What now for weapon-challenged Cougs?

THE COUGS UNLEASHED the second-longest scoring pass in their history Saturday but it was lost in the grind of a do-nothing game. It was one of those bam-bam plays that are here and gone, like being ranked 25th in the country. Washington State's national ranking was just sinking in last week when the Arizona Wildcats came in and decided this would be the day they'd act like a football school.

This is what's so wild about this game. Arizona COULDN'T run the ball. The handful of schools in America with rushing attacks worse than Arizona's are compass points. West Someplace. Northern Somewhere. Arizona's offense had been about as sexy as vericose veins and baggy nylons.

So what does Arizona do at Martin Stadium? They Go Uglier. Line up with two tight ends and a big back and win it on the ground, a few too many yards at a crack.


The Wildcats controlled something like 12 minutes of the fourth quarter with boring efficiency. It wasn't much to look at but it trumped the boring inefficiency of the Cougs. At least now we know now how vital Jason Hill is. How important Michael Bumpus is.

Before Washington State's top two receivers -- Hill and Bumpus -- left this Dad's Day dud with second-quarter high ankle sprains, the Cougs had a plan to stretch the field.
br> Suddenly, without his top two receivers, QB Alex Brink had to re-introduce himself to mediocrity, to the dink and dump, to two of his throws we all hate: the over and the under.

OK, talented Brandon Gibson did shake loose for that 91-yard TD reception, but that was just about the sum total of the Coug offense. Hill is simply the finest wideout the Cougars have ever had and Bumpus, lined up in the slot, is the perfect complement. The Cougs couldn't run or pass without them.

So now what?

Hill and Bumpus will sit out Saturday night's game at Arizona State. Washington State CAN'T throw the football without them. Right? Well, maybe.

Here's where Cougar coaches can make amends for last week's halftime abustments. Given a choice over the long haul I'd take WSU head coach Bill Doba over Arizona's Bob Stoops, but Stoops was clearly the effective coach in this one.

Can't fault the Cougar coaches for injury. They've endured too many too often. But we can't just forget about this one or the next one. We can't pretend that since no one saw the tree go down maybe the tree didn't go down at all. That's not as far-fetched as it might seem.

The seats were nearly vacant by the time the rain and the darkness and the Wildcats drove Dear Old Dad back to the RV for a quick shot in the parking lot. Dad and mom were smartin' in Martin. Can't blame them for bailing.

The Cougars have lost in a lot of ways for a lot of years. Rarely have they gone down without a good cry or a hearty laugh. Suddenly entertainment has given way to Enigmatic. It wouldn't be a Cougar game this year if the performance of the offensive line wasn't measured as a hiccup. Very good one week, very so-so the next. I haven't seen anybody look that tired for 60 minutes since Mike Wallace did his last hour on TV.

This was Arizona, not Cal. It was like being invaded by Grenada. How do you lose by 10 at home to Grenada? There's something about football and the whole state of Arizona since Frank Kush died. The Sun Devils. Woeful, at least his year. The Cardinals. Woeful every year. The Arizona Wildcats? They'll always have Lute, and basketball and something else. On the first Saturday in ‘06 November they sent WSU from the mainstream back to the banks of the non-ranked.

So if you're Doba, how do you get it back without two of your finest, Hill and Bump?

Put a new face on the passing game. Get Brink on the move. Sprint to the corners. Sprint draws to Dwight Tardy. Spread the field. Give the offensive line something to look at besides a packed box.

And one last hint. Call Bill Cosby, who was in Pullman on Saturday for Dad's Day. Find out what Fat Albert is doing this weekend -– he just might be able to help out up front.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Weaver has been following and/or covering the Cougars for the better part of 30 years. For the second straight season, the former Spokesman-Review columnist is bringing his unique insights to Cougfan.com readers every week.

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