Phoenix, Ariz. – The United States Senate overwhelming passed an amendment to the defense policy bill in 2016 banning practices of torture. But yet, that’s just what it was for Crimson-donning patrons Friday night in Chase Field for some Cheez-It Bowl action by virtue of a slow burning Air Force Falcon offensive onslaught.
And once confessing their sin the ensuing Sunday, the Air Force Academy will contemplate owning up to another – gluttony – after eating up over 43 minutes of the game clock. A meager 16 minutes 37 seconds to share with WSU.
Alas, the triple-option topped the Air Raid for a final 31-21 score, awarding Air Force (11-2) one of its best seasons in program history. As for Washington State (6-7), they achieved pedestrian ranks as the season comes to a hault.
And if the 2019 football season was a TV series, binge-watch need you not. Shoot, cancel the entire Netflix family subscription for that matter as the blockbuster movie spin off – the Cheez-It Bowl – aptly condensed a comparable story line into one sitting.
At times they were terrible, unbearably so. And at others they made it look all to easy. But by the end of it, they truth reigns; Washington State wasn’t a great football team. And to those who sat patiently all year long – seemingly waiting for Godot, waiting for a switch to flip, waiting for something compelling – the Cheez-It Bowl was a microcosm of it all.
But they were capable of so much more.
The same team that scared Mighty Oregon down to the final seconds on a perfectly executed 2 minute drill left Salt Lake pouting with their tails between their legs. The same team that showed real recalcitrance and moxie in a besting of the Beavers showed no interest in stepping up to the plate across from UCLA.
Like any team, they had a ceiling and floor; but just couldn’t fold out the ladder. The 6-7 slate will be a defining number this offseason for the program, as it just as easily could have gone 8-5.
And as the 6-7 slate closed, you’ll remember characters in the production, but perhaps not the play itself. As surly they too were waiting for Godot.
The Guy You Took For Granted
He gave everything he had, but you – the demanding fan – were never satisfied.
Gordon closed the book on his Cougar career exhausting the final year of eligibility. And while he statistically tops the program and Pac-12 in more marks than most care to count, history won’t look upon his stint at WSU favorably.
Yes, following the brilliant act of Gardner Minshew II is a task wished upon no one, but somebody needed to heed the call. And despite the fact Gordon darn near won the spot over Minshew back in 2018, his name will live in the memories of Cougar Faithful alongside the likes of Jeff Tuel, and Connor Halliday – full of talent, but just couldn’t get it done with the cards dealt.
He threw for 5,579 yards and 48 scores, but hangs up his threads with a losing record. Shesh.
The Guy You’ll Miss
He couldn’t bribe his way onto the field last season, but inside receiver Brandon Arconado played the position good as any under Leach with the Cougars. Recording 167 yards and touchdown, he kept the Cougs at Air Force’s with a dozen timely receptions.
He leaves WSU with over 1,000 receiving yards, just the 14th ever in school history to do so.
The Guy You Can’t Get Enough Of
Max Borghi’s a fan favorite, and will continue to be throughout his time with the Cougars. The fan base cries out for more touches, pleading a case their top asset is handicapped by the system.
But until they understand plays are called at the line of scrimmage based on the look given by the defense – checked into a run only by virtue of a light box – Max will never touch the ball enough by the untrained estimation of most.
The Guy You Just Don’t Understand
Perhaps, too, the guy you forget about for three straight games until he busts onto the scene with an explosive reception.
Tay Martin had one catch for 58-yards breathing life into a deflated Cougar diaphragm before halftime that cut the deficit to just a field goal. He wasn’t seen after.
The 6-foot-3 Junior is the most physically gifted player on the field at any given time, but rarely showed it. Possibly, opposing defenses never knew it.
He’s arguably regressed since his sophomore year posting less yards, receptions, and scores his junior slate.
The Fractured Defense
We’re not here to beat a dead horse, it was a bad year defensively. We knew it out of the gate when then-Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys told the media the secondary “wasn’t ready” in Fall Camp, and were reassured in the UCLA meltdown.
Needless to say, personnel issues are seldom patched over night. However, we all spotted a diamond in linebacker Jahad Woods who posted the Cougars first 20-tackle game since 1997. The Junior ended the season top-10 all time on WSU’s leading tackler list.
Perhaps the most disheartening of it all resides in the lack of character development. It seemed the team remained stagnant much of the year. It showed signs of progress one week, but an equal lack-there-of the following.
Over time, a good team flourishes – just as the Cougars did a year ago en route to the Alamo Bowl victory – as the sum of the parts no longer equals the whole. But this time around, it seemed absent and equally unaddressed.
The 2019 season will always be remembered as one where they could have accomplished so much more. And the Cheez-it Bowl, like many before it, a game they could have won.
(Photos by: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)