Washington State Football: The little things that kill

Mike Leach, Washington State Cougars. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Mike Leach, Washington State Cougars. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

It could have been so different Friday night for the Washington State football program. Poor execution on one play set in motion a chain of events that led to a 39-36 loss.

"Scratch away, away, awayIt’s the little things that killTearing at my brains againOh the little things that kill – Bush, The Little Things"

It’s one of my favorite song lyrics. Every football coach believes the same thing, so much so that it should be part of a coach’s theme. Washington State football coach Mike Leach is the “little things” poster child, now.

The little things that happen during a game when added up make a difference. When plays happen the way they should, fans don’t often notice the little things. Items such as simple as a receiver seeing a coverage change and altering his route to get open, or even something as simple as a clean shotgun snap.

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When the little things go wrong, everyone notices. Little things such as converting an extra point, when it doesn’t work like its been practiced thousands of times, can be a team’s undoing. One play doesn’t make or break a game, that’s naive, but one play can set in motion a series of events that leads to a loss.

WSU blown extra point set up a series of unfortunate events which probably did in their hopes. Consider that Washington State botched extra point attempt in the third quarter that left the Cougars up 13. USC scored the next two touchdowns to go ahead 31-30. Of course, the Cougars didn’t roll over after losing the lead, they scored just over four minutes later.

To get back on track, Mike Leach went for a two-point conversion to get the margin back to seven points. Gardner Minshew and the offense didn’t get the job done, so the difference remained at five points, 36-31. In true shootout fashion, USC scored two minutes later. The Trojans with nothing to lose, because there is very little difference in being one or two points ahead, went for a two-point conversion and succeeded, giving the home team a 39-36 lead.

Alternate Reality

You know the story from there, Washington State had the game-tying field goal blocked in the final two minutes and the rest was history. Had the Cougars made their extra point back in the third quarter, presumably they kick again in the fourth quarter, and USC doesn’t go for two.

Now it’s a 38-38 game and even though the Cougs would have had had a game-winning field goal blocked, the game isn’t virtually over. USC freshman quarterback JT Daniels would then be under the gun to drive his Trojans downfield with slightly over a minute to go to pull out a win. It would have been interesting, had it gone down that way.

Next. 3 Takeaways from Cougars - USC. dark

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