COMMENTARY: For all Cougs, a call to action

THE IMPORTANCE of Saturday's game between Washington State and Utah cannot be understated. The Cougs can earn bowl eligibility for the first time since '06. Look at perennially successful programs like Wisconsin, Oregon, Virginia Tech and K-State that once suffered through prolonged losing. In almost every instance you can point to THE game that was the symbolic and permanent turning point.

Saturday's contest in Pullman against Utah can be that permanent corner-turner for the Cougs. But alumni, students and fans need to do their part.

The Cougs need a fired-up 12th man Saturday in the way your brain needs oxygen. The Cougs need a home crowd roaring from beginning to end. Ask any Cougar player, past or present, and they'll tell you the real, tangible difference a fired-up home crowd in Martin Stadium makes.

Indeed, there are stretches in every college football game where it suddenly doesn't have as much to do with scheme or coaching as it does belief and adrenaline. If you believe you're good, you are. You can't think you are, you can't hope you are. You have to know it. And a home crowd fuels that fire.

So here's the question: Do Cougar fans want WSU to make the Utah game the corner-turner, the one that forever thrusts this program into a perennial bowl participant?

Then they need to plant their butts in the seats on Saturday.

As WSU has been fond of saying, now is the time for all good Cougars to head to Pullman. Or in the case of students, to stay in Pullman.

WSU is pulling out all the stops to convince students to start the Thanksgiving break one day late, offering up giveaways that include an Apple iPad, club seats for next season's Dad's Weekend game and the opener in Seattle against Rutgers next season, plus there are 55-, 40- and 32-inch Samsung 1080p Smart HDTVs to be won. The complete list goes on and on.

One day this type of incentive may be viewed as quaint because the Cougs will be winning so much that everyone is clamoring for seats. But right now, after a decade in the football wilderness, the exodus potential exists.

Having said that, let's not forget that this student body has stepped up more this year than they have in the recent past. And WSU administrators are cautiously optimistic the students will be there in force on Saturday.

The bigger concern is alums and fans. As of Monday, 6,000 tickets remained unsold.


Given what's at stake for the Cougs ... Given how far the program has improved to get here ... Given that the oddsmakers basically view the contest as a toss up ... Given that it's a 12:30 p.m. start time and not a bone-chilling night game, there's no reason for Coug fans to sit this one out.

This is crunch time for the football program, and fans need to do their part.
They need to fill the stands and yell their lungs out. Utah quarterback Adam Schulz, making his second-ever college start, should not have the luxury of hearing himself call out the signals.

I CAN'T END THIS COLUMN without mentioning the "Home-field Disadvantage" article in the Seattle Times today. The author, Bud Withers, did his usual stellar job with a well-written piece on WSU's attendance woes. But what was downright vexing was how the Times' editors chose to present the story.

Withers' pieces on the Cougs typically start in a corner of the front page of the sports section or are tucked in an inside page. But this one was the lead story, complete with a banner headline and a gigantic photo of empty seats in Martin Stadium.

It was coverage worthy of VJ Day. I half expected to see quotes from FDR and General Eisenhower in the piece given the size and placement of it all.

Again, this has nothing to do with the story itself. But the layout choice was truly breathtaking.

Everyone knows WSU has struggled mightily since the last of Mike Price's recruits graduated. The result has been prolonged losing -- one .500 season and no winning seasons since 2003. That takes a toll on fans. Just look at the Seattle Mariners' attendance numbers for additional proof of the psychological effect on the faithful.

So now the Cougars are poised to turn the corner and the Times runs a massive photo of empty stands in Martin as the top story today in all of the Pacific Northwest?

Early this season, after Washington beat a highly mediocre Boise State team and then a couple of cupcakes, the Times ran an larger-than-life spread on Steve Sarkisian headlined "It's Good to be Steve."

The Dawgs dispatch some ho-hum foes and its "Dewey defeats Truman" time. The Cougs are on the verge of doing something this season they haven't done in a decade -- go to a bowl -- and the Times goes hog wild with this leading into WSU-Utah?

This is the first such banner headline treatment I can recall the Times running this season on the Cougs. It's been commonplace for the Huskies, especially when they've won a game - and that's understandable, it's a Seattle paper. Given the recent and growing Husky outcry for Sarkisian's head, have Times' editors now resorted to playing PR hack by shining ridiculously overdone attention on attendance figures in Pullman?

The crowds at the Cougars' first three home games of this season were actually good. There is no reason this Utah game shouldn't be as good or better.

Picture the WSU-Utah game coming down to the final minute. Maybe the Cougs need Connor Halliday & Co. to punch it in to win it. Or maybe the Cougs need a final stop on defense, like they did last week at Arizona. Now picture the crowd – Cougar alumni, students and fans -- and an ear-splitting, difference-making anthem of Cougar pride. Bill Moos does.

"The fans play a huge role in our effort to be victorious on Saturdays," he is quoted as saying in Withers' article. "They have to be there early and need to stay until the end ... This could be one where it's coming right down to the wire and the crowd will be the difference."

For this weekend, all roads should indeed lead to Pullman. For tickets, call 1-800-GOCOUGS or CLICK HERE

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