Another weak opponent means another Cougar blowout. No offense to the Vandals from Moscow but the teams from the WAC are nothing compared to those of the Pac-12. A 42-0 beat down from the Cougars is what I and many others expected. However, maybe not in that fashion. The Cougars recorded their first shutout win since 2003 and their first home shutout since 1999. The competition ramps up as the Cougars will the Top 3 finishers of the Pac-12 North (Stanford, Oregon State, and Oregon) in the next four weeks. The very pass happy and explosive California Bears team is the other team in that four week period. The test begins with the Seattle Game against Stanford. However, the Cougars have plenty of optimism going into it.
Reasons for Optimism
The impressive tackling display by the Cougars continued on through this week. There were plenty of solo, open field tackles the Cougars made this game that they would have missed Week 1. Led by Darryl Monroe, the Cougars linebackers were making the tackles that needed to be made and it shows with the scoreboard showing the Vandals with zero points.
Finishing the Game/ Playing until the Clock hits Zero
It was great watching the Cougars holding the fort when it was 1st and goal on the Cougars' 3-yard line. For four consecutive plays, the Cougars held the Vandals from scoring a single point. This may seem small outside the Palouse and it means more than the first shutout in a decade. This four down stand shows the change in philosophy from Paul Wulff to Mike Leach. The players were still playing hard. They took pride in keeping the Vandals scoreless. How easy it could have been to concede that touchdown, but the players would have none of it.
Some life in Running
It is clear Leach would rather run a screen play than hand the ball off to the runningback. This is a fine philosophy as long as when you do run it, you run it with some efficiency. The Cougars averaged 4.7 yards rushing on 15 attempts this game. The magic number for yards per rush is 4.0 (on average, every three runs means a first down). The Cougars were over this mark so it is a success in my book.
Explosive Receiving Depth
Last week, Dom Williams was the star receiver for the Cougars. This weekend, it was Gabe Marks with 11 receptions for 146 yards receiving. If nobody has notice, they now know the Cougars have a deep and lethal receiving group. There are three receivers with big play potential (D. Williams, G. Marks, and Bobby Ratliff) and the remainder of the group catch the ball like glue is on their hands. Also, the runningbacks are always threats out of the backfield. 11 different players registered one reception on Saturday.
Reasons for Concern
This game could have been 7-0 within the first 2 minutes of the game. Idaho forgot to line someone p against receiver Isiah Myers as the Cougars set up for the play. Myers was wide open 15 yards down the field and Connor Halliday overthrew him. The offense also committed four turnover; two fumbles and two interceptions. The Cougars a very lucky the Vandals are not a very good team. Other teams would find ways to convert those turnovers to points. In order to beat Stanford, the Cougars must take of the ball better and capitalize on mistakes by an opponent.
Shades of Bad Halliday
I know Connor Halliday had a good game but there were a few signs of bad Halliday (from Weeks 1-2) reappearing. He threw two interceptions by trying to force the bad into an area heavily covered with Vandals players. There were also more inaccurate throws although his stats do not show that. Some of his receivers made nice catches Saturday and bailed him out. If the Cougars want to make a bowl game or even be competitive in the Pac-12, Halliday needs to play crisp and smart.