Washington, Washington State didn't live up to hype in openers
Huskies, Cougars fell flat in season-opening losses at Brigham Young, Oklahoma State.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
The first leaf hasn't begun turning brown, and here's where we are:
We've been had. You've been had.
Other people around college football are "hoo-rayin' it up," as Gary Payton used to say, and here we are, moping around with the old familiar themes:
The Huskies can't win a game on the road — a problem, inasmuch as all the games aren't played at home. The Cougars can't keep anybody under 60.
True, it's one game. Let's not go overboard. But I feel like I just ordered over the Internet a fine teakwood deck chair and what showed up was a cheap, dented aluminum thing with frayed plastic slats.
I can't recall an opening weekend in our state where the performance was so mismatched with the fall-camp buildup.
At Washington, Steve Sarkisian, the UW coach, said at his first August news conference, "Let's go win a championship." When camp ended, he said, "I love where we're at."
There seemed to be momentum — last season's finish, Jake Locker's return, a year in the system.
People were writing songs about Washington. The College GameDay crew was convinced enough to pick the Huskies over Brigham Young unanimously.
Meanwhile, at Pac-10 media day, WSU's Paul Wulff talked about a "dramatic improvement" coming to his squad.
"I really believe you'll see a surprise team at Washington State," he said. "We're going to take a big step."
Then the games started.
Like last year, the Huskies bothered somebody on the road — a BYU team picked to finish third in the Mountain West — but weren't good enough to win it. Like last year, the Cougars got flattened.
The Times has implemented a "Truth Needle" to vet the hyperbole of political candidates. Where's a Truth Needle when you need one in fall camp?
This week, I asked Sarkisian about his earlier optimism.
"I still feel very optimistic," he said. He went on to detail the difficulty of playing at a perennially successful team's venue and noted the Huskies were still poised to pull it out in the final moments.
"BYU played a perfect ballgame," he said. "They really didn't make a mistake."
The same day, Wulff said the Cougars did "quite a few things that we've not done in a long time" in the 65-17 loss at Oklahoma State. He mentioned eight "explosive" plays of 16 yards passing or 12 yards running, three times when WSU's punt-cover team spilled the OSU return man for a negative return, being more physical up front.
And still, 65-17.
Sometimes coaches of downtrodden programs try to speed the recovery process along by being upbeat, hoping to infuse in their guys some positive energy. No doubt Sark and Wulff have done some of that.
Is there a media component to this as well? Without question. Separating the fluff from the facts is often a challenge unmet.
Both UW and WSU have 11 games to make it right. One way to do that, Wulff said, is to keep from beating oneself.
"Like I tell our players, more people lose games than win games," he said.
In our state, we know that only too well.
Washington State lost two running backs for the season in the first half last week, including fullback Jared Byers, whose knee was caved in as he stretched for a swing pass.
Wulff was displeased with the hit on Byers' knee, saying he suffered a posterior-cruciate ligament tear and that he came close to a career-ending dislocation.
Said Wulff, "I'm not here to say anything negative about their player and what they did," but he added, "especially when guys are coming out of the backfield and their backs are turned, we try to get our (defenders) to stay up high."
And what's more ...
• Hardly anything is as dependable as UCLA K Kai Forbath, who has hit 40 straight field goals inside the 50. He's 12 shy of the NCAA career record of 87.
• Oregon coach Chip Kelly says the Ducks have practiced in 85-degree heat and 65-percent humidity — in their indoor practice facility — to prepare for Tennessee on Saturday.
• The Oregonian reported that Cowboys Stadium, where Oregon State played Texas Christian, gets an average 5,000 visitors a day at $17 apiece.
• USC's touted freshman RB Dillon Baxter returns this week against Virginia after a one-game suspension that L.A. newspapers linked to an early-morning incident involving marijuana during fall camp.
• UCLA QB Kevin Prince has missed time this week with a sore shoulder, after sitting out an entire fall camp with a back-muscle pull.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 206-464-8281
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.