Photo Credit; Colorado State football
A 50-24 road win that easily covered the -11 point spread for the Washington State Cougars (1-0) was exactly what the doctor ordered for the first game of the season. That 26 point margin came despite the fact that WSU had several lapses in ball security throughout the second and third quarter; while the defense went into autopilot throughout the middle of the fourth.
As a result of those defensive lapses late, Colorado State (0-1) was able to score more than 20 points for the first time in almost two years.
This was one of those games that was pretty clearly over early on when Wazzu scored its second touchdown of the game on a sharp pass from Cam Ward to new wideout Kyle Williams at the back of the end zone to make it 14-3.
Even though it was only a two score game at that point, there was very little resistance that the Rams had offered on the defensive side of the ball and their offense had been stuck in the muck that’s trapped everyone at Burning Man.
It feels stupid to declare a game over in the first quarter, particularly as a Washington State fan. But with how the defense had performed throughout the first half, it felt like a good chance that the Cougs had already put this one out of reach when they went into the locker room up 17-3 at the half.
The confirmation came when Jayden Hicks jumped a route in the flat to make a house call – side note he’s absolutely going to kill it in the NFL.
While the Cougs gave up 24 points, 21 of them came in the final frame when it seemed like the defense had zoned out…which led to some comical communication issues that did not left a clearly unamused Jake Dickert on the side lines.
What I liked
Outside of Lincoln Victor, this receiving core is full of guys that all came in via the transfer portal or recruiting this past off season. And while there were some who saw this turnover as a concern it was pretty clear from the get go that they were massive upgrades. There seemed to be more top end speed out of the receiver position in this game, which was combined with better hands and it made a huge difference for Cam Ward today.
What a difference a year makes, am I right?
Also, I want to give massive props to new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle tonight. In his first game with WSU he called plays that consistently put Ward in a better position to succeed with this offensive line tonight. That allowed him to time to find more receivers down field tonight than he had all of last season…which both Victor and Williams took advantage of.
What left me concerned
While I’m fully aware of the fact that it will take more than a year for Clay McGuire to undo the damage brought on the offensive line unit, I was still incredibly worried about how easily CSU was able to collapse the pocket at times and force Ward to use his athleticism. The Rams were able to generate a couple of fumbles off of those scrambles and that’s part of the reason it took a couple of defensive touchdowns for Washington State for the score to actually reflect the domination that Wazzu had shown on the field.
Also, I know it was late in a blow out, but the starting secondary’s communication issues in the last ten minutes absolutely drove me batty. There’s a ton of talent in the defensive backfield and they can not afford those kind of lapses.
What I’m keeping an eye on
The silence from the running backs in this game was worrying. Ward was Wazzu’s leading rusher by attempts and yards…which would be fine if the Cougs offense was different then the Air Raid. But, because it is the Air Raid, we’re left with the fact that Nakia Watson only had seven carries for 15 yards. Arbuckle does run a more “traditional” Air Raid, but the idea behind all of the five to seven yard passes (along with the routes in the flat) is that the line backers have to pull away from the line of scrimmage which opens up space for the running backs when they do get to carry the ball.
I just have to remind myself that it’s game one with a new offensive coordinator, and these kind of things are going to take time to iron out.
The bottom line
Washington State had a 26 point margin of victory where they were comfortably in control despite a lot of teachable moments…and I’ll take that every single road game please.