An apology to WSU football

If you regularly read the Daily Evergreen, you may have noticed a rather harsh piece written about the Washington State Cougar Football team that was published earlier this year.

As the author, I admit that I ripped into the team maybe a little more than I should have. Especially considering it was so early in the season. But this was fresh off the loss to Portland State, and we can all agree that things looked pretty bleak at that point.

Although I would argue the column was more of an endorsement of WSU Soccer than it was an attack on the football program, I can understand how some people (manily members of the football team) may have taken offense to the column.

I admit that stories like the one I wrote, stories that call out teams for their poor performances, are part of the reason athletes and coaches have a tumultuous relationship with the media. We can only write about what we see and what we hear, and that is limited to the field, the court or in the media rooms. We never know what goes on behind the scenes, and that can have a lot of influence on wins and losses.

Since then, the Cougar football team has made me eat my words. I usually have a hard time admitting when I am wrong, but in this case I feel it is only right to do so.

Since that opening loss to Portland State, WSU has gone 5-1 and has looked like a serious threat in the Pac-12. The team is far from perfect, but they have the players and the system to be successful in this conference.

So I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the WSU football team. And there are a few people I want to direct this apology toward.

To sophomore quarterback Luke Falk, I am sorry I didn’t believe in you like I should have. Coming off of your performances last season, I had high hopes for the kind of player you could become.

But the offense looked anemic in the Portland State game, even though you threw for a respectable 289 yards and two touchdowns. As the quarterback and leader of the offense I felt the blame should be placed on your shoulders, and that was unfair.

Since then you have exploded for 2,596 yards and 24 touchdowns, breaking a couple records and picking up two Pac-12 player of the week honors. It’s safe to say you are the real deal and I am once again excited to see where you can take this team.

To Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch, I am sorry I wrote you off as unqualified and in over your head. After the Vikings ran all over your squad to the tune of 258 yards, I had terrifying visions of what Pac-12 offenses would do to the Cougar defense. I foolishly assumed that WSU wouldn’t be able to stop anyone, and that the team would constantly be playing from behind.

Even though there is still room for improvement on the defensive side, your players have executed so much better since Week 1. And a lot of the credit has to go to you and your coaching staff. Your guys are playing fast and physical, and those are keys to winning games in this conference.

And finally, to Head Coach Mike Leach. You probably didn’t read my other column, just as I assume you avoid most stories and reports about you and your team. You don’t strike me as a coach who takes it personally when journalists question your skills as a coach. But, I still feel like I should apologize for questioning you like I did.

Myself, other writers, and the WSU fan base were frustrated with how the team had progressed over the years, just as I’m sure you have been. I realize now that building a winning program and a winning culture takes time, and the journey to success is not always pretty.

And now more than ever, I realize that I will probably never be as qualified or as knowledgeable as you when it comes to coaching, and I should just let you do your job.

Now that the team is more successful than it has been in years we are all back to praising your offensive schemes. Your team has the skills and confidence it needs to compete with any team in the country for four quarters. That’s more than a lot of programs can say, and for that you should be acknowledged.

There are still a lot of games to be played, and this hype train could be derailed quickly by a few bad losses. But the team has really turned things around since Week 1, and the future looks to be bright for the football program.

And with Stanford coming to town this weekend and a major stake to be claimed in the Pac-12 North, I think it’s time the local media give WSU some credit for what it has accomplished. So go out this weekend and play hard like you have been, and keep that chip on your shoulder.

I apologize for ever doubting you, and I hope you keep proving me wrong.