On paper, the Washington State Cougars were no match for the Washington Huskies, particularly in the trenches.
On paper, the Huskies had the depth and speed to put their foot on the throttle with the lead and overwhelm the Cougars.
On paper, Coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff revamped a Husky defense to be a force and an evolving offense that is improving, whereas the Cougars……well.
On paper, cliche-city:
- Football games are won in the trenches.
- When you have a team down, particularly your rival, you must “go for the kill”.
- Coaches can over think a game.
- And, that’s why they play the game.
Washington State came to play – not just play but play with a passion and determination they had not yet this year. Prior to the game, I was certain that while the sheer rivalry of the game itself would enable the Cougars to come out with emotion, emotion only gets you so far when you’re outmatched physically, and perhaps even mentally.
Washington, having already secured a bowl game and having “won” the recruiting battles of late in Washington, came into the game on a roll. On a roll yet, with no chip on their shoulder. Nothing to play for but the name on their chest and the Apple Cup trophy. Surely that should have been enough.
With the tumult of the season for the Cougars, there was nothing to play for but pride. But would they? With allegations of abuse by former player Marquess Wilson toward Coach Mike Leach, ensuing investigations by the school and Pac-12 conference, a fan-base reverting to their apathetic ways, the Cougar season that had started with such promise had become a joke in college football circles, again.
And yet, here they were. Down 28-10 in the 3rd quarter, playing their hearts out for all four quarters.
All four quarters. Not on paper. But on the field.
Seizing the opportunities afforded them by Husky penalties and turnovers, the Cougars finally, finally took advantage of an opponent’s miscues and
Therein lies the difference. Coach Leach said it was their best game of the year, their most complete game.
And, it was.
[I’ll have more on this later.]