Well wouldn't you know it? The football team played well….again! Hell, for the second week in a row, they had a lead against a BCS team after not having held one since late 2008. This time, it was against Oregon, who they'd lost to in three consecutive seasons 53-7, 63-14 and 52-6. Is this a significant step forward for the team? Probably.
To me, what represents an even more significant step forward was who was making plays last Saturday: freshmen. Freshman linebacker C.J. Mizell finally "got it" and recorded a team high 12 tackles and forced a fumble. Redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi recovered that very fumble. Redshirt freshman Anthony Carpenter laid a vicious, albeit accidental, hit on Oregon kick returner Kenjon Barner that caused a fumble and led to a touchdown.
But perhaps the most important player on the field is a sophomore: quarterback Jeff Tuel. His performance this year has been exemplary, outside of a few ill-advised passes that went for interceptions. But I'll allow it since he's a sophomore. I can only sing the guy's praises so much though, his numbers have to do the talking - and they are. Seriously, go look at them, I'll wait.
What you should've found is that Tuel is better in every offensive category (except interceptions) than Jake Locker. Now, part of the explanation for why Locker's numbers might be more lacking is Washington's far superior run game but still, the numbers are better. I wish the defense was coming along as quickly as the offense but I'll be darned if Tuel isn't playing some great football, along with many of the young players on this suddenly much brighter squad.
Rather than drone on about the arrests of Jamal Atofau and Andre Barrington, I'd like to talk about one of the seldom publicized sports at Washington State and that's volleyball. Granted, I realize it's a non-revenue sport but they found themselves in the NCAA Tournament last year and after their first round elimination, I expressed concern this team could be primed for a big fall losing graduating seniors Kelly Hyder, Jackie Albright and Cassie Robbins. Between Albright and Robbins, they made up a significant portion of the Cougar offense and allowed players like Meagan Ganzer, Rachel Todorovich and Brittany Tillman to flourish while opposing defenses worried about them. Hyder was an incredible presence in the back court, setting the school digs record while in the middle of her junior year and putting it virtually out of reach her senior year.
Unfortunately those fears have come to fruition. Ganzer has taken on the yeoman's work up front, recording well over double the kills of the next closest teammate, Tillman. Even small, 5'3" (and that's being generous) Oceana Bush is attacking the net occasionally. The team is struggling, having yet to win a conference game and in a league like the Pac-10, if you struggle at all, every other team will pounce and take advantage.
But their struggles certainly aren't for lack of passion. I was able to go to their match against Washington in Seattle last Friday and this team never gave up in a close first set, eventually losing. Although they looked completely overmatched in the final two sets, the team never gave in. Head coach Andrew Palileo was still excited after the game despite another tough loss to an opponent where they were competitive.
Obviously, most of you won't make a trip out to Pullman specifically to watch a couple volleyball matches. But the overall success of an athletic department depends on the success of every team in it, and the volleyball team is struggling for the first time under Palileo and although they likely won't make it out of this funk in time to make it to the NCAA's, they will sometime in the very near future.
Finally, for those of you in Pullman this weekend for Dad's Weekend, head out to Midnight Madness to see this year's second place Pac-10 team (oops, am I giving away my basketball predictions already?). This year might be the Empire Strikes Back to next years Return of the Jedi. I know, it's a confusing metaphor but next season might be the year WSU makes its deepest run since the 2007-2008 season and this year is the precursor. Granted, in the Empire Strikes Back, our heroes the Rebels (in this terrible metaphor the Cougars) got spanked around, but that shouldn't happen this year.
Alright, you know what it was a terrible metaphor. Forget it ever happened. But rest assured, you'll all want to get a first look at the highly improved Cougars. Plus, I hear Casto has put on about 20 pounds, all muscle.
Last Week: 2-3
If Washington wants to go to a bowl, they absolutely have to win this one because if they can't, they won't be winning on the road all year.
Jeff Tuel > Jake Locker 31, Ryan Katz Is Still Overrated 27
They may have beat up on UCLA, but USC might finally get angry.
We Love Losing By Field Goals 34, Memorial Stadium Is Older Than The Dirt It Sits On 14
The Cougars may have improved but I still don't think it's enough to get over the hump and beat an Arizona team that is still very good. Although the Wildcat's weak secondary certainly sets up well for Jeff Tuel to throw all over.
Arizona 38, Washington State 24
Obscure Pick of the Week: One of these schools sounds like a great 80's song!
Emory and Henry 24, Hampden-Sydney 17
Dunderhead of the Week: The construction works renovating our complex who decided 7:30 AM was a great time to start pounding nails into our deck. Thanks a lot for that guys. I didn't want to sleep or anything.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
The 2010 athletic season is here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer and volleyball, just to name a few, are preparing for their 2010 seasons. 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.