Here are some questions on WSU football in general and the Apple Cup matchup in particular answered by Joshua Davis, the lead editor over at All Coug’d Up, the WSU alternative to Husky Haul on the Fansided network of sites.
Q: Purely from a football point of view, how badly does the loss of Marquess Wilson hurt the WSU offense? Who needs to step up in his place?
The loss hurts in some ways, helps in others. Obviously, losing your number 1 threat is rarely a positive thing and WSU in particular relied on his production heavily. The double-edged sword with that is that the Cougars have a bunch of talented receivers outside of Marquess (though unproven for the most part at this point) that weren’t receiving the targets they should be. That’s actually probably not a big deal if Marquess played hard all the time and made routine catches, but his attitude and focus were a problem in many drives that the Cougs had to have this year. The issues ranged from numerous drops on 3rd down, to quitting on routes which led to ints, to visibly quitting emotionally on games in which the Cougs would fall behind early. Quite honestly, at times he was definitely hurting the offense and the team more then helping.
Q: No one receiver needs to step up, it’s on the group to step up their production. So far it’s been pretty positive. Dominique Williams, Brett Bartolone and Bobby Ratliff stepped up against UCLA, Kristoff Williams stepped up and scored a 54 yard touchdown late against ASU. If they can all step up against UW, the shootout should be fun.
It seemed like a lot of people expected at least 6 or 7 wins in Leach’s first year. Do you think that was a reasonable number and things have just been botched, or do you believe the expectations of the fan base were simply too high to begin with?
There are probably 2 schools of thought here. The first is that it’s not reasonable to expect any system to take off the way we all thought it would, no matter what the circumstance. I think everyone expected Leach to come in and with his reputation, the entire team would buy in immediately and the whole transition was going to go from good to better. As is rarely (if ever) the case though, it didn’t happen that way and I think the Marquess situation brought to the forefront the issues that were going on behind closed doors, as it pertains to the team buying into the system. Quite obviously, MQW was the ring-leader of the problem children because he held the most attention, so with him leaving it’s sure to move better into the future between player and coaches.
The second thought is just what you said, that 6 or 7 was a reasonable number of wins to expect from this particular team. The loss to Colorado, where the Cougs lost a 17 point lead with less than 8 minutes remaining, was the turning point in what could’ve been that season. Instead of 3-1 with a bunch of confidence heading into the meat of the schedule, we fell to 2-2 and had no moral booster to fall back on going into some tough games. Since then it’s just been a litany of issues, including back and forth qb play with Jeff Tuel being consistently injured and Connor Halliday struggling in his place, dropped passes, missed tackles, etc.
Q: With Wilson gone, who do you see as the most important player on the roster?
This may seem like a cliche answer, but everybody becomes the most important player. More importantly, there IS no “most important player”, which is how Leach operates and how he wants his quarterbacks to operate. For this game specifically the most important player to keep on the field is Jeff Tuel. If he can stay away from being injured, he gives WSU a chance. That gives the most important task to the offensive line
Q: Do you still believe in Leach?
I have actually believed more and more in him as the year has gone on. His brutal honesty is something this school needs, honestly. I love the fact that the players are finally being held accountable for their actions, on and off the field. It’s no secret when he’s mad at the effort of his team and it’s no secret when he’s happy about the effort, as has been the case the last two weeks. Leach is fair and clear, not to mention a football genius. There isn’t a coach in the conference who talks anything but positive about Leach and his style of coaching. Gotta believe in that.
Q: What would have to happen for the Cougars to defeat Washington on Friday? Do you think those things are actually likely to occur?
The Cougs need a fast start, something they have not been adept at doing this season. Even when they held the ball for 14:22 of the 1st quarter against UCLA, they ended the quarter with a 7-7 tie. The Cougs are a tremendously improved team at home, but they still have trouble scoring tds in the redzone. The Coug defense has been playing well of late, when the offense can string some possession time together to keep them fresh, so it’s all about the WSU offense this week. If they can hold the ball and actually score td’s in the redzone, they could win this game.
Do I think it will happen? Why not? If the game was in Seattle I’d say no way, but this sets up at home to be the game of the year for WSU. It’s time for something good to happen.