COMMENTARY: The A to Z of an 0-3 start

PULLMAN -- Critical breakdowns on offense and defense have spelled disaster for Washington State, so it seems only appropriate to spell out -- from A to Z -- a critical breakdown of their early season play.

A is for atrocious. How else to describe a defense that gives up 330 rushing yards per game?

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B is for ball control. Eight fumbles (three lost) and 10 turnovers won't get the job done.

C is for collapse. Opponents have scored six times on plays covering 58 yards or more.

D is for deadly. WSU has given up nine touchdowns on possessions lasting less than a minute.

E is for eternal. WSU is the first Pac-10 team to give up 150 points in the first three games. Ever.

F is for fast. The Cougars' lack of speed, particularly in the last two games, has been glaringly apparent.

G is for gains. Opponents are averaging 4 more yards per play (7.5) than the Cougars.

H is for homecoming. What wise guy scheduled explosive Oregon for homecoming next week? Did someone forget about last year's game in Eugene?

I is for incapable. WSU has no chance to compete consistently until line play improves dramatically on both sides of the ball.

J is for Jeshua Anderson. The gifted receiver is struggling, especially with his blocking, to make up for time lost to surgery and track season.

K is for killer. The Cougars have trailed at halftime by at least two touchdowns all three games.

L is for leadership. Coaches rave about the leadership of Brandon Gibson, Greg Trent, Kenny Alfred and Matt Mullennix. Captains are picked on a weekly basis, not for the season.

M is for misleading. The Cougars rank 14th in the nation in pass defense, but there's no need to pass when you can run for 8 yards a pop.

N is for nonexistent. As in a pass rush.

O is for oh my God. The Cougars converted on third down just three of 26 tries in the first two weeks before going 9-for-18 at Baylor last week.

P is for possession time. Believe it or not, the Cougars hold the advantage in time of possession by an average of 2 minutes, 16 seconds per game -– a number no doubt fueled by how quickly opponents are scoring.

Q is for quiet. An increasingly apt description for crowds at once-rowdy Martin Stadium, where the Cougars have lost 11 of the last 16 games.

R is for rankings. The Cougars rank 101st or lower in 12 of 17 team statistics compiled by the NCAA for the 119 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A).

S is for surrendering. WSU has yielded 35 or more points in 11 of 17 games dating back to the final two games of 2006.

T is for timing. What a shame that Gibson, one of WSU's all-time greats, will likely end his career without a winning season or bowl game to his credit.

U is for unfortunate. Quarterback Gary Rogers shares some blame for WSU's poor start, but one wonders how his confidence and that of his team might have changed if not for all those dropped passes.

V is for victory. As in, 'The Cougars better get a victory Saturday against Portland State, or an 0-13 season can't be ruled out.'

W is for wow. The Cougars are losing by an average of 39 points per game. In other words, if they lose by 38, that's a step forward.

X is for Xavier Hicks. The return of vicious tacklers Hicks and Alfonso Jackson to the safety positions should eliminate many of those long scoring runs.

Y is for ya gotta be kiddin'. Five years removed from a three-year string of 10-win seasons and bowl appearances, WSU is ranked 100th in the nation by CollegeFootballNews.com. Oregon State is next worst in the Pac-10 at No. 79. The HUSKIES, for cryin' out loud, are 77th.

Z is for zero. That sums up the Cougars' chances if they keep giving up 50 points, 476 yards per game.


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