The win that the Cougars needed to jumpstart their dead battery of a season was right in front of them for three and a half quarters in Corvallis on Saturday. The Beavers politely left the door open over and over again but the Cougars repeatedly shut it for them by forgetting to not throw against one of the best cornerbacks in the conference.
All losses hurt, but this one might sting more than others for the Cougars because they stuck to the script to pull off the upset most of the game - picking off Sean Mannion and making him look like his 2011 self, hitting some deep pass plays and keeping it a low-scoring game - but just couldn't capitalize. It shouldn't be a shock at this point, but what was seen as one of the Cougars strengths heading into the season hurt them again, as their two prolific quarterbacks pushed just a little too hard and ended up literally throwing away a winnable game.
It almost seemed surreal when Jordan Poyer grabbed his third interception late in the fourth quarter and sealed the deal, but with how recklessly the Cougar quarterbacks have tossed the ball around this season, it shouldn't have. Leach's offenses might be famous for passing the ball up and down the field, but people forget just how controlled and disciplined his quarterbacks were at Texas Tech. So far at WSU his quarterbacks have seemed to also forget about this and try to force plays that aren't there on a regular basis.
This season has been shocking in the fact that the Cougar defense has actually given them the small chance to be competitive in the games that they have lost, but have they have struggled to compete due to the inefficiency of their offense and Saturday's game was a perfect example. The defense was able to intercept Mannion 3 times and sack him just as many times while also slowing Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew on the ground, but the offense simply couldn't put points on the board and stop themselves from giving the ball right back.
In most cases, a 2-4 team take should be able to take solace in the fact that they were within a touchdown of tying up a ranked opponent in the fourth quarter on the road, but unfortunately for Leach and the Cougars, their fan base is growing tired of moral victories. The Cougars were making progress and putting moral victories under their belt regularly under Paul Wulff and they hoped that they might be able to put the days of tempered expectations behind them when they hired Leach for a hefty sum. While most thought that Leach would be able to use the base that Wulff built up in his last year in Pullman to help the Cougars take the next step, it is starting to look like they are building from scratch again much like they did under Wulff in 2008.
The slow start has once again tempered expectations in 2012, but the Cougars will have to find a way to win a couple of the games left on their schedule to make sure that Leach's pirate ship doesn't start to take on water out on the Palouse.