August 27, 2008

Scouting Wazzu: Rebuilding in Pullman

It's finally here.

After a long wait, the moment we've all been waiting for all year is finally here. So much hope about a new era and the change it will bring.

That's right, Barack Obama's convention speech the start of the football season! It's been a long wait since the Insight Bowl ended and the clock to the next season began. But it's finally here. Almost, anyway. Fans in Orange Country have been looking forward to the opener against Washington State for months. Now it's finally game week. This means Oklahoma State is about to leave on a jet plane for Seattle, where they'll face off against the Cougars in a city that's already lost a pro basketball team this year. So how about the Cowboys add a game to that losing list as well?

OSU fans might have some memories triggered by the opponent. Wazzu is in a similar situation as the Pokes were in 2005. They're starting over with a new coach (an alum who graduated in 1990), staff, scheme and mindset. I'm sure you still remember how ugly 2005 was, right? Well, similar results are expected for the team that has both a home and road helmet. It might get pretty ugly in Pullman this season for WSU and fans up Northwest way are bracing for some rough times.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the team named after single 40-something ladies on the prowl a mountain cat.

COUGARS AT A GLANCE
Location:
Pullman, Wash.
2007 record: 5-7 (3-6 Pac-10)
Game time: 2:30 p.m. at Qwest Field in Seattle (Fox Sports Net national)
Current ranking: Preseason No. 78 by Lindy's and picked to finish last in the Pac-10 by both Lindy's and The Sporting News.
Facts of the week: The WSU campus is only seven miles from the border with Idaho and is almost 300 from Seattle, in the far southwestern corner of the state. … They've allowed the Idaho Vandals (located in nearby Moscow) to use their stadium for "home" games at times to help them meet Div. I-A retention requirements. … Some notable alumni include Keith Jackson, Roy Orbison, Edward R. Murrow and "Far Side" creator Gary Larson.

THE BIG THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…
… the Cougar offense:
New head coach Paul Wulff is bringing a no-huddle quick-fire offense with him from Eastern Washington. That's great and all, but he doesn't have a quarterback to run it. Well, he does, but he's new. Replacing Alex Brink will be tough, as he put up nice numbers while in Pullman, but that's the job Gary Rogers has ahead of him. The 6-6, 234 senior has been waiting in the wings awhile, so this is his season to do something. The best player on this side of the ball is likely Brandon Gibson, who made the All-Pac-10 first team honors. He set the school record for receiving yards by a Cougar with 1,180 last season and ranked seventh nationally in receiving yards per game with 107.3 yards per game. He also scored nine touchdowns. Sophomore Dwight Tardy comes back to start at running back, after compiling 676 yards and six touchdowns in 2007.
… the Cougar defense: This team has a patching line and iffy secondary. The only strength looks like linebacker on this side, as all of the starters from last season return. They had to dismiss defensive tackle Andy Roof this week from the team (and the school) for a prior incident in a campus fight earlier in the year. It appears the team is hurt up front by the loss of Roof and is questionable in the backfield to begin with. Might spell a long day for the Cougars.
… the coach: Without knowing the program inside and out, it appears that Wulff is walking into the same situation at Pullman as Mike Gundy did in Stillwater in 2005. Both are alums who profess love of their school and want to turn the fortunes of their alma maters around. When Gundy arrived, he had to deal with a rash of dismissals and Wulff is dealing with his share of issues, from dismissals to injuries. He has more head coaching experience, however, compiling a 53-40 record in eight years at Eastern Washington.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
This game is looking more and more like Indiana Light to me. Just like the Hoosiers ended up looking mighty outmatched in Arizona, the Cougars look pretty overwhelmed in this game. From everything I've heard, the OSU defense is ready to roll and excited to show they're improved while the offense is well, the offense. This is a situation where I can see the Cowboy O do their normal thing, while the defense comes out with a bit to prove and makes a statement. WSU is in a clear rebuilding mode and the only thing they have going for them is the 55,000 or so Coug fans which will give them a home-field advantage. But I like the Pokes in this one, and fairly big, too. OSU 38, WSU 21.

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