Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Paul Wulff faces the biggest test of his career..
By Outsider Steve
Talking about certain programs throughout college football's history, we almost certainly talk about watershed moments or program altering wins that would completely change the tide of fortune for programs. For head coach Paul Wulff and the Washington State program, this Saturday's game on the road against a bowl caliber San Diego State team is certainly a program defining game. A loss this Saturday could have the negative impact a young, rebuilding team can ill afford to take this early in the season. A win this weekend could set the momentum for very big year that could very end in a bowl berth, and could possibly be the start of another Cougar bowl run. In any event, this will mark the first time in the Paul Wulff era were the team is strong enough to handle the challenges of going on the road, in a hostile enough of an environment against team of similar strengths. Where the coaching future, and the program's bowl picture could hang in the balance. This game is the most important game of Paul Wulff's Cougar coaching career.
After opening up the season with wins of 64 and 59 points in blowout fahion, there was still lingering questions of just how good this Cougars team really is. I guess that will happen when your high scoring offense is going up against a 98th ranked division 1-AA defense in 2010, and one that was ranked 103rd in division 1-A in 2010. That is why this Saturday's game at San Diego State poses such an intriguing match up because of what we don't yet or what we are still trying to find about our Cougars.
Here is what we do know;
The Cougars can hang points on opponents in a hurry. In both games, the Cougs scored at will. QB Marshall Lobbestael, taking over rather unexpectedly, has been the biggest surprise so far. Leading college football's #1 ranked scoring offense, Lobbestael's performance has made it easier for the Cougar running game to get going early. Having both of these areas of offense playing consistently is going to be the difference maker in determining whether you can buy or sell the Cougar bowl aspirations.
Here is what we don't know;
How this defense will respond against a team with real offensive talent. In three years under Paul Wulff the Cougar defense has given up 235.2 YPG on the ground, and 238.8 YPG through the air. Obviously this years defensive version is leaps and bounds better then the previous three defensive units, but San Diego State features a team with a QB who threw for 3830 yards and 28 TD's in Ryan Lindley, and a RB who rushed for 1532 yards and 17 TD's in Ronnie Hillman. It's certainly one thing to have your defense pitch a shutout against a UNLV offense, but it's another thing to do it against an offense that can move the ball as well a Aztecs do.
Here is what need to happen;
The Cougars must feel the sense of urgency that comes with a game of this magnitude. These are the tests for all teams that are aspiring to put past futilities behind them, and move ahead as a good program. And for head coach Paul Wulff, these type of games are the ones that will determine if he is truly cut out to be a D-1 head coach. Up to this point, for whatever reason you would like to use, a player mutiny, teams that lack talent, and at times, bad decision making, he has been anything but a good D-1 head coach. But the good news for the Cougars is that the next step is there for there taking. The can seize their goals if they are up for the task. It all starts this weekend in San Diego. Let's see if the crimson crush can take this important step forward..Go Cougs!!!