Game Day: What's Going On Here?

No, I'm not inquiring about the on goings of a city called Pullman, for we all know aside from a football game, a poetry exhibit and some sort of farmers market, the answer to the aforementioned question is "very little."

After all, when your signature event revolves around a member of the legume family (National Lentil Festival), excitement is an afterthought in the town that never wakes. However, I'm not here to beat into submission a proud rural community who's rivaled only by Walnut Grove, Mayberry and Hill Valley – home of George McFly, Biff Tannen and a crazy scientist named Doc Brown - , but more so to search for and rescue a football team and program who's more likely to be seen on a milk carton than a television screen near you.

Oh where oh where have the Washington State Cougars gone? It's been 8 very long years since the Cougars were defeated by the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2003 Rose Bowl game, since then they've mustered a whopping 34-55 record, won a total of 18 conference games, and are solely responsible for endlessly torturing me with studio and play-by-play analysis by ex-Cougar quarterback Jason Gesser. Who'd-of-thunk that a program littered with so much history could've fallen to such a depth of ineptitude…and done so at such a rapid pace!

I remember Reuben Mayes, Timm Rosenbach and Steve Broussard. Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe and "Doctor" Dan Doornink. And Chad Eaton, Marcus Trufant and yes…Ryan Leaf, players who excelled not only on the Palouse, but also at the NFL level. I remember fearing road games in Martin Stadium, wondering how a seemingly benign day could so rapidly deteriorate into 3 hours of treachery. And I remember offense, a type of such which seemed to be cutting edge, entertaining and at times, unstoppable.

But no more. Since the departure of legendary coach Mike Price, the Cougars fall from grace has been quick and painful. Long time assistant Larry Doba started the snowball of decline after taking the reins in 2003, and since then Coach Wulf has packed it nicely. Wulf's record since returning to his alma mater is 4-26, including an abysmal 1-19 record in the Pac-10. I'm no Vince Lombardi, but it doesn't take a gridiron journeyman to fully understand the enormity of that stench.

So where do they go from here? It's hard to imagine a program with a larger mountain to climb. They're geographically challenged from a recruiting standpoint, intellectually and experience challenged from a coaching standpoint, and are battling a battered reputation from a recent historical standpoint. To make things worse, the 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks are coming to town, bringing with them a wave of momentum, an offensive freight train and a program which seems to be the flow to the Cougars ebb.

It doesn't look good.

Could Washington State stir up ghosts of years' past and rattle Oregon's cage Saturday afternoon? Sure, they are a Pac-10 team…barely, do have Pac-10 athletes…arguably, and are playing on their home field, on Homecoming, in front of a raucous crowd of Cougar faithful…I suppose, but I wouldn't bet on it. Nor would I bet on this game being close. There's a reason odds makers are spotting the Cougars 35+ points; they're not good. There's a reason the Ducks are ranked third in the country; they are good. And there's a reason the term "Coug'd it" exists among those in and around the Pac-10 faithful; because for years the Cougars have had a propensity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…and that was when they were decent!

Oregon's most likely going to win this game and will likely do so by a not-so-small margin, but I truly hope the Cougs can find their way back from the purgatory where they currently reside. They're better than it, their fans don't deserve it, and the conference is suffering due to it. I wish you a speedy recovery Washington State, just not starting October 9th.


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