sky (note – the Randy Moss reference was to an earlier version of Randy Moss, when he was, you know, really good and actually interested in playing football…).  But the frosh showed from day one that he was the real deal, going over 100 yards receiving in the opener at Oklahoma State.  Wilson would have five games of at least 100 yards receiving, including a season high/WSU frosh record 150 at Stanford. 

He would go on to lead the Pac-10 in yards per catch, at an impressive 18.3 ypc, and would become the best frosh WR at WSU since Phillip Bobo way back in the Bledsoe era.  2010 was fantastic for Marquess, but with another year of lifting weights and working on his game, he could take things to a whole new level in the coming years!

5)  The Oregon State Win – Huge, huge, huge win for a young program.  As highlighted above, the encouraging signs were there that they were starting to put it together.  Competitive efforts against the best teams in the conference, while not producing victories, DID produce some confidence for a young team trying to find it’s way.  And it all came together on that dreary day in Corvallis, as the Cougs put it on Oregon State in a 31-14 victory.  Jeff Tuel made big plays with his arm, but maybe more so with his feet.  It wasn’t just him executing the read-option to a very high level, but there were several designed passing plays where Tuel would roll away from pressure, then tuck it and run and get the vital yards necessary to move the chains and more importantly, keep the Oregon State offense off the field.  

But that was one hell of a performance by #10, and a real reason for hope in the coming years.  Speaking of #10….. 

4)  Jeff Tuel is Growing Up.  The sophomore took big strides forward in 2010, and compared quite favorably to former WSU greats like Ryan Leaf and Drew Bledsoe at the same stage in their careers.  Tuel would throw for 2,780 yards and 18 TD’s in 2010, ranking fourth in the conference in passing yards per game (231.7).  Tuel would finish higher in passing yards than more touted QB’s like Jake Locker, Darron Thomas, and Ryan Katz in the Pac-10, and did so playing behind a patchwork offensive line that gave up over 50 sacks(!).  He topped off the year by coming up just short in a shootout in the Apple Cup, leading the Cougs to a tie game with just under four minutes left while throwing for 298 yards and three TD’s.

The exciting part about Tuel’s game is that in 2009, he definitely showed something.  I think coming in we knew he could be good, but not really HOW good.  We still didn’t really have a handle on what he could do given some extended playing time.  But he went out in 2010 and took some major lumps, as it wasn’t exactly perfect.  There is still room for improvement.  But in the process, he took some large steps forward as the year went on in terms of accuracy, poise, and just building his confidence of what he can do in this offense.  Watching his body language in the Apple Cup, leading the team down the field several times in the second half, you can just see the kid growing up right before your eyes.  It’s an exciting, exciting thing to watch, and you just can’t wait to see what’s next.  

3) Paul Wulff, Your Coach for 2011 – There was much hand-wringing amongst the Coug faithful, and it was getting tough after the Montana State squeaker and the USC blowout earlier in the year.  Rumors abounded that Mike Bellotti was interested, the long time friend of Bill Moos and a guy who might want back into coaching in the right situation.  There was even a rumor that Bellotti blew into Pullman under cloak-and-dagger conditions for a few days, but it was never actually confirmed (maybe he was just there to go fishing with his old buddy??).  Anyway, when it was all said and done, the improvement overall and the late-season growth was enough for Bill Moos to retain coach Wulff for another season.  

What does that mean for next year?  We’ll have to wait and see.  There has already been some talk of getting your sunscreen out next year at this time, because we might be headed someplace warm.  But Paul Wulff is going to get a chance to coach these guys up after another year of improvement on and off the field.  For now, staying the course wins out. 

2) Facility Upgrades are Coming - Everything was pretty much up in the air after Jim Sterk whisked away in the middle of the night for the San Diego State job.  Money had been donated, but while it is a decent amount, it still wasn’t enough to break ground on the coveted Phase III.  Then Bill Moos took over, and declared that everything was under review.  Moos hit on the idea that hey, hang on a second – we have limited resources right now and a stadium that isn’t selling out anyway.  We need to create a demand first, before you add on to the existing supply, know what I mean?  And what better way to create a demand than by attracting better overall talent, which should then translate to success on the field….which leads to a higher demand for premium seating??  Anyway, Moos has now recently announced that the plan is going to be to build a football-only facility into Martin Stadium, but, to ALSO at the same time build Phase III, albeit with one major tweak. 

In a letter to alumni, Moos announced the following plans: 

A)  Go forward with the expansion of the stadium, but move the total plan to the south side. Not only would this be a more cost efficient approach, but also would enable us to address such concerns as access, inclement weather, parking and the overall aesthetic appeal of the facility. Suites, loge seating, club seats and a club room would still be a part of the plan. It would also allow us to construct a modern and efficient press box which was not included in the original concept.

B)  Build a football operations building in the west end zone that would house all aspects of the football program including locker room, weight room, equipment room, training room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices, player’ lounge , and an entertainment area that would serve as the training table during the week and a VIP room on game days.


The thing is, with the Pac-12 and the additional money that is coming, the bar is only going to be raised around the rest of the conference.  Oregon and Oregon State already have some nice facilities in place (Oregon has the best facilities in the west, period).  But UW is planning on their major renovation of Husky Stadium, and that will also include a football-only facilitiy built into the structure that should be pretty amazing.  So there is no choice.  This has to get done.

And the number one story in the WSU universe for 2010? 

1) Bill Moos – The old Coug and former long-time, successful athletic director at Oregon has finally come home.  As they say in life, timing is everything.  The situation was just right for Moos to get his shot, as Jim Sterk bailed for San Diego while Moos was out on the ranch.   The dots were connected, and Moos came home.

But even more than that, the Coug nation NEEDED a Bill Moos to come in and give us all some hope for a brighter tomorrow.  His track record is excellent in terms of fund raising, and there is no arguing that fact when you look at the Oregon revival in Eugene.  And Moos has the attitude that WSU has simply been stuck too long in the “aw shucks, we’re the underdog.  Poor us.” mentality.  Quite frankly, it’s a feel sorry for yourself LOSING mentality that has become too commonplace at WSU.  Moos is trying to change things, forever, and that is his goal from the day he took the job until the day he hangs it up. 

So above all else, looking at 2010, Bill Moos has to be story #1 for WSU Nation.


10)  Paul Wulff hires Steve Morton and Dave Ungerer: After abysmal OL play in 2008 and 2009, Wulff cans former OL Coach Harold Etheridge.  To replace Etheridge, Wulff went out and nabbed one of the premier OL Coaches in the country.  Morton has coached college football for 36 years and had a previous stop coaching at WSU, where he worked with the likes of: Mike Utley, Dan Lynch, Jim Michalczik, Pat Beach, Chris Dyko and Wulff.  Five Morris Trophy winners (Top OL in Pac 10) have come under Mort’s tutledge.  While this year’s poor play is proof that a coach can only do so much, look for nothing but improvement on the OLine in the future!  Meanwhile, Dave Ungerer came to Wazzu after Steve Broussard left for ASU.  Ungerer has previously worked at Alabama and Oregon State, and this year’s Special Teams units all saw improvement across the board.  I am excited to watch this unit moving forward.

9) Faisel Aden commits to WSU: According to Coach Bone, they Cougs inked Aden thinking Klay Thompson might bolt for the 2010 NBA Draft.  Having two of the top scorers/shooters in the conference is something I would bet a pretty penny has never happened in WSU history.  We are in for a special season…maybe two!

8) WSU beats Baylor: After smashing more dysfunctionality into the Mississippi State program on Wednesday, the Cougs came out Thursday afternoon looking to grab some national headlines.  After going up by more than 20 points in the second half, the Cougs held off a vicious offensive rally by the Bears, and even overcame a four point deficit inside of six minutes, to win by seven.  The win propelled the Cougs into the Diamond Head Championship Game played on Christmas Night.  Although they lost pretty handily to a very well coached Butler team, this win brought them some national attention, and I believe will get them into the Big Dance come March.

7) Recruiting class of 2010: Just listen to some of these names for a minute.  Marquess Wilson.  CJ Mizell.  Deone Bucannon.  Andrew Furney.  Those four made a profound impact on the improvement we saw on the football field in 2010.  Couple with all of the RS Freshmen in front of them, and their fellow classmates who will be RS Freshmen in the fall, their are some glorious days of Cougar Football in the not-so distant future.

6) Bill Moos announces facilities upgrades: Taking over where Jim Sterk left off, Moos clearly understands the “if you build it, they will come philosophy” that has really hurt both Wazzu and UW this decade.  Top notch facilities have made Oregon and Oklahoma State what they have become in the last ten seasons, and Moos’ announcement to build Football Only Offices/Locker Rooms/Training Rooms west of the Martin Stadium jumbotron will pay major dividends in the future.

5) CJ Mizell smashes Oregon State RB: On the first play from scrimmage, with the Cougs riding a 16 game Pac 10 losing streak, Mizell rides Jacquizz Rogers to the turf fifteen feet out of bounds.  The tackle drew immediate criticism and led to a fifteen yard penalty.  This tackle led directly to…

4) Washington State 31 – Oregon State 14: From that point on Oregon State was a very timid football team and the Cougs, 22 point underdogs at kickoff, went on to dominate every facet of the game from there out.  In my mind, if they didn’t win this game, I doubt my number two scenario plays out.

3) Washington State Baseball team advances to the Regionals: Coming off a fantastic season in 2009, the Cougars were 37-22, 15-12 Pac-10 and lost to Arkansas in the loser-out championship game of the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional in 2010.  Many of Coach Marbut’s star players return in 2011, including: SP Adam Conley, SP Chad Arnold, and RF Derek Jones.

2)  Paul Wulff is retained: Like him or not, canning Wulff was not the answer after a 2010 season that showed measurable improvement.  The staff is having wild success evaluating talent and recruiting, just imagine what he could do with a winning team.  Off the field, compared to Doba and Price, his players are staying on the right side of the law (every football team in the country has a few kids each year that get in trouble).  The emphasis on academics is paying off, as evidenced by the number of all conference academic selections.  Just imagine what would have happened if Donnie Marbut was fired after winning one Pac 10 game in his first year as our head coach.  Patience, it will pay dividends.

1)  Bill Moos is hired: SeanHawk and I were sitting at a table together during the annual Night With Cougar Football in Seattle last February, when the rumor that Jim Sterk wasn’t in attendance because he was taking the AD post at San Diego State spread through the room.  I remember thinking, “Oh crap, this is going to be a tough spot to fill.”  Then somebody pointed out that Bill Moos was looking to get back to work, and he would be a natural fit in that he lives between Pullman and Spokane and is a WSU alum.  Within a matter of days, the courtship took place and Bill’s hiring was announced.  But also with his seven year contract, Moos has brought in his in-all-likelihood successor, Mike Marlow, to fill his shoes once he retires.  Marlow not only worked under Moos in Eugene, but is a WSU grad, and should have Bill’s road map for the future down to a “T.”  Mark my words Cougar fans, the hiring of Moos will be the best thing to happen in the history of WSU Athletics!

Cheers to a happy and healthy New Year’s!

That’s it for now.  We’ll be back later this week with some announcements, plus our look at the upcoming year.  GO COUGS!