Overreaction Sunday, WSU Style

Well, it could have been worse, right?  Ask Va-Tech how they feel this morning after losing at home to James Madison.  Would you rather be 0-2 in Hokie-land, or 1-1 in Pullman (OK, maybe that’s not a good question?).  On a quick side note, I can’t imagine the folks down in Boise are thrilled with yesterday’s Hokie loss!  When you have Herbstreit and Fowler last night saying that Boise State’s championship game hopes took a severe hit, you know they are freaking out down there.  

Anyway, who cares about Boise State.  On our beloved Cougs, a win is a win and a loss is a loss, and that’s the most important thing here…..right?

Maybe not. 

I have to say, in the now-six years that we have had the blog up and running in one form or another, the comments in the last week alone have seen some of the most, well, “unhappy” Cougs is the best way to put it.  And you are seeing it everywhere.  They are unhappy on Cougfan’s message boards (proceed with caution if you venture over there), they are unhappy at Cougcenter, Cougzone, Grippi’s blog, and everywhere else we have the ability to spout off.  And the reaction right now, I believe, is quite understandable when you look at the facts of where things sit.  For example:

1)  After two years of immense struggles, we were told in quotes and sound bites ‘n such that things were going to be much improved in 2010.  So yeah, we’ve been hanging on to that;

2)  We saw the team get absolutely manhandled last week vs. OK State, the same OK State that just barely won 41-38 yesterday….against Troy State.  So no, OK State isn’t exactly their powerhouse cousins in Norman, who just beat Florida State by 30;

3)  And yesterday, we saw a team from a supposedly inferior level of NCAA football basically control the Cougs for 3+ quarters of the game.

Ah, but that’s why they play FOUR quarters of football.  Yes, the Cougs finally got their act together.  Down 22-7 and looking like they could easily take a knee and call it a day, they scraped themselves up off the mat and fought like hell to come back.  The offense finally executed when they had to, the defense made some huge plays via turnover and a fourth down stop, and Nico Grasu saved the day with his short field goal.  These are the facts, and they are undeniable.

But trying to make sense of what happened yesterday is tough.  Beyond the stats and everything else, Grippi mentioned something in his AM post that caught my attention.  And Grippi would know this better than any blogger or message board poster alive, but….the Cougs were tight.  They were tight all week leading up to the game, and they were tight for three quarters yesterday.  And Wulff was on edge this week too.  From his radio call-in show that took one phone call, to him blasting bloggers and message-boarders for having no credibility and accountability, being around the team this week probably wasn’t a lot of fun.  And Grippi knows of what he speaks/writes.

But the tightness, is that really a surprise when you really think about it?

Probably not.

Not when you have a younger-than-young outfit as the Cougs have now, filled with inexperienced kids who are still trying to find their way.  Not when you have these young kids get absolutely taken apart the week before at OK State, where doubt had to seep in and self-confidence on the field of play yet to materialize in 2010.  And oh yeah, they’ve been hearing since spring that the Montana State game is a gimme, like that 3-foot putt to save par.  Sure it looks easy, but you still have to, you know, do it?

The other thing to take is that, according to even the coaches yesterday, they admittedly said they need to cut things loose a little more.  Per Blanchette’s article this AM:

“We had some blitzes in the game plan and looking back we should have come after him more in the first half,” admitted defensive coordinator Chris Ball. “At halftime we just kind of said, ‘Screw it – we have them in the game plan, let’s use them.’

“We have so many young guys in the secondary, you can get nervous about bringing pressure. But in the second half, we didn’t have much of a choice. We needed to make things happen.”

There is nothing worse than having young, inexperienced players trying to figure things out, and they are coached with extreme caution based on fear of failure.  You know what?  How does anyone improve, at anything?  You have to go out and fail.  We have been saying this all summer, that yes, these guys are young and they are going to make huge mistakes, but that we will see better athletes on the field.  They will learn hard lessons in ’10, but it will pay off down the road.  But the coaches have to do their part.  They have to let them go out and fly around, take some chances. 

Most of all, LET THEM FAIL. It’s the only way they will improve, as they learn to pick themselves back up and get better after making the mistakes that come with youth and inexperience.  LET THEM FAIL, and in the end they will become better players.  And LET THEM FAIL on the side of aggressiveness, not by sitting back and letting things happen. 

In trying to make sense of it all, I think we just come right back around to square one.  Yesterday just illustrates exactly where we are right now.  It is a program still trying to dig out of a mess, and sadly, still A LONG WAY to go.  The improvement we hoped for, the improvement we dreamed of and were even told was coming?  If the first two games are any indication, it ain’t here yet folks!  And glancing at the schedule, looking at who’s coming down the pike?  It ain’t comin’ anytime soon either! 

All for now.  Enjoy your NFL Opening Sunday, and as always, GO COUGS!