A coach's take on the Cougs with Ducks on tap

WHAT OREGON HAS done better than anyone else in the conference is to get opponents to start hanging their heads after quick, multiple scoring strikes. And given what WSU did last week in the fourth quarter, that's a big concern for Cougar fans heading into Eugene (Fox Sports 1, 7:00 p.m.) So how do you stop that? We asked a coach about that and more.

The best way to stop a team from reacting poorly to adversity is by preventing it in the first place, says Jim Walden.

"I know that's not what we want to hear. But when it happens so fast as it did against Oregon State, I think the coaching staff is helpless. I don't think Coach Leach really had a moment where he could get his finger in the dam, it was so quick and just boom, boom, boom," said Walden.

Okay, but how do you prevent it -- and if you can't prevent it and it pops up on Saturday, how do you solve it?

"All you can do is say it's a turnover, now get out there and stop it. I used to call it a cave-in because things start caving in on you from all sides. But rise to the occasion. That's all you can do when it's immediate. And that's what you do when you're coaching them day-in and day-out. I used to say, ‘Don't give me that uh-oh, get out there and get cheering and get excited and come back strong,'" said Walden.

The Cougar players and coaches will be among the few who believe WSU can win this game at No. 2 Oregon.

"If (a coach) says we can beat ‘em, and I always said that to my players, everyone else would say I'm an idiot," said Walden. "If I say otherwise, everyone thinks I'm out of my mind for not showing confidence in my guys. They have to try and concentrate on fixing their mistakes. They're probably going to take their licks. This one will be extremely difficult. But it is just one game, and it doesn't change what else is out there for WSU the rest of the season. If it happens, fine, you're 4-4 and let's move on and I don't care what the score is.

"But what I would say to the WSU fans is week by week , don't give up on the season. Utah beat Stanford. Keep looking at the "little things" they do well, even when the Cougs lose. No matter what happens at Oregon, the Cougs have things left to do... I don't give a damn, you have to stay positive."

AND AS BAD AS that fourth quarter was against Oregon State, Walden said he found many things to stay positive about.

"If I'd have been in the booth, I would have finished the night saying I know we blew it, and against a team we were as good as or better than the first three quarters," said Walden. "But what was positive for three quarters – I saw an extremely well-coached offensive line, no sacks, I didn't see Connor Halliday hardly even get touched although you can't always tell for sure from TV. But think about that, from where we've come with our offensive line and in the game, we gave up with one sack, one hurry – total.

"I thought Marcus Mason had a nice individual night, not gaudy numbers but good overall running back play. We had 10 receivers catch passes with no more than 4 receptions to any one of them -- to me that is very positive. I thought Connor Halliday's play for three quarters was as good as he's probably ever going to play. Defensively we did a marvelous job of cutting off one of their legs with running back Storm Woods. You're not going to stop Sean Mannion because he's really good. But I want you to put all those parts together before you get to the negatives, the cave-ins."

Unfortunately for Cougar fans, those too were many.

"Our defense didn't do a good job on the fly sweep formation in the fourth quarter -- they ran three different versions on it and we were just wheeling there, they got us stretched everywhere," said Walden. "I don't know if they lucked into it but it doesn't matter, we didn't handle it well.

"And then after we gave up those 14 points, with that touchdown coming off that faked punt or whatever it was, then Connor made mistakes and the defense couldn't pick him up… After the cave-in began, I thought our defense almost played as badly as Halliday did the next three series. Everyone, they melted a little, just like the fans after that punt fake."

Walden is not a fan of going for it on fourth down a lot, and definitely not inside your own territory. He believes in kicking field goals and getting points on the board more than he does going for it on fourth down inside field goal range. He says he's a big fan of publicly supporting individual players after a bad loss, and doling out any criticism that needs to be conveyed, laced with four-letter words or otherwise, privately.

"Hey, Coach Leach and I just feel differently about those things and I'm not there either in the room or at practice …and that's all fine," said Walden. "We're all Cougars here.

"I might have hoped he would have said something like, ‘Connor Halliday and Deone Bucannon and all those guys, they're just sick right now. Our players are heartbroken,' and then leave it at that. But he has a different style and that's fine, that's just me. Oregon State …is a good, well-coached offensive football team. They just beat us. Let's move on and go get the next one. And if we should lose that next one, let's come back strong on the next one. There's a lot left out there for the Cougars."

  • Walden can be heard talking Cougar football Thursdays @4 p.m. on KRKO Fox Sports 1380AM with Jeff "Fish" Aaron. To listen online CLICK HERE

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