*sigh* It was all real, wasn't it? Every minute of slap-stick, Keystone Cops-esque bumbling of basic assignments and pursuit. It looked like what happens when I turn back the slider on NCAA 13 to "Freshmen," and shed some hapless digital defense. No mercy, with the computer forcing out my starters in the 2nd quarter. Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds...
There are nine games left on the schedule. Nine opportunities for the Buffs to decide if they care that they as a collective group have been reduced to some mix of national laughing stock and regional embarrassment. I'm not even talking about winning, I'm talking about competing at the basest level imaginable. Gotta walk before you can crawl (wait a second...).
The team got by with poor execution and substandard effort against weak-ass opponents in the first two weeks, even coming close to two wins, which now seems impossible. All that Fresno St did was expose the danger of taking that attitude into games with physical, motivated opponents. With conference play now a reality, you can bet opponents will be both physical and motivated from here on out.
May God have mercy on our souls if that statement remains unheeded.
Kickoff is set for 2pm MT Saturday. If you're a masochist, you can watch the action on FX. 850 KOA has the call for those who can't stand to watch the horror, but still want to follow proceedings.
Click below for the preview...
Let's give a shout-out to a Buff still shining in Black and Gold. Darragh O'Neill has helped the team place second in the conference for net punting, as the sophomore has averaged near 45 yards per kick. Last week, pressed into service an absurd 10 times, he boomed over 428 yards of punts. He even managed to force a fumble. Good work, Darragh!
|Damn, that leg's got to be tired.|
If Washington State is going to dole out over $2 million for the honor of having Mike Leach run their team, I might as well lead off their preview with him.
|Coach Leach always appears to be suffering from the world's biggest hangover... must be all the grog.|
BuffNation knows him best from his time at Texas Tech. In his 10 seasons in Lubbock, the Red Raiders never experienced a losing season, enjoying 10-straight bowl appearances. Sure, he juked the numbers in his favor by repeatedly scheduling multiple 1-AA opponents, but, when you have to play Texas, A&M, and Oklahoma each season, a little leeway can be extended.
He is famous for taking anonymous, also-ran QB talent like Kliff Kingsbury and BJ Symons, and turning them in to record-setting dynamos. Their performances seemed to come out of nowhere, and the Red Raiders routinely put up big numbers against helpless defenses under Leach's tutelage. Still, through it all, Leach struggled against CU, with the Buffs holding a 3-1 record against the pirate.
Run out of Lubbock by alleged five-time hooker killer Craig James, Leach sat on the sidelines for two seasons while the heat cooled down. WSU, looking to make a splash in an offseason dominated by other Pac-12 coaching change news, jumped at the opportunity to secure the offensive genius. It was a big hire, and one that I feel will make for a good fit in Pullman.
When last we met -
Last year's preview can be found here.
The Buffs coulda', shoulda' beaten the Cougars last season. CU had edged out to a 27-17 lead with just over five minutes to go. In a home game, hell in any game, that should be money in the bank.
|You can see where this is headed. From: the BDC|
Just another happy day in Folsom.
Opponent's season so far -
I got a good look at the transition into the Mike Leach era during the Coug's week one loss at BYU. The result was predictable. On opening night, in front of a national television audience, the pumped up Cougars from Provo easily beat the Cougars from Pullman. While still getting used to the Air Raid, WSU stumbled to -5 yards of rushing, and average an overall anemic 3.7 yards per play for the game. If not for some ridiculous penalties committed by BYU (10 for 112 yards), it would've been even worse than the 30-6 final was. For the record, it was the first time in six years that a Leach-lead offense was held without a touchdown.
|What the hell was Leach doing taking his team into Provo?|
Indeed, after notching his first WSU victory with a win over Eastern Washington in week two, the Cougars went on yet another road trip, this time to Las Vegas for a week three win over UNLV. I wouldn't expect too many more early season road trips once Coach Leach begins to put his stamp on the program.
|The Cougars managed to escape LV with the win.|
This is not wholly unexpected. The Leach offense takes time to implement, and he's not yet working with offensive players comfortable with, or necessarily capable of, running his scheme. It's just hard to make halftime adjustments when most of the players are still working on basic implementation.
Offense & Defense -
NCAA statistical report here.
Ah, the ole Air Raid. Expect plenty of passes all over the field, with seemingly everyone on the team available to catch passes. So far on the season, passing plays have made up over 65% of WSU's plays from scrimmage.
As I noted above, the new system got off to a rocky start in Provo, but has been coming on strong over the past two weeks. The QB situation is a little up in the air, with incumbent QB Jeff Tuel fighting a knee injury, and backup Connor Halliday playing well in his spot start last weekend. The QB controversy won't change much, as 60-70% of offensive plays will still go through the air. Conversely they are 117th in the nation in rushing offense.
|Can Tuel hold of Halliday?|
Star Players -
Regardless of who is taking snaps Saturday, the primary offensive threat is Jr WR Marquess Wilson. You may remember him as the wide receiver who caught the game-winning 63-yard touchdown pass in Boulder last season. He's an NFL-type wideout, combining speed with size; was also second-team Pac-12 last year. So far in 2012, despite being held to almost nothing in the BYU game, he has 13 catches for 218 yards and two scores. CU's young defensive backs have yet to see a talent of his caliber this season, and he poses a massive challenge to prepare for.
|Might've wanted to stop him last season...|
On defense, Jr safety Deonne Bucannon continues his strong work at the back of the set. He has 22 total tackles and an interception to his name so far on the year. He was also suspended for part of the UNLV game for a nasty hit on a defenseless Eastern Washington receiver.
|Bucannon's legit, and he has plenty of playing experience, having appeared in every game of his three seasons.|
Half of me wants to believe that the Buffs are still capable of scraping enough pride together to play WSU tough.
Maybe, just maybe, the move of Coach Bieniemy to the sideline, and out of the booth, will make a difference. The defense is still made up warm bodies, right? Maybe, by just flinging themselves in random patters of disorganized movement, they could confuse the still-learning Cougars into self-inflicted errors (perhaps falling down due to laughter?). WSU is not that good of a team, I try to tell myself, and should be a theoretical win possibility. Hell, the Cougars haven't been to a bowl in nine seasons, maybe their culture of losing will eclipse CU's own...
|I'm trying, damnit.|
Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant.
WSU 45 - CU 17
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME ... aw fuck it, just try not to actually shit your pants.