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What we learned from the Cougars' Apple Cup loss

By Jim Moore

Well, we lost. Guess you knew that. I was telling one of my kids this morning that the 27-17 loss to the Huskies was almost worse than a blowout loss.

In a blowout loss, you know you had no shot to win. In a loss like Saturday's, when you had the ball, trailing 20-17 with five minutes to go, you know you had a chance to win. And a great chance to at least tie the game and force overtime.

Neither happened, of course, after Greg Ducre picked off Connor Halliday. The Huskies tacked on one more touchdown and that was that.

Three things we learned:

1. They're a heck of a lot better than they were last year.

halliday sacked
WSU chose not to try a field goal from the UW 34 with time running out in the first half, and quarterback Connor Halliday was sacked on the ensuing play, keeping Washington State's lead to 10-3. (AP)

It's a three-game improvement, going from 3-9 to 6-6. Mike Leach said the Cougs might be one of the most improved teams in the country over the past three weeks.

In that time, Washington State won at Arizona, beat Utah at Martin Stadium and nearly knocked off Washington as a 16 -point underdog.

2. They might be better, but they're still a long ways from being a truly good team.

Two of their wins came over weak sisters Southern Utah and Idaho. One came over a bad Cal team. One came over a USC team that was still coached by Lane Kiffin. One came over a Utah team that had lost six in a row and was playing with a backup QB.

You could argue that the only good win was the 24-17 victory at Arizona.

3. Overall, the program is on the rise.

Next season in Leach's third year as coach, so it's not unrealistic to expect seven or eight wins.

Three things we're still trying to figure out:

1. Why we didn't try a field goal with seven seconds left in the first half and the ball at the Huskies' 34-yard line?

Instead, Halliday was sacked as time ran out. A 51-yard field goal by Andrew Furney would have given the Cougars a 13-3 lead.

2. Which bowl game will they go to if they're invited?

We don't know if we'll make it to one or not. But if we do, we'll likely go to the New Mexico Bowl, according to Brock Huard. We might face Boise State, a fun matchup for the Cougs if it happens. Other possibilities include the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.

3) Was it was worth it to spend $376 for four tickets that were four rows from the top of Husky Stadium to watch the Apple Cup in person when it would have been free to watch it at home?

Answer: Yes, it was. Even with the loss. Great atmosphere, not-so-great outcome.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website jimmoorethego2guy.com and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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