WHAT WORKED AND WHY in a Coug game -- it's always interesting to ask a former coach that because they see things many others do not. And we also couldn't resist. When even the SEC on ESPN game announcers question the officiating, and you have Jim Walden on the phone, well you just have to ask for his take on the zebras.
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There were five calls/non-calls that went against the Cougs at Auburn that stood out most.
"I didn’t think it was awful officiating," said Walden. "I didn’t question the (touchdown run) down the sidelines because on the replay, the two officials were looking straight back up the field and another one was far behind it. They didn’t have an angle on the film whether he hit the line."
Walden said the play where the Auburn receiver didn't appear to have established possession until he was out of bounds probably wouldn't have been overturned on replay unless they had a better angle. And the kickoff return where Kristoff Williams appeared to be firmly held while being taken to ground was one that officials sometimes just miss, Walden said.
The two non-calls on pass interference were a different story. And you know you're about to hear some gold when Walden starts off by saying, "Well, I know I'm going to get in trouble for saying this, but...
"That was totally pass interference, there was no questioning it, what possessed him not to throw the flag, I don't know," said Walden. "But look, I've been watching southern officiating for a lot of years. When I was a coach, I would not ask for a mixed crew, I wanted (all) southern officials, because I knew I was going to get screwed less that way.
"When you split the crews, it was almost as if it upset those guys, like they thought you were almost bringing in other guys to watch over them. And then for every call you got, they'd make sure two would go against you."
It was an SEC crew that called the WSU-Auburn game. Every conference has their policy on officials for non-conference games and has since 1990. Before 1990, the general practice, established by the NCAA was that non-conference games were worked by split crews.
"Whenever I had a game like that and when I met with them before the game, I always tried to talk real southern," quipped Walden. "But the worst thing you can do is to go into an SEC area and expect to get calls."
AS FOR THE game itself, Walden gave high marks to the Cougar coaches and players.
"I don't know the total game plan but a lot of it feasted on underneath stuff and it worked very well," said Walden. "Overall, it was one of those things where I'm having a hard time figuring out why we didn’t win it... I was totally shocked how well WSU played and I'm not afraid to admit that."
"I thought the Cougars played their tails off, and in an environment that does not breed success for a visiting team. I was really proud of those Cougar players."
COUGAR QUARTERBACK Connor Halliday has taken some cyberspace criticism for the three interceptions and a couple more passes that could have been picked. But Walden said you also need to look at the plays he did make in order to assess the whole picture.
"There was never a time I felt like they were playing better than us," said Walden. "Those big plays take a lot out of you. We make a lot of 'little' plays and first downs, but you’ve got to eliminate their big play. It was a nice effort and I thought Halliday played great except (for a few plays.) But I don't question those. That's football. Every play has a chance to work or not and sometimes you make a mistake. That's football."
The execution of the offensive line and the work of the running backs also had Walden smiling on Saturday.
"Another big pay that caught them off guard, and it tells you how much they're committing to WSU's underneath stuff, they ran that inside draw play on fourth down. It looked like a trap but it was really a draw, it shocked everyone... That was a great call, not sure if Connor called that or not but that was wonderful," said Walden.
"It was evident they thought their double formation stuff would put Auburn at a disadvantage and it did. Their underneath stuff, with that guy dragging underneath, that worked. What was amazing was towards the end, they've got the double slot into the boundary and they're in man cover, and it worked beautifully bringing that back out (to the RBs on screens).
"And when they ran double verticals, because the safety was working on the outside coming underneath, Halliday did a great job hitting him deep (Bobby Ratliff.)"
WE PRESSED WALDEN to offer some Monday morning quarterbacking and also to look ahead to next week against Southern Cal on the road. And he obliged.
"The only thing I can really say is I wish we would have punted rather than going for it in the first half," said Walden. "You're at mid-field and you're trailing by one and you're out-playing them. The positive thing is to punt. What's a negative is if you don't make it. I thought that was actually a semi-turning point.
"With 'SC, I'll tell you one thing -- what we did at Auburn was a lot better than what I saw from the University of Hawaii against 'SC. I have a much better feeling in my heart of hearts heading into USC. We've got an equal chance to win...based on what I saw from Hawaii-USC and WSU-Auburn. We've got a real good opportunity against a team we haven't had a lot of success against over the years," said Walden.
Jim Walden talks Cougar Football every Thursday @4 pm with "The Fish" Jeff Aaron on Fox Sports 1380AM -- Cougar game previews, top stories and strong opinions on all things College Football. The show is cosponsored by Cougfan.com. You can stream the show via ...