The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Cougs blew out Colorado, leaving even more questions about recent performances

WSU builds momentum heading into Apple Cup
Cam+Ward+runs+at+the+10-yard+line+as+he+looks+to+score+on+the+ground%2C+Nov.+17%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.+
BRANDON WILLMAN
Cam Ward runs at the 10-yard line as he looks to score on the ground, Nov. 17, in Pullman, Wash.

Six straight losses, the season seemed all but completely over. A 4-6 record with two tough opponents left on the schedule standing between the Cougs and a guaranteed spot in a bowl game. First, it was Colorado at home on national TV, then it would be the Apple Cup one week later. A loss to the Buffs would be the end of the season, but a win would keep them alive.

Final from Pullman: WSU 56-14 Colorado. Pure domination for 60 minutes got the Cougs their fifth win to improve their record to 5-6. WSU gained 469 yards of total offense in the win, scoring three rushing TDs and two passing TDs. Defensively, the Cougs scored two defensive TDs and tallied nine tackles for loss and five sacks. The defense even intercepted one pass. 

Maybe it was the fact that it was senior night. Maybe the Cougs were just that tired of losing. Regardless, in all three levels, they put on a show. 

Over their six straight weeks of losing, there was one facet of the team that struggled. Some weeks it was the offense, some the defense and several times, it was both. But against Colorado, all three levels worked in unison for the domination fans saw on the field. 

In their six losses, the Cougs averaged 346 yards of offense, their worst coming in their first loss to UCLA, where they managed just 216 total yards. Against Stanford and Arizona, they did not fare much better, getting just 245 and 234 yards, respectively. 

Throughout those games, they went just 23-of-80 on their third-down attempts (29%), an incredibly inefficient mark that proved that even when they were gaining yards, they could not get it done in the clutch. Defensively, they managed 30 tackles for loss and nine sacks. 

They had no momentum going into their battle with Colorado. Even with the Buffaloes riding their own four-game losing streak, they had better performances in their losses. 

However, it did not stop the Cougs from going all out, looking like the same team that was once ranked No. 13 in the country and had two top-25 wins under their belt. Nakia Watson averaged 5.9 yards per carry, Cam Ward threw for 288 yards and had four total TDs (two passing, two rushing), the defense had two TDs. Their 469 yards of offense was far more in line with their other wins.

In their four wins to begin the season, the offense was electric and the defense backed up their momentum. In the wins, they averaged 532.75 yards of offense, their best coming against Northern Colorado, where they gained 715 yards and against Oregon State, where they had 528 against a ranked Beavers squad. Against Colorado, the Cougs converted 6-of-11 third-down conversions (55%).

In their four wins at the beginning of the season, they went 32-of-53 (60%). As for their defense, they had 19 tackles for loss in the wins and eight sacks, both impressive marks in the sample size. 

It may have taken six games, but the Cougs are back. It was a turnaround that not many expected, making their stretch of losses even more confusing. However, the thing about those losses is that they were not all blowout defeats like their 44-6 loss to Arizona. 

Against Cal, WSU had several opportunities to defeat the Golden Bears in their eventual 42-39 loss. Against Stanford, a lack of offense in the rain catapulted them into a 10-7 loss. Against UCLA, offensive struggles highlighted their 25-17 defeat.

But against Colorado, the offense looked world-class. 

What is the key for the 2023 football team? From an outside perspective, it is the defense giving the offense position beyond their own 30, limiting the number of times that the Cougs will potentially be faced with a third-down conversion. 

The offense operates their best on first and second down, dominating in the short to medium passing downs. 

If the offense is one, all they need to do is force field goals. Against Colorado, the two teams both sat around an equal 30 minutes of possession. WSU’s offense performed well no matter the amount of times between their drives. 

All of the 2023 season has been up and down. One more up is needed as the Cougs gear up for one more traditional Pac-12 rival edition Apple Cup.

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.