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October 10, 2010
The Cougar Lounge - The Lost Year
"We've been doing that pretty much all year, we've been losing points."
- Wazzu head volleyball coach Andrew Palileo, after the Cougars appeared to have the first set won on the road against rival Washington, only to give points and the set away to the Huskies.
"We gave a subpar performance and that is disappointing."
- Wazzu head soccer coach Matt Potter, after the Cougars lost their Pac-10 conference opener, 1-0, to Arizona State - and could only muster one shot on goal for the entire match.
"It always helps when you've played a team before to understand how good they are."
- Wazzu head men's hoop coach Ken Bone talking about the rematch with powerful Kansas State in Pullman this year.
"She's always like 'Can you ever just do a movie where you live to see the credits?'"
- Bellingham-born actress Hilary Swank relaying one of her mother's concerns with her movies [though she does "live" to see the credits in her latest flick Conviction].
The chants of the nuns were appeased last week as the Washington State Cougar football team played an inspired game - probably their best game of the year to date - and only lost to Oregon by 20 points at home. While that might not seem like a cause for fireworks and celebration in a normal world, the Cougar football program can hardly be said to have inhabited a normal world over the last three years. In their world, 20-point home losses are an improvement - especially when they come against what is soon to be the second-ranked team in the nation. Unfortunately, for them - and the entire athletic department - it is still a loss, it is one of many losses incurred so far in the 2010 season by not only them but also the Cougar soccer and volleyball programs. The Cougar football team sits at 1-5 on the year while the soccer team is 5-7 and the volleyball squad is 6-9 - not a winning record in the bunch and not one is expected from the trio as all three are mired in various stages of their rebuilding projects. Essentially, for the autumn sports at Wazzu, 2010 amounts to a lost year.
However, there is good news for Cougar fans and well-wishers. All three programs have the appearance of hope in the future. The soccer program looks the closest to achieving it as their freshman/sophomore-dominated squad has already won enough matches to put them close to a winning season. It is unlikely the Cougars will be going to their third consecutive NCAA tournament this year but next year - barring injuries and unforeseen circumstances - Wazzu will be looking primed for another NCAA run. Volleyball is in the same general vicinity but a little farther away. In that sport, the Cougars will not make the NCAA tourney this year but will likely have a shot next year when their youthful squad is more seasoned. If all eligible athletes return - and again, barring injuries and unforeseen circumstances - Wazzu should be entertaining NCAA tourney chances in 2011.
Football is the farthest away and looked like it was getting farther away after the first three games of the season. But the last two games - while still double digit losses - were more competitive than the Cougars have been in, well, most of last year. There will not be a winning record this year but there are clearly some signs of improvement to be detected in the last two games as in both games, there was a chance - however remote it was - that they could actually win a game against a Division I opponent from a BCS conference. That was something that could not be said for nearly all of 2008 and 2009. So there is that "improvement" and next year it should translate into slightly more improvement which will then have to be measured by actual wins.
Meanwhile, the members of the soon-to-be Pac-12 conference continue to meet this month to determine who gets money and how much of it they get along with how the conference will be aligned when Colorado and Utah join the party next year and the Lounge would like to report some groundbreaking, Earth-shaking decisions have been made but, alas, they have not. As is par for the course when Pac-10 hoi polloi get together to discuss anything from catering to officiating, it takes forever and a day to come to an actual decision being made and then the follow through takes another million years. But under current commissioner Larry Scott, the process has been speeded up somewhat and now things get done within the same calendar year for the most part - so there is improvement there as well. In this case, the decisions of revenue sharing, conference alignment and football championship siting are expected by the end of the month, but for now, there is nothing but indecision and speculation.
The crack Lounge research department wanted to find out which profession was most productive without coffee [the Lounge gets a separate ranking] and the results are in - nurses. Yes, nurses cannot be productive at providing crucial medical health care unless they first have infused themselves with high dosages of caffeine. We know you are thinking that this is not the best news you would want to hear if a hospital trip is in your near future - and it is for nearly everybody on the planet - but it gets worse. At the number two spot is physicians. So there you have it - if you have to take a trip for any reason to any medical facility, you better hope that the facility's nurses and doctors have been properly caffeinated or else you could be emerging with a medical condition you did not have when you entered.
"Now that's what I'm talkin' about!" says Anne Elk after the Cougars' loss to Oregon in football.
Whoa, settle down, there Anne - watch out for the Lounge's expensive chandelier that we got at a yard sale in Fresno. While this makes two weeks in a row that there have been some clear signs of improvement, both weeks still had double digits losses. Even so, Miss Elk and other Cougar fans and well-wishers have reason to be at least feeling slightly better this week after the Cougars lost by "only" 20 to Oregon. Reason #1 to be frisky - the continued improvement of the pass offense. Oregon's defense is not the best in the nation and it is not even the best in the conference - but they had not allowed a touchdown in the fourth quarter and they only allowed one in the second half. Okay, so they still have that fourth quarter mark but Wazzu punched one in on the Duck defense in the second half and they are only the second team that has been able to do that so far this year. That is due primarily to the efficiency of the pass offense which resulted in a career-high 10 receptions for junior receiver Jared Karstetter. The Cougars were never in serious contention for actually winning the game but they were moving the ball through the air on the Ducks - who had difficulty stopping the Jeff Tuel-to-Karstetter train of pass completions. Yes, you read that right, the Ducks - the nation's soon-to-be second-ranked team - had difficulty stopping the Cougar pass offense. That, Miss Elk, is definite improvement that you can genuinely get excited about. Defensively, there were also improvements as the Cougars actually caused Oregon's running back LaMichael James to fumble twice in the game and even forced the appearance of Oregon's punter - something that, at the beginning of the game, was thought to be a longshot. Special teams was a mixed bag - a punt return was given up for a touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown was called back due to a penalty but safety Anthony Carpenter put a hard - but clean - hit on Duck kick returner Kenjon Barner and knocked him clean out of the game. Barner was okay after the game and there was no malicious intent behind the hit, but it is this kind of energy that had been missing in previous games for the Cougars and which they will need to sustain in order to continue to improve this week against Arizona and next week against Stanford [who appears to be the conference's second-best team at the moment]. To be fair, there are still major, unfixed issues - scoring defense, rush offense, rush defense, the offensive line continuing to allow sacks - but if Wazzu can continue pass offense improvement and get two or more of the others to improve, who knows, there might even be a win or two left in the 2010 season.
"I think we will be playing in March," says Attila the Nun, about the Wazzu men's hoop team.
The consensus of the Lounge clientele agrees with you, Attila. Wazzu men's hoop head coach Ken Bone has a solid nucleus of returning players in Klay Thompson, DeAngelo Casto Reggie Moore and Marcus Capers, Brock Motum and Abe Lodwick and has added what many Cougar fans and well-wishers expect to be a major scoring threat in junior college guard Faisal Aden. All that adds up to the expectation that Wazzu will be able to score some points but will they be able to stop the other team from scoring points? That is the major question mark coming into the 2010-11 season. That and rebounding. With no experienced depth among the backup bigs - Steven Bjornstad and Charlie Enquist - there is a gigantic mystery spot in the paint for the Cougars this year. With Motum and Lodwick as possible players that can help Casto in the rebounding department, there is the likelihood that the Cougars can address those two problem areas at least partially. Wazzu has a tough non-conference schedule which will boost their RPI and if they can get a fair amount of wins plus at least a nine or 10-win conference showing - which seems plausible - then it will be very likely that they can go to a post-season tournament [and a good one - not Fred's Post-Season Tournament or any of the Dollar Store ilk that have popped up in recent years]. Practice officially begins this week and next month, the fun officially begins.
Since the Cougar pass offense put forth what the Lounge clientele considered a superhero-like performance against the Oregon Ducks, the Lounge submits their name for a one-week inclusion in the International Superhero Catalogue. There they can reside with no shame next to Mark Medula [otherwise known as Dark Nebula], El Gato Negro [a social worker with superhuman powers] and The Heap - a creature formed from the muck and vegetation of the swamp but whose will is so strong that he cannot be totally destroyed [he has the ability to reform]. Then, there is always Tad Ghostal or Thaddeus Bach - depending on which side of the universe's tracks you grew up.
Meanwhile, the Lounge Scientists have announced that a protein powder can increase life expectancy by 10 years - for lab mice sorta. The protein powder - which is essentially an amino acid cocktail composed of three primary amino acids [isoleucine, leucine and valine] - has been shown to have some extended life effects on young lab mice but has not been shown to work on humans yet and there was a small sample size  of lab mice used in the study which produced the results.
"This is the first demonstration that an amino acid mixture can increase survival in mice," says Lounge Scientist #10, Enzo Nisoli, an Italian scientist at the University of Milan who, reputedly, is one of the 17 Italian people named Enzo who does not own a Ferrari.
Perhaps Cougar head football coach Paul Wulff can use the protein powder to get back the 10 years of life he lost due to stress in the last two years of heading up the football program.
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