Shooting from the hip with the WSU Cougars

BASED ON THE Cougars’ last two games — Portland State on Saturday and Washington in last season’s Apple Cup — you have to wonder if the Air Raid is an all-weather offense. In those two games combined, the Cougars scored only 30 points. In this era of big offense, an average of 15 points a game has a good chance of adding up to zero.

The Apple Cup was ice cold and the Cougar receivers dropped a mountain of passes. Last Saturday it was raining and the Cougar receivers dropped a mountain of passes, with the best guy in the unit, Gabe Marks, even commenting on the rain’s impact on the Cougs.

By the way, did you notice the canopy tent on the Cougar sidelines on Saturday? What’s up with that? This is football, not a select soccer game with orange slices and juice boxes afterward. A tent? For protection from the elements? In football? I’ve watched old clips of NFL Films. Dick Butkus and Deacon Jones would never, ever, be caught under a canopy during a game. Back in 2010, my 6th grade CYO soccer team won the city title in frigid weather and even we didn’t have a tent. Draw your own conclusions.

MY HUSKY BUDDIES were thoughtful enough to send me taunting messages Saturday afternoon even though I didn’t say a word to them about their loss at Boise State the night before. Maybe I’m crazy, but after watching that Husky offense I hold to my prediction that the Cougars win the Apple Cup — just not handily, as I predicted last week.

I WAS AS BIG A FAN AS anyone of the decision to replace Paul Wulff, but I had to laugh at a Facebook post Saturday proclaiming that if Wulff were still the Cougars’ coach they would have lost to Portland State by 60 rather than seven.

That’s what you call bending the facts to fit your reality. Wulff went 3-0 against the Big Sky in his time at WSU. His two worst teams crushed Portland State and edged Montana State, and his best team (minus starting QB Jeff Tuel) smashed Idaho State. I'm not saying Wulff was the answer to the Cougars' woes but at least give him credit where it's due.

SPEAKING OF OLD COUGAR coaches, I thought of Mike Price after the loss to Portland State. The Mike Leach Formula looks like it could use some spicing up, so here’s my idea: Bring Price back to the staff as the esteemed wise man the way Utah brought on Dennis Erickson. Price also could step in to do those video interviews after practice, because Coach Leach looks like he's passing a kidney stone during most of those sessions.

If you think the outlook for the Cougar program is bleak after the most demoralizing loss in school history, remember that Coach Price lost to Idaho two years in a row before cranking out those 10-win seasons and a trip to the 2003 Rose Bowl. I know Idaho isn’t an FCS team (though they probably should think about making the move), but losing to them once, let alone twice, had to be pretty shocking to fans.

RUTGERS COACH KYLE FLOOD and Mike Leach don't seem like they’ll be trading birthday wishes anytime soon. It started last October with Coach Leach’s comments about high school football in New Jersey being of so-so quality. It didn’t sit well with Flood, who has over 50 New Jersey players on his roster.

This week Flood sent a disguised insult back at Leach, who hates it when someone calls the Air Raid a system offense. Asked about Luke Falk and his health for Saturday’s game in Piscataway, Flood said, “I don't really pay much attention to it. I don't think the offense will change one bit. It's a system offense and he's had a lot of players over the years who have been really, really successful running that system. So I don't think it'll change one bit.’’

By the way, Coach Leach clarified his comments about high school ball in New Jersey this week during the Pac-12 coaches call. He said he didn’t remember saying “good players, bad football” and felt more attention should have been paid to his comment that New Jersey has good players who hit their stride in college and many go on to the NFL.

THERE WILL BE LOTS OF NEW FACES on the field for Saturday’s game (12:30 Pacific, ESPNU). Eighteen Rutgers players, including seven true freshmen, saw their first action last week against Norfolk State, and on WSU, it was 15 players making their WSU debut last week, including five true freshmen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryan Witter is a top-notch student and two-sport athlete entering his junior year of high school in Seattle. He is a lifelong Cougar fan whose dad co-founded CF.C two months after he was born.


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