At the beginning of summer, the international and national sports world is dominated by Major League baseball and tennis [Wimbledon] and, this year, the World Cup. In the collegiate sporting world, the College World Series is winding down, but as many sports writers and experts have told me in the past, it is never too early in the off-season to talk football.
With only a couple months left until opening day for Cougar football, I'm going to tell you four things that the Cougar football team needs to do to get back on the road to consistent winning.
The first thing the Cougars need to do is to establish an identity on offense, allowing them to open up their playbook. All of the best teams in the NFL and college football have an established identity of a passing team or a running team that opened up the offense playbook and the Cougars can do this if the team can establish a solid running game with Logwone Mitz. Too many games last season, the team could not establish a solid running or passing game and found themselves scrambling on offense to gain first downs and touchdowns. The team needs to either play smashmouth running football or a flashy passing style to keep the defense honest.
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The second thing the Cougars need to do is have the defense put fear into the other team's offense and make them pay for big plays. Many teams last year ran and passed all over the field with ease against the Cougar defense. Defense is all about tackling, which is the way you stop teams from scoring. The defense needs to amp up their hitting power and make teams pay for gaining any yards. Getting big hits can give your team some momentum and tell opposing teams that if they want to score they are going to have to earn it.
Winning games at home is the third thing the Cougars must do this next season. The team faces many good teams at home this year, including regularly ranked USC, Oregon and Cal. The team's final game is the Apple Cup showdown with Washington. Winning at home is important because your team needs to win at home to gain some confidence to play on the road. The team lost at home against Stanford and Hawai'i in their first two games at home before pulling out a nail-biting win against Southern Methodist at home. They had two games on the road after that in which they had no momentum from home wins. Winning at home propels you to play better football on the road.
Most of all, the Cougars need to play with confidence and inspiration and flair. Watching games last year, I saw the Cougars celebrating after plays. The team needs to celebrate after big plays and scores to get the team's fire going and to give the team some confidence. In many games, the Cougars seemed to get behind big and then play with no confidence and no spark. The team needs to come out next year and believe they can win. They need to keep up the intensity level for 60 minutes. They need to get in the mindset that they can win. They need to come out of the gates with fire and end games with a bang. Doing this last thing will not only help with winning, it will bring up team morale. It has to be difficult on team morale if the team keeps losing games. Confidence and intensity will draw fan and national attention to Cougar football. The team needs a spark and confidence is the thing they need to step their level of play up and start winning.
When I came to WSU, I had high hopes for the football team. The team very quickly dashed those hopes. Last year was no different. The team needs to earn their fans back. The team needs to show Cougar nation that there is a reason to be a Cougar football fan. They need to show that Crimson and Gray will never fade away.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
Summer is almost here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, volleyball and soccer, just to name a few, will be in full swing in two short months. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.