November 19, 2007

The Big Cat Speaks - Bobbing For Rotten Apples

What could have been a game in which there was a possible bowl-clinching win for WSU has suddenly turned into yet another battle amongst teams mired in the lower tier of the Pac-10. It could have been different for Wazzu though.

Just last week, with the Cougars two wins away from a potential 6-6 record and the Pac-10 conference holding contractual obligations with bowls that favored their potential 6-6 status, it all looked, well, not exactly rosy, but at the very least, plausible. Then Oregon lost Dennis Dixon and then, lost their national title hopes, while also taking down Wazzu's bowl hopes a peg. But if that game took the Cougars' bowl hopes down a peg, the 52-17 loss to Oregon State at Martin Stadium in Pullman last weekend took it completely off the board.

Now, not only will WSU be playing for pride in the Apple Cup, they will also be playing to stay out of last place in the conference as Washington - already previously eliminated from bowl contention - is tied with WSU and Stanford at 2-6 in the Pac-10. This is the way it has been in three of the last four years, two teams out of post-season contention, trying to find one last spark of life to end their season on a positive note. To make matters worse for the Cougars, the game will be at Seattle.

"It's a tough place to play, next to Oregon," says head coach Bill Doba, who notes that the construction of the stadium with overhanging decks, lends to the noisiness. "The crowd is above you and the noise comes down on you."

Then again, it is probably better than last week's home game at Pullman where there was barely any crowd at all. Students had left early for Thanksgiving break and with weather conditions less than ideal and the game on TV, the non-student crowd made a game-time decision to stay home and miss what was eventually an ugly loss.

"If there's a three-day break or more, these kids are gone. It's a mass evacuation," says Doba of the student absence and subsequent sparse crowd on Saturday.

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