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Tag:Washington State
Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:43 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 12:50 pm
 

WSU aims for victory over Tigers, Ducks in 2013

Posted by Chip Patterson

Washington State athletic director Bill Moos has taken a very active approach as he nears one full year on the job at his alma mater.  After Jim Sterk left for San Diego State, Moos was one of the only candidates to seek out employment from the university that has suffered through some historically bad seasons in football in the last couple of years.  

But Moos has been very vocal about his belief in the ability to turn the Cougars' results around on the field, and he has been making efforts to assist with that process off the field.  He has met with the families of recruits and is currently campaigning for a stadium expansion and brand-new football operations facility.  

He has enough faith in the improvements to boldly predict Washington State victories over both Auburn and Oregon in 2013.

"I expect to beat both of them," Moos said about facing the title game's participants at a general staff meeting.  Pretty bold statement for a program that dropped from historic highs in the early 2000's to becoming the butt of most Pac-10/Pac-12 football jokes by the end of the decade.  Moos believes that the key to changing the program will be with recruiting, and shedding the "underdog" culture.  

New facilities and upgrading the stadium is one way to re-energize the fan base and team, but there will have to be on-field results in order to really see any dramatic change in recruiting.  Moos may just be talking boldly to build confidence, or he really could be so blinded by his own optimism he fails to see the gap between Washington State and Auburn/Oregon.  But that kind of blind optimism may be just what the Cougars need to turn things around.  

Posted on: December 6, 2010 1:48 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 2:48 pm
 

Paul Wulff gets fourth year at Wazzu

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As of last week, Paul Wulff himself admitted that he didn't know whether he'd get another season at the Washington State helm any more than anyone else did. But after the Cougars fell valiantly in their Apple Cup showdown with Washington, coming back from a 28-14 deficit to tie before falling 35-28 , Wazzu athletic director Bill Moos decided he had seen enough ... to keep Wulff around!

Paul Wulff will return for his fourth year as head football coach at Washington State, something athletic director Bill Moos made clear Sunday.

Wulff and Moos met Sunday afternoon in Moos’ office ... [and] chatted about the Apple Cup.
Apparently the chat went well.

And frankly, it should have. Wulff still doesn't have much to show for his efforts in the win column, going 2-10 and just 1-8 in the Pac-10 , but the improvement from the Cougars has been dramatic nonetheless. In 2008, Wazzu lost their average league game by more than 40 points; in 2010, that number was down to fewer than 15. The Cougs had yet to win a game under Wulff against a Pac-10 team that wasn't winless or a league game on the road; this year they spanked Oregon State in Corvallis.

If that sounds like the over-glorification of a series of moral victories, at some schools it might be. But the Wazzu program was in such off-field tatters at the end of the Bill Doba tenure, and the number of top-flight coaches likely interested in the Wazzu job at this stage so few, that at this stage that improvement should have been enough.

Kudos are in order to Moos for realizing it, however belatedly that decision might have come.

HT: DocSat .


Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:27 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2010 2:00 pm
 

Can Beavers pull off the shocker of the season?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There's basically two candidates for the upset of the 2010 college football season: James Madison taking out Virginia Tech , just the second-ever victory for an FCS team over a ranked opponent, and Nevada ruining Boise State 's dream season with their wild overtime victory.

But neither of those would hold a candle to a hypothetical Oregon State victory over the top-ranked Oregon juggernaut the Beavers will host in Corvallis this Saturday, in the 114th edition of the Civil War. The Ducks are, of course, a perfect 11-0, boast the top-ranked offense in the country, and one hiccup at Cal aside have won their other 11 games by an average of 32 points. Oregon State, meanwhile, is a disppointing 5-6 and is coming off a 38-0 humiliation at the hands of Stanford .

But the Civil War has some history of chaos , particularly when one team or the other is on the cusp of a championship. Could the Beavers make it happen? It won't be easy, but it won't be impossible, either. Here's what they'll have to do:

Shorten the game with Rodgers. It's mostly beside the point to say the Beavers need to "control the clock"; Chip Kelly 's hyperdrive offense scores so quickly that even gaining more yards than any other attack in the country, the Ducks still rank 103rd in the FBS in time-of-possession. But OSU will have to hog even more of the ball than the Ducks normally concede, because the more possessions Oregon can pack into the game, the more cracks they get at the Beaver end zone, the more fatigued the OSU defense will get as the game wears on, and the greater the toll the Ducks' superior talent will take. OSU needs to approach the game the way a Princeton-offense basketball team would a first-round NCAA Tournament game; the fewer possessions there are, the greater impact one or two fortunate bounces and big plays could have in the underdogs' favor.

So how do the Beavers do that? The heaviest dose possible of Jacquizz Rodgers . The Beavers' dynamo has been at his best in big games in the past, and will have to be again to keep the chains moving, the clock running, and the Duck offense off the field.

Rattle the Ducks on the road. Oregon has been incredible just about everywhere, but they've been far more vulnerable on the road than at home in their virtually-impregnable Autzen Stadium fortress. They allowed more than 600 yards to Arizona State in Tempe in their worst defensive performance of the season, winning largely on the strength of a cavalcade of Sun Devile errors that led to six turnovers; the Ducks' worst offensive performance came in Berkeley, where they managed just one offensive touchdown and anaverage of 3.8 yards per-play, nearly two yards lower than their next-worst performance.

The Beavers haven't been particularly good at home -- their decisive loss in Corvallis to Washington State is probably the single worst performance in Pac-10 play this season -- but if they can play with enough emotion and energy early to keep the crowd well in it, the Ducks have shown they might not respond all that well.

Win the special teams battle. This is much easier said than done with All-American Duck returner Cliff Harris around, but special teams have typically been a Mike Riley strength -- they kept the Beavers competitive in their meeting with Boise almost singlehandedly -- and they simply can't afford to lose this phase of the game when they have such an uphill climb on first-through-third down. Preventing a big Oregon special teams play and making one or two of their own would go a long, long way towards evening the scales.

Sell out against the run. With an offense as powerful as Oregon's, there's no good way to defend it; packing the box means that Darron Thomas will have more opportunities to hit a backbreaking pass downfield. But the only time Oregon's been halfway contained -- in the aformentioned trips to Cal and Arizona State -- it's started with limiting LaMichael James and the Duck running game, which averaged just 3.47 yards an attempt vs. the Sun Devils and an ugly 2.95 vs. the Bears. The Beavers' star defensive tackle Stephen Paea will need to play the game of his life.

Don't turn the ball over. A team like OSU simply won't beat a team like Oregon wasting possessions and helping the Duck offense with turnovers. There's not much else to say there.

Even if Oregon State does all of the above, they're still not likely to actually emerge with more than a moral victory; Oregon is just that good. But they'll at least have a fighting chance, and if they catch a couple of breaks with the officials and in the turnover department, who knows? There could be one more shocker left in the college football season after all.


Posted on: November 30, 2010 4:09 pm
 

Paul Wulff may be on way out, per Paul Wulff

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

On paper, the stakes don't look all that high for this year's edition of the Apple Cup : Washington is 5-6 and a Pac-10 afterthought (again), and 2-9 Washington State is just hoping for another small step forward on the road to respectability. The Iron Bowl this is not.

But for the teams involved, this will be the biggest game of the year. The Huskies have a chance to end a bowl drought dating all the way back to 2002, an unthinkably long dry spell for a team with Washington's Pac-10 pedigree, and send seniors like Jake Locker off on a high note. The rest of the Pac-10 will have a vested interest in a Husky victory as well; of the league's three 5-6 teams aiming for bowl eligibility this weekend -- Washington, Arizona State , and Oregon State -- the Huskies have by far the easiest task with the Sun Devils facing Arizona and the Beavers the Oregon juggernaut.

But to hear Wazzu head coach Paul Wulff tell it, there still might be more on the line on the Cougar sideline, or at least for Wulff himself. As tweeted by the Seattle Times 's Bob Condotta:
Wulff, on Pac-10 conference call, says he's confident in the job he has done, but stops short of saying he knows for sure that he will be back next season. Said no question that WSU will be a bowl team next season.
Putting aside the 2011 bowl talk (which would represent a quantum leap forward for a program that's still being outscored 34-18 on average in conference play), you'd think Wazzu would be happy to keep Wulff in place. The Cougars have consistently played hard for him, have dramatically improved the past two seasons (that average conference score for Wazzu in 2008? 50-9 ), have loads of Wulff's recruits returning next season, and frankly won't have a lot of top-tier candidates beating down their doors to coach on the Palouse if Wulff is dismissed.

But Wazzu athletic director Bill Moos has declined to make any kind of assurances that Wulff will be returning. That, paired with Wulff's own lack of confidence in his job status, would seem to point the tea leaves in the direction of Wulff's firing. After all, we saw this same movie a few days ago, when Vanderbilt 's Robbie Caldwell surprised many by saying midweek that he might be coaching his last game at Vandy; sure enough, he was gone before the week was out.

The good news for Wulff? An upset victory over the Cougars' most hated rival in front of the Wazzu faithful (the very faithful, by this point) would make Moos's decision to let him go dramatically more difficult, and maybe impossible. Wulff could quite possibly still save himself, even if it's highly debatable he ought to need saving in the first place.

Posted on: November 21, 2010 12:26 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 20)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Only three games in the Pac-10 this week, but we still learned a few things:

1. Stanford deserves a BCS bowl berth. The Cardinal caught a break in catching Cal in the "horrific" week of their solid/horrific yo-yo-routine; after the Bears put together such an impressive performance against Oregon last week, the proper bet regarding their performance this week was the house, on collapse .

But that still shouldn't take anything away from the kind of dominance Jim Harbaugh 's team has shown the past few weeks. The Cardinal simply annihilated Cal from the opening gun, watching Andrew Luck hit 16-of-20 without an interception and even embarrassing a Bear defender on a long run just for kicks ... holding the Bears scoreless through the first three quarters ... scoring on their first eight possessions, every one Luck directed ... leading 45-0. It was the sort of display usually reserved for beatdowns of bottom-rung FCS teams, and it all came in "The Game," Cal's biggest rivalry game of the year, on the road in Berkeley.

Between this performance, the thumping of Arizona two weeks ago, and the 41-0 road whitewashing of Washington three weeks back, it's safe to rank Stanford alongside the likes of Auburn and Boise State as one of the hottest teams in the country and the hottest in the Pac-10 . Assuming they wrap up the season at 11-1, they'll deserve to have a shot at playing in one of the big-money BCS games rather than having to slink off the Holiday Bowl . That may or may not happen -- it'll be helpful if Auburn loses and opens up a slot in the BCS title game for a non-AQ team that will otherwise hog a spot in the Rose Bowl -- but there shouldn't be any "may or may not," not the way the Cardinal are playing.

2. Corvallis is USC's own personal house of horrors. You can't really argue that Oregon State 's Reser Stadium is a "tough place to play," not this year, not after the Beavers got trounced at home by Washington State last week. (Yes, that Washington State. Yes, that actually happened.) But apparently it doesn't matter how welcoming a host OSU might be for anyone else; they are always going to be at maximum hostility for USC .

In 2006, the Trojans were third-ranked and favored to return to the BCS title game for the third time in three years when they went to Corvallis; they turned the ball over four times and lost 33-31, snapping their 27-game Pac-10 winning streak. In 2008, USC had just defeated No. 5 Ohio State 35-3 and were the No. 1 team in the country; Jacquizz Rodgers exploded for 186 yards against one of the best defenses of college football's past decade and the Beavers won 27-21. Obviously the 2010 Trojans can't measure up to the '06 or '08 versions (who finished with a combined record of 23-2), but they had won three of their last four and beaten a good Arizona team on the road just last week. And, you know, Washington State.

No matter. Matt Barkley had his ankle bent into all kinds of incorrect directions ; Mitch Mustain went only 8-of-17 in relief; Rodgers went off for another 128 yards and a score; Beaver QB Ryan Katz recovered from a terrible week against Wazzu to hit 17-of-24 with two touchdowns and no picks; the Trojans lost the turnover battle 0-2 and only gained 255 total yards; and in the end, the Beavers crushed the Trojans 36-7 .

Corvallis: home sweet home to Wazzu, the worst place imaginable for the Trojans. Go figure.

3. UCLA's offense is ... well ... you know. We know the Bruins are struggling with quarterback issues and with a scheme conversion to the pistol that has been, to put it as politely as we possibly can, a work in progress.

But there's a point at which politeness isn't really appropriate anymore, and once you've scored zero points over the final three quarters and netted all of 163 yards (over 61 plays, an unbelievably terrible average gain of 2.67 yards per-play) against a team that entered the game ranked 109th in the FBS in total defense, that point has long since past. We've posted this portrait of UCLA's offense before, and after the stinkbomb the Bruins laid up in Seattle last Thursday, we feel we have no choice but to post it again:



It's a shame, because the Bruin defense -- which hounded Jake Locker into another "that guy is a first-rounder?!?" performance (10/21, 68 yards, 0 TD 1 INT) -- isn't great but is good enough to get UCLA to the postseason they desperately want . The offense, however, will be lucky to drag UCLA past their current four wins.  


Posted on: November 14, 2010 1:36 am
Edited on: November 14, 2010 1:37 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 13)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. Oregon can win ugly, too. To be fair to the Ducks, they weren't exactly dominated in their 15-13 win in Berkeley; they outgained Cal by more than 100 yards, held the Bears to 193 yards total and a miserable 2.5 yards per-pass, and only gave up a second touchdown on a Darron Thomas fumble in the end zone.

But they also scored their only first-half touchdown on a Cliff Harris punt return, averaged a stunningly weak 2.9 yards per-carry, eked out the final two-point margin by virtue of their made two-point try and Cal's failed attempt, and could have easily lost if not for Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio short-circuiting his own 24-yard field goal with a stutter-step procedure penalty and missing the subsequent 29-yard try. Every national title contender has to win games when they're not at their best, but Oregon was so far away from their best Saturday night they'd have to send it a postcard.

In the end, it didn't matter, as behind Thomas and a hobbled LaMichael James the Ducks changed philosophies on the fly to a clock-churning, yards-chewing ground-exclusive outfit that ate up the game's final 9:25 on one drive . That kind of versatility could prove to be the difference between a national champion and a slip-up before Glendale ... even if the Ducks would prefer not to have to put it to use again until there's a crystal football awarded to the victor.

2. Washington State should keep Paul Wulff.
Let's be fair: the Cougars' rehabilitation, even after their 31-14 upset-of-the-Pac-10's year against Oregon State today, is progressing verrrrry ... sloooooooowly. One FBS win in 2008, that one over winless Washington. One in 2009, over SMU in overtime. Until today, none in 2010.

But that hasn't meant it hasn't been progressing at all . After getting totally obliterated on a weekly basis two years ago, the Cougars have been substantially more competitive this season: 42-28 vs. UCLA , 43-23 vs. Oregon, 38-28 vs. Stanford , 20-13 vs. Cal. You could see the game coming where the Cougars put everything together and took down some unsuspecting favorite. And that game came today: quarterback Jeff Tuel had the game of his career, hitting 10-of-15 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while adding 79 yards in the ground; the rest of a surprisingly productive run game chipped in 142 yards and three touchdowns; and the much-maligned Cougar defense forced three turnovers, hounded Beaver quarterback Ryan Katz into a quiet 12-for-21 performance, and held the Beavers to 261 yards overall. Unexpected as Wazzu's triumph might have been, especially coming in Corvallis, it was no fluke.

So maybe progress has been slow. But it's there. Wulff has Wazzu pointed in the right direction, and after today he deserves at least one more season to see how far in that direction he can go.

(As for the Beavers, well, TCU and Boise would like a refund, please.)

3. Arizona State is the Pac-10's hard-luck team. The Sun Devils have had a couple of games in which they outgained their opponent by wide margins and lost, but today wasn't one of them; visiting Stanford enjoyed a 420-268 yardage advantage. But this is still a team that lost at Wisconsin on a late missed extra point; gave away an excellent shot at a huge upset of Oregon with a flood of turnovers; lost to Oregon State when a late drive ended in an interception; to USC on a late missed field goal. You'd think that eventually Dennis Erickson 's team could buy a break, and when the Devils went up 13-10 late in the third quarter on a Steven Threet touchdown pass, it looked like that break might finally be coming.

But it wasn't: the Cardinal took over on their 15 and went 85 yards to score an Owen Marecic touchdown with just over five minutes remaining. ASU's following drive went nowhere, and Stanford picked up three first downs to ice the game. The Sun Devils have now played the BCS's Nos. 1, 6, and 7 teams and lost by a total of 16 points. But they'll still have to sweep their final two games vs. UCLA and at Arizona just to make a bowl game.

4. This isn't Mike Stoops' breakthrough season, either. Arizona has famously never been to the Rose Bowl, but even if Oregon made clear the Wildcats aren't getting there this year relatively early, Stoops could have still hoped for his first 10-win season and top-20 final ranking -- goals his team looked well on their way to fulfilling after their early-season win over Iowa .

Since then, though, the Wildcats have gone a ho-hum 4-3 with two of those wins over the Washington schools and the latest result a dispiriting 24-21 home loss to USC. The Trojans aren't a bad team by any means, but if the Wildcats want to be taken seriously as Pac-10 contenders, winning home games against their fellow upper-end-of-the-pack rivals (not to mention avoiding getting outrushed 205-51) is a step they'll have to take. Unless Arizona pulls a shocker in Eugene next weekend, eight regular season wins will be the ceiling.

Again.



Posted on: November 8, 2010 3:41 pm
 

Oregon (and Arizona) with backup QB issues

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The way Oregon has a cut a swath of destruction through the Pac-10 thus far this season as athletic dual-threat quarterback Darron Thomas has operated Chip Kelly 's lethal spread-option offense to perfection, you might think the Ducks were invulnerable. But you don't have to go any further back than 2007 remember another season when an apparently-invulnerable Oregon was cutting a swath of destruction through the Pac-10 as athletic dual-threat quarterback Dennis Dixon was operating Chip Kelly's lethal spread-option offense to perfection, and that season ended with an unfortunate ACL injury to Dixon derailing what could have been a national championship campaign.

Until last Saturday, the Ducks appeared impervious to even that nightmare scenario, as senior backup Nate Costa , with several years of experience in Kelly's system under his belt, appeared to be a 100 percent sound backup plan in the event of Thomas's departure. (Costa deputized against Washington State earlier this year and hit a brisk 13-of-15 while rushing for 84 yards.) But that was before Costa "appeared to suffer a serious injury to his right knee" while trying to salvage a botched field goal hold against Washington this past weekend.

A final evaluation of Costa's status is still forthcoming , but Kelly seemed resigned to not having the senior available for this week's tricky visit to Cal , at the minimum. That leaves Kelly with two less-than-appetizing options if he has to turn to someone other than Thomas: true freshman Bryan Bennett , who earned the No. 3 job in the offseason but is a true freshman and who Kelly wants to redshirt, or redshirt sophomore Daryle Hawkins , who has spent the season working at running back and receiver.

As long as Thomas stays healthy, it won't matter who the backup is. But before Costa's injury, it had become nearly impossible to lay out a blueprint for a Ducks loss; now, an early knock to Thomas that could thrust Bennett or Hawkins into the fray on the road against an athletic, disruptive Bears defense could turn things awfully dicey for the Ducks in a big hurry. Even if Thomas remains intact, Kelly may feel forced to alter his play-calling to prevent him from taking as many hits; against the Bears, on the road, it's conceivable could this lead to the first real offensive hiccups of the season for the Duck offense.

At least the Ducks won't be alone in wondering what might happen if their starter goes down; Arizona will be without rejuvenated backup Matt Scott for their trip to USC as he recovers from a wrist injury. Scott led the Wildcats to a pair of wins in starter Nick Foles 's recent injury absence and might have spelled Foles Saturday against Stanford if healthy. Instead, the 'Cats will go with junior Bryson Beirne (and his five career pass attempts) in the event Foles is forced ot the bench.

Posted on: November 6, 2010 11:56 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2010 1:21 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 6)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. The biggest game of the league's season was played back on Oct. 2. And Oregon won it, 52-31 over Stanford . By this point, with the Ducks at least two games up on the rest of the league (and three on everyone but the Cardinal as soon as they dispose of Arizona ) and second-place Stanford two games up on everyone trailing them , there's absolutely no question who the best two teams in the conference are. Not that the league's schedule-makers could have forseen the Ducks' and Cardinal's dominance, but after a few seaosns with massive (and massively hyped) late-season showdowns with Rose Bowl berths on the line, this season whatever attention the Pac-10 garner will come exclusively from Oregon's run at Glendale.

2. Speaking of which, Oregon is the nation's best second-half team. We'd seen this movie before, against Tennessee , against Stanford, against USC: the Ducks look vaguely sluggish for 30 minutes or slightly more, and just as it appears they might be in genuine trouble, they floor it. Today's edition : a scoreless first quarter, couple of turnovers, an 18-13 lead early third quarter ... and three Duck touchdowns before the period is up, with two more just for fun in the fourth to end the game on 35-3 run. Your final: 53-16. Chip Kelly says he wants to wear his opponents out and crush them down the stretch, and whaddya know, that's what his teams do.

It won't be surprising if Cal or Oregon State take an early lead with the Ducks on the road, won't be a total shock if they carry an edge into the break, or even if they're up after 45 minutes. But we're long past the point where we can expect any team remaining on Oregon's schedule to play them even over the full 60 minutes.

3. Maybe Cal isn't schizophrenic. Maybe they just hate the road. The Bears went up to the Palouse today and nearly handed Paul Wulff his first Pac-10 win in his three seasons at Wazzu , falling behind 10-7 at the half and leading only 14-13 entering the fourth quarter before squeaking by 20-13 . New starting quarterback Brock Mansion didn't make anyone forget the injured Kevin Riley , hitting only 12-of-24 with a pair of picks against the league's worst defense.

Truthfully, we already knew Cal was terrible on the road; the win snapped a six-game losing streak away from Berkeley. But even "six-game losing streak" doesn't quite say "terrible on the road" the way "seven-point win over Washington State" does.

4. Stanford's defense is maybe the league's most underreported story. The Cardinal defense in 2009: 403 yards allowed per-game, 90th in the country. The Cardinal defense in 2010: 330 yards allowed per-game, 30th in the country. And that was before they held Arizona to just three first-half points and no touchdowns until the Stanford offense had already built a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter.

No question that between the likes of Andrew Luck and Chris Owusu and Stepfan Taylor and Jim Harbaugh 's precision pro-style attack,  the Cardinal is an offense-first team. But the difference between last year's 8-5 Sun Bowl team and this year's potential 11-1 BCS at-large selection is almost entirely the work first-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has done with his starless unit.

5. Oregon State is just another team. The early read on the Beavers was that after near-impossible assignments at Boise State and TCU but a vindication win at Arizona, Mike Riley 's team was better than their record, as they usually are in mid-October.

But after losing in overtime at Washington (losers at home to Arizona State and big losers at home to Stanford and Nebraska ) and now 17-14 at previously-reeling, 3-5 UCLA , it's time to acknowledge that the Beavers aren't top-25 material. In fact, at 4-4 and with games still to come against the Ducks, Cardinal, and Trojans, they may not even be bowl material.

6. Matt Barkley is in a slump. USC escaped Arizona State's upset bid 34-33 late Saturday thanks to some huge plays in the field goal department -- a blocked extra point returned for two Trojan points, a game-winning Joe Houston field goal, a wayward Sun Devil attempt with 90 seconds to play -- but the Trojans won't survive their grueling late-season stretch (starting with next week's visit to Arizona) without better play from their sophomore quarterbacking prodigy. Barkley threw three touchdowns against the Sun Devils, but also threw a pair of interceptions and settled for a mediocre average of 5.8 yards per-pass. Barkley has only dipped below the 7 yards-per-attempt mark three times this season, but it's happened each of the last two weeks. Those two games also account for half of his eight picks for the year. Where's the gunslinger who carpet-bombed Cal and nearly took down Stanford in Palo Alto?

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com