Well, so much for progress...
Just a week after playing their best game of the season, and taking Stanford down to the wire on the road, the Cougars got destroyed by a 3-5 Utah team 49-6 Saturday, in a game that was essentially over halfway through the second quarter.
The Cougars couldn't keep a balanced Utah attack out of the end zone all day while they also couldn't get their own offense on track, and it resulted in what was probably their worst overall performance of the season.The stats aren't as lopsided as the score might suggest, but the Cougars were simply outclassed in every aspect of the game. Maybe they had a hangover from the tough loss to Stanford, but the Cougars came out very slowly and couldn't tackle Utah running back John White as he scored three touchdowns in the first half and gave the Utes a 31-0 lead at halftime.
The Cougar defense that had been surprisingly decent all season, suddenly looked like the historically bad Paul Wulff era defenses that couldn't tackle or force a true freshman quarterback to throw an incompletion. The Utes preseason All-American running back White, finally looked like his 2011 form as he ripped through the Cougar defense and quarterback Travis Wilson threw only four incompletions on 21 attempts. On a day when many thought that the Cougars might be able to get their first conference win under Mike Leach, they couldn't stop one of the least dynamic offenses in the Pac-12.
Leach's offense also continued to disappoint, as the Cougars complete inability to run the ball even a little bit, resulted in them not being able to put any points on the board until there was only one second left in the game. The Cougars rely on their spread passing offense to keep them in games, but they will have a very tough time even keeping themselves competitive if they keep having -4 yard total rushing yard days like they did Saturday.
The Cougars running game deficiencies especially rear their ugly head in the red zone, as Jeff Tuel actually had a solid day through the air with, 232 yards, but struggled to punch the ball into the end zone. The Cougars will continue to have trouble getting into the end zone until they can at least make defenses think that they are a slight threat to run the ball.
The Utes have actually been fairly tough at home this season, as they are now 4-1 with their only loss being by 10 points to USC, but the way that they eviscerated the Cougars from the very start is alarming. Until this week, Leach's Cougars had actually done a good job of getting absolutely blown out like they would frequently under Wulff and that was a great thing for their psyche. Blow outs like the one that the Cougars suffered Saturday, and almost every week under Wulff, can not only destroy a season, but wear down players mentally.
Unfortunately for the Cougars the schedule doesn't get any easier from here, as they close out with three teams with winning records. It now appears that the Cougars only hope of salvaging anything in 2012 will be if they can upset Washington in the Apple Cup, and unfortunately for the Cougars, that was what everyone was thinking at this stage in Wulff's first year in Pullman too.