Embarrassed on National Television
The Washington St. Cougars arrived in Provo to face BYU with more notoriety than they’ve received since the Rose Bowl days during the early 2000s. Despite his ongoing defamation suit against the network, ESPN jumped at the chance to air Mike Leach’s return to the sidelines on national television to showcase his prolific Air Raid offense.
And what resulted was a 30-6 drubbing at the hands of the BYU Cougars.
When was the last time a Leach offense failed to score a touchdown in a game, you ask? In ten years at the helm of Texas Tech, Leach’s offenses only failed to score a touchdown in three games. Twice in 2000 — when he took over as head coach — and once again in 2006.
It was an unprecedented disappointment in one of the most hyped-up games in recent Washington State history.
The Mike Leach Effect
To be blatantly honest, there was hardly any affect on this game by Washington State’s new head man. The play-calling was questionable at best and the lack of overall flow to the offense was abysmal.
After a promising first drive was interrupted by a terrible throwing decision by Jeff Tuel, the wheels fell off the bus.
Rolling out to his right on 3 and 11, Tuel tried to hit Gabe Marks in double coverage. The ball was deflected in the air and intercepted to give BYU the early momentum. It was one of those, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING” type plays that WSU fans became accustomed to during the Wulff era.
So now you’re thinking … “But I thought Mike Leach was like, God, or something?”
BYU marched down the field on consecutive drives to take an early two-touchdown lead after touchdown passes from Riley Nelson and back-up quarterback, Tasom Hill.
And the rout was on.
Trailing 14-0, the offense continued to sputter, mustering just two field goals before halftime after stalling deep in BYU territory twice.
There were bright spots — believe it or not — but those “cheers” quickly turned into explicatives as WSU was called for penalty after penalty on big plays that could have dramatically changed the outcome of the game.
With just seconds to go before halftime, Tuel scrambled out of the pocket, lobbed a “please catch this” pass into triple-coverage to Marquess Wilson, who jumped up to make an acrobatic catch in the corner of the endzone.
As he fell to the ground, Wilson’s left foot managed to land in bounds for the touchdown but the play was called back on a John Fullington hold — which wasn’t really a hold but that’s just the way this game went for WSU.
Later in the game, already trailing by 24, Wilson hauled in a 46 yard bomb at the 3-yard line while being draped by two defenders.
Another hold by Fullington negated another promising drive mid-way through the third quarter which resulted in another WSU punt.
There were personal fouls, delay of games, and numerous holding calls amounting to seven penalties for 78-yards which seemed to come at the most critical times.
For how much Leach values special teams, they were disgustingly horrible. A terrible decision to bring the ball out of the endzone and a botched catch of the kickoff set the offense up with terrible field position (if that even mattered tonight).
The punting game. Oh, the punting game.
On two fourth downs it was very apparent that WSU was attempting to pull off a fake punt. The first occasion, muffed snap. The second occasion? Haha. Yeah, they blocked it. It was bad.
Where is the defense?
BYU racked up 426 yards of total offense and 303-yards through the air. Needless to say, there hasn’t been much improvement — at least after their first impression — from last season.
The defensive secondary seemed lost, the blitz packages resulted in absolutely no pressure on Nelson and BYU converted 10 of their 17 third-down conversions (1 for 1 on 4th down).
Time after time Nelson found his receivers underneath without a defender in sight, allowing his receivers to add on devastating yards after catch on nearly every possession. Nelson finished 25 of 36 for 285-yards and two touchdowns.
For a quarterback who is known more for his legs, the WSU defense made him look like the Heisman candidate he certainly isn’t.
On the other hand, Ioane Gauata and Toni Pole looked solid in the run game. Despite BYU rushing the ball 41 times, WSU gave up just 126 yards for just a 3.0 yards per rush average. A semi-promising statistic in an otherwise unfortunate performance as a defensive whole.
This game was a terrible start to the Mike Leach era. No rhythm — or even a glimmer of hope — on offense. The defense looked lost the majority of the game and the special teams looked very special.
So what does this mean going forward?
This isn’t the end of the road. No one is going to jump off of Leach’s pirate ship. We get to play Eastern Washington — who actually beat Idaho 20-3 tonight — next week in Pullman. The game is going to be a sellout and they’ll have a chance to refine their offense after looking at the tape this week – hopefully.
The offense was bad. That wasn’t supposed to happen. The defense was bad. That was supposed to happen. If you told me that WSUs defense would hold BYU to 30 points I would have assumed we won by 14.
But, that’s football and the cool thing about football is there’s always next week.
This isn’t the end of the road, Coug fans.
But I’ll be damned if we didn’t just take a U-turn back to point-A heading into week two.