So back to thinking about our opponents for this weekend. A pumped Washington State Cougars team coming off a huge win against the Oregon Ducks team will be coming into the Rose Bowl. And some of their fans are actually thinking about the Holiday Bowl. In case you didn't have a chance to read it, here are the statistical matchups between Cougars and Bruins. Also, found this decent pre-season preview from ESPN U, which gives us some more background on the Cougars (note how their highlight reel from '05 is made up from the game against UCLA before DO and MJD did their their magic lol):
Now a couple of notes.
First, the red shirt freshman running back, Demaundray Woolridge per CBS Sportsline, has been struggling this season after bruising his thigh in the first game. In his place, another red shirt freshman, RB Dwight Tardy, has picked up the slack quite a bit as he rushed for 145 yards against the Ducks.
On the defensive side, as the preview showed, DE Mkristo Bruce got the most attention coming into this season. Bruce is still leading the team with 10 sacks. But, he has gotten double teamed a lot. And his team-mate DE Lance Broadus has stepped up in the meantime, coming through with 5.5 sacks himself. So expect those two to be going after Cowan a lot this Saturday.
Meanwhile, back on the offensive side, we can fully expect our defense to bottle up the Cougar rushing attack. So it will really come down the play of Alex Brink. Here is Cougar blogger "Brinkhater" on the confidence of Mr. Brink:
Now, without invoking the ire of all of his fan club of three (as compared to my army of ONE), here are some pretty plain facts surrounding Mr. Alex:
1) His arm strength is too weak to beat elite competition.
2) He is MUCH better and effective when he has a running game.
3) He has NOT played with much confidence during his entire tenure with the program.
(I am BEGGING you all to stay with me here)
Now, I know that some of you are gonna argue about claim #1, but that point is really irrelevant because we aren't going to play anyone who is elite the rest of the way. So let's move on.
Point #2 is going to be of premium concern--at least for this weekend--because the Shmuck's run defense was TERRIBLE and you, me, and America know that UCLA's game plan is going to be to stop the run and play the "beat me Brink" game all day and night.
Which brings me to point #3: THE CONFIDENCE GAME.
When you look back on Alex's career objectively, he really hasn't had an opportunity to develop confidence not only as a QB, but as a leader. Consider:
Year 1: He inherits the job and gets bombed against the Beavs and SC. He recovers to play VERY well in the upset @ UCLA, then gets bombed against ASU, then plays well against a 1-10 UW team. Then, he heads into offseason competition with Swogs--the team's Captain.
Year 2: He wins job over Swogs and plays well in first three games. He then throws 900 picks against the Beavs (along with 7,000 yards) and the rest is history: despite a 1900 yard running back, we lose 7 straight (and we KNOW that the locker room was divided on him and Swogs). He doesn't fold, but the confidence just isn't high. THEN, he leads us to victory, on the road, against the Huskies. As this blog attests, I thought he broke through at that point. But then:
Year 3: He starts the year by playing HORRIBLY against Auburn. With the exception of SC, his limitations, the boo-birds, and the potential promise of Rogers just rattle Brink's cage to the bone. Mind you, all this time you see quotes that look like confidence from Brink, but really they are brash, arrogant comments from a really insecure kid (case-in-point following the Auburn loss, he says that was his "first" bad game.....) On top of that, Brink can't beat any of the elite. Hell, he can't beat ANYONE with a winning record. Plus, now the team can't score in the redzone.....BUT THEN,
A BREAK THROUGH.
This time, though, there is no offseason to stop the momentum like last year following the Huskies. Moreover, this breakthrough came with an injured J. Hill and without Cody Boyd. And, while it did not come against an Elite Team, it came against a RANKED team. And, this breakthrough was all about Brink.
Now, I still contend that Brink can not and will not beat anyone who is elite, but, again, he just doesn't have to now. And Brinkhater is now of the mind that Alex has stepped out and is now ready to play his game of efficiency and savy with the utmost success and results.
We expect our boys to crush and annihilate the Cougars this weekend.