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September 17, 2006

WSU boots Baylor, 17-15

In either of the last two seasons, the Cougars lose this game. The Cougs played flat and let Baylor hang around until late in the fourth quarter when the Bears took the lead on an improbable fumble recovery that went back for a forty yard touchdown. Last year, that would have been it. The Cougs would have folded like a house of cards. They would've gone four and out and Baylor would have run out the clock for an immensely deflating WSU loss. Defeat from the jaws of victory and all that.

Not on Saturday. The WSU mantra coming into the season was "finish." That they did. With less than five minutes on the clock and the game on the line, the Cougar offense drove down the field and Loren Langley drilled the chip shot field goal from the one foot line on fourth down with fourteen seconds on the clock for the go-ahead points.

It does not matter that the Cougs were strongly favored coming in. This was a big win - the kind of gut check win that has eluded WSU for two seasons too long. Credit to Baylor, the Bears had something to do with the Cougar troubles. After the game, coaches and players were unanimous in saying that the Bears had far more offensive speed than the Cougars expected. The Cougars played a 3-4 lineup for most of the game and had trouble early. After the half time adjustments, WSU was able to get pressure in the Baylor pocket and totally disrupted the Baylor offense. All of Baylor's offensive points came in the first half, and Baylor was held to negative rushing yards on the game.

The Cougar offense had to overcome plenty of miscues. Coach Bill Doba said he had been concerned with how the Cougars traveled the night before, and the concerns were justified by flat play on the field. The running game sputtered, finishing the game with 51 net yards after having negative net yardage in the first half. Dropped catchable balls were a major problem and cost WSU points. Fumbled balls stalled the Cougs and very nearly cost WSU the game. Still, when it was all on the line with time ticking away the offense came through. It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win - a gutty win that the Cougars can build on and feel good about.

The Good

1) The Cougar pass rush: After some initial sputters and adjusting, the Cougar defensive front stepped up big time and spent a lot of time in the Baylor backfield. WSU finished with 5 sacks, and four came from the D-line with Cory Evans collecting the fifth. On top of having a sack, Mkristo Bruce also snagged an interception in the first half.

2) Loren Langley: Coach Doba felt Langley looked shaky in warm-ups, and so shied away from a field goal attempt in the first half instead going for it - and failing to convert - on fourth and ten. With the game on the line, Langley stepped up big time and nailed the game winning field goal.

3) Defensive secondary: In the first half, the Baylor passing game gave the Cougs trouble as a result of the unexpected Bear speed. After getting acclimated, the secondary played strong. Most of the Baylor yardage came in the first half with the second half marked by big Cougar hits and good coverage. Tyron Brackenridge and Eric Frampton - who collected a fourth quarter pick - were standouts.

The Bad

1) The running game: The Cougs had a very difficult time getting anything going on the ground. A team that rushed strong against both Auburn and Idaho ended with only 51 net yards.

2) Deep snaps: WSU again struggled with deep snaps. The most costly came on the first Cougar possession when a snap to punter Darryl Blunt sailed over his head and into the endzone, leading to a safety and Baylor's first points.

3) Bobby Byrd: Byrd's not here because he played bad. Instead, he's here because he was the sole Cougar listed on the post-game injury report. The injury looks to be to Byrd's MCL and was termed a "sprained" knee. Losing Byrd for any amount of time would hurt this season, although Derek Hunter played capably in relief.

Player of the Game: With an honorable mention to Mkristo Bruce, we're giving the nod to The Peanut, Loren Langley. Langley stepped up when it all rode on a kick and booted the game winner through.


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