Washington State's Final Football Friday of 2008

Lew WrightSenior Writer INovember 28, 2008

All across Cougar Nation, a euphoric feeling prevails as a result of a season-salvaging win against cross-state rival Washington in the Apple Cup game last Saturday.

WSU fans might redefine shameless pride as they don their crimson and gray today as part of the time-honored tradition known as Football Friday.

There are no limitations on the collective memories of Cougs.

Forgotten is the reality of losing 10 out of 11 games before earning a second victory in 2008.

Second-guessing the wisdom of first year Coach Paul Wulff has abruptly halted.  After all, the man is a football genius.  He was able to lead WSU to victory over a Pac-10 opponent with an offense that exhibits creativity comparable to the fashion designer responsible for IBM's corporate dress code of the 20th century.

But wait...

The Cougs have a 13-game schedule this season. "What?" you might be asking.  There is a very simple word to describe why Washington State will be playing 13 football games this season: money.

But who cares?

Cougs have the opportunity to strut their stuff here, there, and everywhere for at least one more day.

Coach Wulff and the team are already enjoying the warm weather and hospitality of the 50th state, Hawaii. Yes, that's the way to wrap up a season—a non-conference game in Hawaii.

Coming into the game Saturday afternoon on the artificial turf of Aloha Stadium, the game between the host Hawaii Warriors and the WSU Cougars might be the epic mismatch of the college football season.

Hawaii hasn't changed much since the departure of Coach June Jones, an offensive guru who mentored some fine athletes into quarterback legends and record breakers under his tutelage.  Coach Greg McMackin has this Warriors putting up sick numbers on the scoreboard.

The Warriors are 6-5 on the season.  Three of their losses have come at the hands of some of the top teams in the nation: Florida, Oregon State, and Boise State.  Their other two defeats were handed to them by pretty good opponents in San Jose State and Utah State.

In their last two wins, Hawaii has put a combined 90+ points on the board.

Looking at the defense, Coach McMackin's players have given up the numbers you'd expect from a team that runs a passing attack.  Passing attacks score touchdowns but tend not to use much of the clock in the process.  That obviously puts a burden on the defense by letting them spend little time resting between possessions.

So can WSU put together a two-game winning streak?

That question will be answered by just how much the Coug players have learned over the past couple of months.  If they know that focus and intensity will translate into victory, lessons learned.

Kevin Lopina will probably get the start at quarterback.  The fleet-footed junior has not impressed anyone with his passing skills.  He threw one deep ball against the Huskies last week.  It was hauled in on a great effort by true freshman Jared Karstetter. That completion put the Cougs back in the game, eventually winning in double OT.

True freshman J.T. Levenseller didn't take one snap during the Apple Cup. Levenseller has shown that he "might" be able to throw the football downfield. We don't really know how successful he can be with his big arm because of very limited playing time. If that changes in this final game, the look of the Cougar offense might change as well.

Last week the Cougar defense was excellent at bending but not breaking. Their effort dredged up recollections of WSU defenses which were the foundation to 10-win seasons. Yes, that was the norm at the beginning of this millennium. Remember?

This game is intriguing.  When you look at the teams on paper, this one should be an easy win for Hawaii.  A short week of practice, long travel for a road game, and the time change play against the Cougs.  If those factors weren't part of the equation, it wouldn't make much difference when projecting a winner.

Emotion and Cougar Pride.

Should the players be able to tap into the intensity that had them playing good football last week, they will have every chance of winning.

If Cougar players have discovered what Cougar Pride truly means, they will have every chance of winning.

A two-game winning streak would be a nice way to head into the offseason.


For Pac-10 previews and predictions, check out:

Tom Kessler