Old Coug Michalczik praises WSU D, facilities

PULLMAN -- Washington State endured a blowout at the hands of No. 15 Arizona, and a former Cougar was on the opposing sideline to coach against his alma mater. Arizona offensive line coach Jim Michalczik was asked if he remembered the feeling from any blowouts during his playing days at Washington State, and the former offensive lineman responded with an emphatic “No.” Then Michalczik laughed.

“You like to forget those. Some games, things click, and sometimes they don’t,” Michalczik said.

One thing Michalczik will probably never forget is the special year of 1988 when he and the Cougars won the Aloha Bowl 24-22 over Houston. Michalczik said he recalls friendships the most, and was upset he couldn’t spend some time with friends he saw during his brief trip to Washington State.

While Saturday's game finished with a 59-37 final score and was never close, that bowl game and the previous four regular-season wins for the 1988 Cougars were close. The largest margin of victory was nine points. What made that team great was the combination of talent and the ability to fight and win, Michalczik said.

While Michalczik didn't have much time to visit with friends, Washington State's new football facilities didn't go unnoticed by the former Cougar.

“I think everybody’s doing facilities right now, and you have to do it just to keep up,” Michalczik said. “It’s good to see the commitment from my alma mater.”

The new facilities have potential to attract young talent year after year. Young Cougars are already on board, but based on what happened Saturday, what they now need is rapid development.

Indeed, the Cougars fought until the very end. They fought until the final whistle sounded, putting a cap on an unfortunate result on Dads Weekend. Connor Halliday remained in the game for its entirety, and the Cougars attempted two onside kicks in an attempt to fuel a comeback. However, in the end, the blunders on special teams and the quick Arizona offense wore out Washington State.

One positive from Saturday debacle was Halliday breaking WSU's record for all-time passing yards, previously held by Alex Brink (10,913 yards) Halliday completed 56 of 79 passes for 489 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Michalczik played nicely when asked what he saw from the Cougar defensive line on Saturday. This was a highly-touted defensive line during the preseason, but one was unable to put much pressure Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon. The Cougars only recorded one sack, by linebacker Jeremiah Allison. The WSU defensive line didn't start Kalafitoni Pole. Instead, Destiny Vaeao started at nose tackle instead of Pole. Backup nose tackle Robert Barber played, as did Pole.

“They’re a good crew. That’s a good line, they’re stout, strong, very well-coached,” Michalczik said of the Cougar defensive line. “They kept me from sleeping some this week.”

Michalczik said the Cougars limited the Wildcats’ running game in the first half, but Arizona made adjustments and rebounded in the second half. The Wildcats scored one rushing touchdown, but Terris Jones-Grigsby racked up mo e that 100 yards. Meanwhile, Cougar running backs combined for 65 yards on 15 carries.

The 1988 Aloha Bowl team featured two 1,000-yard rushers to complement quarterback Timm Rosenbach, who passed for 3,100 yards that season. While those passing number pale in comparison to what Halliday will amass this season in the Air Raid, it was still part of a spread offense Michalczik said was ahead of its time in 1988. Michalczik said the Cougars' talented offensive line and skills players matched the offensive scheme, allowing WSU to flourish on the ground and through the air.

That wasn't the case Saturday.

“It’s a combination of everything. It’s some of what the defense does to you, too,” Michalczik said. “There were times, especially early in the game, Washington State was really making us pull the ball, throw it, and do some of those things. They’re a very stout, well-coached defense. Sometimes the line gets too much blame, and sometimes they get too much credit, but they’ve got to compete, and that’s the mark of good ones.”

During an afternoon in a game that wasn't competitive, Michalczik went home with a decisive win over his alma mater that has made remarkable facilities improvements. But it's apparent many tune-ups are needed on the field.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Kevin Griffin and Willie Roach made their Cougars' debut Saturday, adding more new faces to a defensive unit that already has had to play mix-and-match plenty this season.

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