It's always darkest before sunrise. Or so somebody at some point said to make depressed people feel better. It's not working for me, but I thought I'd try it out. It's not cheering you up either, is it?
The only thing that'll cheer any of us after last Saturday's debacling debacle (which debacled quite debaclingly!) is a win. Fortunately, Cal faces off against one of the worst Pac-12 teams of the last 5 years: Washington State. Unfortunately, Washington State appears to be slowly coming back to life. This past week, they lost to Oregon far better than we lost to Oregon (is that a correct English sentence?). They only lost 43-28! That's superior than our 43-15 loss!
So, basically, all hope is lost and it's time to jump on the St. Louis Cardinals bandwagon! I think they could go places this year! That Tony La Russa kid has moxie! Also, elbow grease. So, while we wait to see if the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs, we decided to at least talk with SBNation's Cougar Experts, CougCenter. They have all the info you need to know about Washington State for this weekend. It used to be we could count on the WSU game for a good 66-3 laugher. It used to be that Jahvid Best would rush for approximately 45,000 yards in the first quarter and then be benched for the rest of the games. Now, it takes an amazing Jeremy Ross 20 yard reception to barely beat the Cougs.
Cal fans now feel like these are two teams passing in the night. While WSU slowly develops talent and finally wakes up, it seems like Cal's role in the Pac-12 is diminishing. But this weekend is Cal's chance to put the disaster of UCLA behind us, get a solid win, and try to build for some kind of future. Let's see what CougCenter says about this weekend's pillow fight after the jump. And remember, no matter what happens on the field, GO BEARS!
1. How terrified should we be of the Lobster?
Lobsters are pretty terrifying, actually. I remember when I was 10-years-old. My family went to Hawaii, and my dad let me pick out the Lobsters we were going to have for dinner that night. I thought it was weird because, who cares, right? It's already dead, so what difference does it ohmygodit'sstillalive? This is awesome. Thanks, dad.
Anyway, I picked two, and asked why they had such thick rubber bands around the claws. Then my dad told me, with a straight face, "Lobsters kill more people per year than sharks. If they didn't have these rubber bands, we'd all be dead right now." Ever since that fateful day, I have been terrified of Lobsters.
(Oh, wait, you meant Marshall Lobbastael? Eeesh. Don't be afraid. He's not very good. He short hops passes, has a weak arm, and is super immobile. He has a pretty good grasp of the offense, and is fine at making check downs, but other than that? Not much to be worried about. His passing yardage is really, really misleading.)
2. Has the WSU defense improved at all this year?
Improved? Well, yes. But last year's defense was horrendous, so saying they've improved is basically saying they're no longer the worst defense in the nation. The secondary has moments of looking good, followed by (many more) moments of looking awful. Sophomore CB Damante Horton has four interceptions in the last four games (including one returned for a TD), but as we've discussed at CougCenter, three of the four were a result of him getting beat and the QB making a bad throw, rather than him being in position to pick off a pass. I guess it's better to be lucky than good, though.
Travis Long is really the only consistent pass rush up front, and all I really hope for from the LBs are not letting a pile of Cal players push the ball carrier 15 yards down field. Again.
3. Oregon scored two TDs against you on special teams. Has WSU consistently had special teams issues this season?
Asking if the WSU Special Teams has consistently had issues is like asking if Aaron Rodgers is consistently awesome. The answer is pretty clear. Our ST is awful. We lost one of the best punters in school history when Reid Forrest graduated, and we haven't had a good kicker since the Clinton administration. Andrew Furney may look like a FB, but I promise he's actually our kicker. His kick-offs have already made me an alcoholic. In terms of kick returns, though, Isiah Barton has been fantastic. Our punt return game is non existent, and our punter is a former backup QB. So ... yeah. (*takes shot of Sailor Jerry's*)
4. How are the fans and administration feeling about Wulff? Will he last another year?
Leading into the Oregon State game, I think people were still on board. After that debacle, however, the mood changed significantly. We've been big proponents of bringing back Wulff because of the job he's done changing the culture in Pullman, but at some point, that has to translate into more than just moral victories. If we're still laying eggs to teams like OSU at a supposed home game, that's a huge step backwards. I was never on the "bowl game or bust" train, because I think people are overestimating our overall talent level, but I just wanted to be competitive and close in each game (save Oregon and Stanford). We played well at Oregon, despite the final score. If we wind up losing this weekend by 2 or 3 TDs, everyone will completely jump off a cliff (if they haven't already). I still think Cal wins, but I think it's a FG or single TD game. For the sake of my liver, I hope we don't get blown out.
5. Who is the player that Cal fans haven't heard of whose name we'll know by the end of Saturday on offense? Same question for defense?
Carl Winston has been a pleasant surprise at RB, but since our strength is in the passing game, I'll go with Isiah Barton. He's surpassed Jared Karstetter as the #2 WR behind budding superstar Marquess Wilson, and he's pretty good in the slot. As far as the defensive side of the ball, I'm not sure there's one guy that Cal fans haven't heard of who is making an impact. I previously mentioned Damante Horton, but I think his recent string of games with an INT isn't necessarily an indication of his actual play, and more of his affinity to be in the right place at the right time (and some poor decisions by the opposing QB). Casey Locker, cousin of former UW QB Jake, is a hard hitting safety who is quickly getting a reputation for personal fouls. He knocked Stanford WR Chris Owusu out of the game on a play that probably should have been penalized but wasn't. Since then, he's been flagged on two clean hits below the shoulders. Pac 12 referees everybody!
6.What are your expectations on how WSU finishes the season?
Well obviously we crush Cal. I mean, I don't even expect the Golden Bears to score. It'll be an easy victory. ASU is coached by Dennis Erickson, so he'll probably leave for another job before we even play. Utah looks mightily lost in the Pac 12, and UW wears purple. So I think it's pretty clear we're going undefeated the rest of the way.
7. Why the hell should we believe we can win this game?
Because we're pretty bad.
8. Which fanbase do you think is feeling more cynical and pessimistic about their team at this point of the season?
Oh, wait, pessimistic? I thought you said unreasonable with an extremely hilarious case of false entitlement. In that case, I'll say WSU. After every game, twitter erupts with knee-jerk, short-sighted reactions. Every time a screen pass gets called (or more likely, gets checked down to) people scream "FIRE TODD STURDY" as if he's the reason we suck.
Coug fans either think everything is the worst and the sky is falling, or they're super delusional and claim they "have a good feeling" about this week against Oregon at Oregon because they saw 10 minutes of practice. Sometimes I feel like people completely disregard rationality because, hey, why rely on logic when you can be hyperbolic and reactionary?
9. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Jim Walden. Softy. Brock Huard. Everyone on twitter.