The missed connections on third down on both offense and defense, dropped passes, and a Cougar defensive collapse will likely haunt Mike Leach’s dreams tonight. But when you look beyond the stats, a good eye test can really tell you a lot about this Washington State football team.
Colorado seemed to know exactly what WSU was trying to do on defense and it showed on just about every snap that Sefo Liufau took, especially those third down plays. Asmuch as defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has been feted by ESPN and the national media in recent weeks, he didn’t have the answers needed to stop Colorado's offense - one that clearly put together a phenomenal game plan and executed it to perfection.
There was little confusion about what the Buffs were trying to do offensively: run the football down WSU's throat; complete short passes to move the chains and take deep shots when there's a window. That’s exactly how the game started, and exactly how it ended. WSU just had no answer..
And there never are easy answers in football after a loss.
Once Colorado figured out that its game plan was starting to pan out the way they projected, there was not much the Cougs were able to do to turn things around. Players just needed to start making plays -- and that didn’t happen.
Myself and others thought Colorado’s defense wasn’t as good as it looked on paper, I was definitely guilty of that. But let me tell you, the Buffs' defense played exactly as advertised on stat sheets and in some cases CU outperformed its season averages. Take a look at third downs, where Colorado was tops in the Pac-12 in only allowing a 30.7 percent conversion rate. In Saturday’s game, WSU only converted 26 percent of its third down attempts.
Getting away from stats, Colorado’s defense was mostly sound and solid from the first snap to the very last. After three pass breakups in the first quarter, I instantly thought that this might be a long day for the Cougs. And it was. Numerous pass breakups by Colorado defensive backs the rest of the way told the tale.
Wazzu's offense was just as guilty as the Coug D. Players just didn’t make plays when it mattered the most.
WSU could have easily won this game but Colorado used the second half to make clear it was the better team on the field Saturday. And my guess is that if these two teams were to face each other 10 more times, Wazzu wins five or more. Heck, if the Cougs can get it done in the Apple Cup, we could be looking at a potential rematch in the Pac-12 title game.
A second time around with Colorado the first week of December, and I think Wazzu comes out on top with the win.
But all of that is neither here nor there, and everything that happened this weekend is now history. Speaking of history, nothing would cure this loss more than a victory next week against the Huskies.
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