It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash., Cougar Nation was buzzing about the prospects of their Washington State Cougars playing football in Martin Stadium. Stands were packed with fans in crimson gear enjoying a spectacular fall day in the sun, one that couldn't be matched anywhere else.
Coming off a decisive win over Portland State, the excitement and anticipation for the opening kickoff between the Cougs and Oregon was palpable.
Heck, Cougar Nation was giddy, believing that they have waited long enough for the much-needed turnaround of the football program at WSU.
It seemed time to put the memory of the past three seasons of mediocrity behind.
Coach Paul Wulff and his staff enjoyed a positive week of practice and instilled confidence in so many. The Cougs were going to post back-to-back wins, ignoring the fact that they were three-touchdown underdogs in their house!
That's what Cougar Nation was hearing—OK, that's what Cougar Nation wanted to hear. More of that winning thing, please.
By the time the final gun sounded to complete a 60-minute total dismantling of the Cougs by Coach Mike Bellotti and the Ducks, only the stout-hearted witnessed Marshall Lobbestael engineering a second touchdown drive that narrowed the final margin of victory to a mere 49 points. Yikes!
Oregon's defeat of Washington State in front of a Homecoming crowd looks even worse than the final margin of victory when you factor in the play calling of the Ducks. Coach Bellotti didn't even go 10 pages deep into his playbook. Didn't have to. His offensive line completely controlled the line of scrimmage.
When a Coug lineman managed to play off a block, he missed the tackle. If this game were a midterm exam, the defensive line didn't flunk the test because they didn't even show up. Give them an "incomplete."
The Cougar defense was trying to shoot down the Ducks with water pistols. That's right. Water pistols. You think Ducks don't like water?
In the midst of the hard times Cougar football has fallen on, there are some curious characteristics of this team that stand out.
Anyone who watched at least the first three quarters of the game Saturday couldn't have missed the fine play by Lobbestael. Forget the few mistakes the redshirt freshman made. He played a darn good game despite the situation his team found itself in just about three minutes into the first quarter.
There wasn't the usual fatigue shown by a first-time starter after being hammered again and again by onrushing linemen and linebackers. No, Lobbestael played with competitive fire until he led his teammates off the field at the end of the game.
Make no mistake, Lobbestael looks like the future of Cougar offensive football. The homework he did preparing for the game paid off if you look at his performance in the context of the present state of WSU football.
Did anyone notice that instead of standing on the sidelines Sunday for an NFL team, Cougar wide receiver Brandon Gibson was playing like the All-American candidate he is?
Gibson is a reminder of some of the best players to come through WSU. He is a talented athlete who plays with tremendous passion. The impact Gibson is having on this team will be felt not just this season, but in years to come.
This guy loves the game and loves his university, and it shows. That's contagious stuff. Period.
The best of Cougar football is on the horizon.
The worst of Cougar football is right in front of us.
Can Coach Wulff and his staff mold a team that will put the current state of Cougar football in the rear-view mirror?
Perhaps we'll find out if a corner has been turned next weekend.
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