5 Cougar Takeaways from Reno

YES, THE DEFENSE played better, but not well enough to force a turnover. And yes, the offense piled up a mountain of yards, but managed just one TD. Yes, for the second straight week the Cougars "should have" won. But here they stand at 0-2 for the first time since 2009 without even yet sniffing the tough portion of the schedule.

The takeaways from Washington State's meltdown in Reno were numerous, but we've boiled 'em down to five of the most pressing . . .

1. THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS
The Twittersphere and CF.C message boards were like blast furnaces of angst. The coach who could no wrong since arriving in Pullman is now, after four straight defeats -- three of them in games the Cougs were favored to win -- the focus of unmitigated ire. Suggestions of a lost season, the prudence of Bill Moos' big salary increases for Leach & Co., and other tender topics were among the most popular.

2. THE-D-LINE IS NOT FINE
In practice, the Cougar defensive line looks formidable. They stop the run, they pressure the passer, and they force turnovers. Not so in games. Although the Nevada offensive line was a good matchup in size compared to the Cougars, WSU failed to rise to the challenge, allowing two Wolf Pack running backs and quarterback Cody Fajardo to penetrate and get first downs and touchdowns. In fact, Nevada’s offensive line was smaller than Rutgers', but the results of the running game were just about the same. Even worse, the Cougars’ defense failed to force any turnovers, and perhaps that was because Fajardo did not feel the pressure; he was never sacked.

3. HALLIDAY NEEDS THAT BULK

Connor Halliday for the second straight week was visibly dinged up. He missed just one snap, but the simple fact is that he's getting roughed up in the "easy" portion of the Cougars' schedule. He was sacked four times by Nevada and felt the heat frequently. One of those sacks, by Jordan Dobrich, yielded a 15-yard loss in the first quarter. That hit was one of two sacks over the course of three plays, leaving the 200-pound Halliday limping by the end of the first period. The Cougar OL is bigger than it's been in years but the results so far have been worrisome for Halliday's long-term health.

4. THE RED ZONE IS A DEAD ZONE
The Cougars entered the red zone six times and came away with exactly one touchdown. The rap on the Cougar offense the last two years has been the high yardage and low scoring totals. Year Three, in every way, was to be the year it all clicked, the voices in Pullman insisted. Against a Mountain West team, the Cougar offense in the red zone looked like it was facing Alabama.

5. GOTTA LOVE THE NEW GUY
One bright spot for the Cougars on Friday was second-year freshman wideout Robert Lewis, who filled in for the assumedly-injured River Cracraft and did a spectacular job. Halliday said after the game that not having Cracraft was a killer, but the view from the rest of the football world suggested Lewis is a true talent. His first two catches were good for first downs and he finished with eight catches for 81 yards. The depth in the receiving corps is head turning.


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