Unfortunately, we are seeing something happen right now that I think we all pretty much dreaded when the season started – we are “fracturing” as a fan base. The lines are being drawn, and the pro/anti coaching pundits are weighing in. No, I’m not here to Pollyanna it up for you. There are some very promising things right now for this program, and there are some head-scratching moments that make you wonder. But hey, I get it. The day of, and the day immediately after, are always the most emotional of any days as a college football fan. Don’t believe me? Go read the Dawgman.com message boards right now. You would have thought they were 1-11 themselves and Sark is the biggest idiot on the planet (oh wait, that’s Reggie Bush…).
But yeah, the day of and day after? If you win big, you feel like this thing is going places. When you get blown out or struggle mightily against an inferior opponent, the “Haterade” gets passed around the campfire and is chugged by the gallon. It is what it is when you are in the rebuilding phase, and after the last two years, it’s hard to really blame some of the comments about fans and alums growing impatient. But like it or hate it, there are going to be moments of joy swallowed up by cold shots of reality, and we should probably get used to it. For what we’ve seen so far, and looking at the rest of the schedule, it’s safe to assume we can expect more of the same the rest of the way. Some great moments are coming, but some ugliness will sledgehammer reality back into your noggin – we are still rebuilding.
That said, I don’t want to argue about yesterday’s game. I figure the video highlights will do a better job than anything else, don’t you agree? Check out the video after the read more, about 13+ minutes worth ripped from the DVR, and then YOU tell US what you think.
Personally, I see progress.
Progress in the defensive line, as they got strong, consistent pressure on the QB. More pressure than I thought they possibly would, as I thought we’d see a repeat of soft defense like last year’s version vs. the run-n-shoot offenses of Hawaii and SMU. But not yesterday. The d-line came to play, and even a couple of times rushing just three, they STILL got pressure! No way, no how, no chance that happens last year. And the strip by Kevin Kooyman, and he eventually makes the sack? That might be the best play of Kooyman’s career at WSU. Seriously.
Progress was there with Tuel too. Yeah, lock-on-itis isn’t pretty with a young QB, and too often he does stare down the intended target. But he makes some good reads and level-headed decisions too. Like on the sideline fade to Wilson, you can see him glance over there and see that there would be no safety help over the top. And some of those throws he makes, he steps up into the pocket with no fear and just delivers some strikes to his intended targets, like the throws to Karstetter sitting in the hole in zone coverage, or finding Solomon up the seam matched up against a safety in one-on-one coverage. But there are bumps in the road too, as the third quarter was pretty ugly for Tuel and the offense in general. But it’s also hard to get too down with a kid QB making just his eighth start, and overall he handled himself well, with no turnovers to boot. Definitely a step in the right direction there!
And sure, there was a “fluke” TD when the SMU returner fumbled the punt. The call was pretty iffy too, where the defended was blocked into the returner. But you know what? Plays like that happen in football, period. You don’t always see 80-yard drives after 80-yard drives. But whether it’s a deep home run ball from Tuel to Wilson, or a fumbled punt into the end zone, seven points is seven points. I’ll take it (and so will the team!).
I also left in a portion of the game where Grasu misses the field goal. I did it because you can see the reaction from Wulff. I did it because I want people to see that he DOES give a rip about what’s going on, even if he is pretty stoic at times! Note – if you read lips, you may want to look away.
The bottom line is they not only competed, they looked like they belong on the field with a decent football team. SMU isn’t a BCS team, no, and they aren’t going to run the table ala Boise State or TCU. But they are still an 8-win, bowl-winning team from last year, and they have a heck of a lot of weapons on offense. They are a decent team, and you can realistically expect that they will be in the postseason again this year. But the encouraging thing to take is that they looked like they belong on the same field with SMU. Last year you couldn’t necessarily say that, even when WSU beat SMU. And for that, I’m encouraged.
Anyway, here’s the video. Enjoy, and as always, GO COUGS!: