James Snook-US PRESSWIRE
The Cougars gutty comeback against UCLA has been overshadowed by the dismissal of Marquess Wilson and accusations against Mike Leach as the Cougars get ready for a game against Arizona State.
I'm just gonna be honest, as a Cougar fan and a college football blogger, I'm pretty tired of writing the same two stories each week when it comes to covering Washington State football. Basically, they are playing (Insert beatable opponent who seems unbeatable) who should beat them with ease, but if they find a spark and they can get their spread passing game going, you never know, they could upset a better team. This week's potential upset victim is Arizona State, an unbeatable giant that is 5-5 and have lost their last four games.
Since the Colorado game, I have been theorizing that the Cougars are bound to knock off someone they shouldn't just because of the simple odds of college football, but I am growing less confident that it will happen. Yes, they did just come back against one of the better teams in the conference and turn it into a one-possession game, but it seemed like that was more because UCLA built a comfortable lead and wanted to just go home and get out of the 19 degree weather. As encouraging as taking UCLA to the wire is, it doesn't mask the fact that the season is pretty much a disaster at this point - both on and off the field.
On the field the Cougars are likely headed towards a winless Pac-12 season after showing some signs of improvement in the last two seasons and are so completely one dimensional that they are extremely easy to game plan against. The Cougars actually haven't won a conference game in over a year, when they ironically beat a Sun Devil team that was in a tailspin in chilly Pullman and barring a miracle, I don't see that changing.
The scariest thing for Cougar fans is that as bad as things look on the field right now, they might actually be worse off-the-field. Mike Leach is basically being accused of what got him fired at his previous job where he basically was the program, during his first season in Pullman. This is one those things that hopefully just makes the story of how Leach returned the Cougars to respectability more interesting when you look back on it, but that is some serious wishful thinking. Right now it looks more like a red flag that might show why Leach spent two seasons out of coaching and was passed over for other jobs in recent years, including the one in Seattle.
While the controversy surrounding Marquess Wilson isn't as troubling, as big of a story nationally, it might be a bad sign of a coach who refuses to compromise and isn't in touch with the modern college athlete. A cancerous player can in fact infect an entire team and take them down with them, but the Cougars will win at most, just as many games as they did last year when Wilson was the team's centerpiece, so how much was a potential negative aura around him affecting the team? And how hard would it have been for Leach to just work with Wilson for one year and then kindly nudge him towards declaring for the NFL draft at the end of the year?
The beauty of college football though is that no matter what off-the-field issues get discussed this week, there is still going to be a game in Tempe on Saturday and if the Cougars do the impossible (Yes, I am describing beating a 5-5 team as "the impossible") and win, Cougar fans will suddenly be speculating about a potential follow-up upset in the Apple Cup and a strong finish to the season spurred by the comeback against UCLA.