Telling signs of wayward season found Sept. 1

SENIOR TROY BIENEMANN didn't know it at the time, but he was a prophet on opening night. After WSU struggled with inconsistent play in a 38-26 season-opening victory over Idaho, the general consensus among Coug players and coaches was in essence, "Yes, we were inconsistent, but this was the season opener."

Bienemann, the standout tight end, didn't quite believe the notion that the struggles of Sept. 1 were simply because it was the opening game of a campaign that was widely expected to conclude with a bowl game after the rebuilding season of 2004.

"We probably attribute too much to being first- game jitters," Bienemann said that warm night. "There were dropped passes and missed blocks."

Dropped passes and missed blocks. Sounds all too familiar as we head into Week 10 with six consecutive losses?

Add in arm tackles, bad angles, blown coverages, untimely penalties and overthrows and you've pretty much got the difference between a bowl team and one that can't get out of its own way.

Other comments from that night of the Idaho game proved as telling as Bienemann's.

Said quarterback Alex Brink, "We need to play more consistent. We know what we need to work on."

Or consider what defensive coordinator Robb Akey offered up. "We need to make plays when we're in position to make them," Akey said. "That's what I'm disappointed with. We need to play better as a defense. We need to be more consistent. At times we were a very good defense."

Overall, the Cougs have been a very good team -– at times. But throughout the season they have lacked something. What's the term? Oh, that's right -– consistency.

The big-play potential has been there, especially on offense. Jerome Harrison and Jason Hill are among the nation's most prolific offensive weapons. Barring an injury, Harrison should break the Rueben Mayes' record Saturday for most rushing yards in a season.

When this team clicks, Hill and Harrison form a 1-2 punch capable of taking on anyone. It's not much of a stretch to say this team could easily be 7-2, maybe even 8-1, and certainly no less than 5-4.

But for the inconsistency.

Consider these glaring examples:
Against Oregon State, Brink threw for 531 yards but threw four picks in the second half to squander a 14-point halftime lead.

Against Cal, the Cougs trailed by 18 at the half and then rattled off 28 unanswered before surrendering two TDs in the final five minutes and 18 seconds.

Similar story last week against Arizona State. Horrible first half, great third quarter and tragic fourth quarter.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

That will be the capstone on this season of close-but-not-close-enough. Above all, as the Idaho game foretold, this will be remembered as the season of inconsistency. A season where the moments of brilliance weren't enough to offset all those missed tackles, errant passes and untimely penalties.

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