PULLMAN – Washington State’s football players returned to campus early Sunday morning after their 44-21 defeat in Seattle at the hands of Oregon State and morphed back into the student part of the NCAA’s preferred term, student-athlete.
Monday morning they were back in class.
And hours later redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin tweeted this: “my teacher was like ‘good morning everyone if I gave you a quiz this morning I know it wouldn’t suprise (sic) you like the cougs this weekend.’ Smh”
“Smh” stands for “shaking my head” and a lot of Cougars players were doing just that this week because of comments like that one, either in person or, more commonly, in cyberspace.
WSU, which travels to No. 7 Oregon on Saturday, started the season 3-1 but has dropped three consecutive games. But only in the last one were the Cougars favored, and the nature of that defeat, against a 1-5 Beavers team, has ignited a firestorm of criticism.
“Let’s look at this,” coach Paul Wulff said this week. “People are upset that we lost because people expected us to win. That’s been a long time coming, right?
“Why are they expecting us to win? Because we’ve played a lot better football and won some games and they’re getting excited about what’s going on.”
Wulff understands the sentiment.
“For them to be upset, they have every right to be upset,” Wulff said. “We’re mad, too.”
The players, however, see the criticism from a different perspective.
“People don’t get how much it hurts to hear stuff like that,” said one WSU senior, who asked not to be identified. “There are a lot of guys on this team who are (messed) up, physically, and will be the rest of their life and (people) saying they aren’t playing hard or the coaches don’t know what they’re doing? That’s (wrong).”
One of those players dealing with the everyday pain from college football is linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis. The senior has to skip certain parts of practice and forego weight lifting because of a back problem that has plagued him the past couple of years.
Still, he leads the Cougars in tackles with 50, tackles for loss (seven) and in the ability to speak his mind.
“I read message boards. I know I shouldn’t, but I do, and just so much of the stuff the fans say, all of them, they’re pretty much clueless,” Hoffman-Ellis said. “They only know and can get what the media tells them about the program and they can interpret that anyway they want to. But, at the end of the day, what do they really know?
“They can say the schemes aren’t working. Well, do they even know the schemes? What do they know about the schemes? Everybody knows what should be done in hindsight or from behind the computer, but put them in actually position to say something with knowledge behind it or with any basis, and they really can’t.”
“We try not to let it affect us,” defensive end Travis Long said, “but we read it, obviously. Sometimes it kind of sucks. You’ve got your fans just kind of disrespecting you, in a way.”
Long played all of last season with a dislocated shoulder and underwent surgery on it in the offseason. In this, his junior season, he’s second behind Hoffman-Ellis in tackles for loss.
“You want to stand up for yourself, your teammates, all your brothers you’ve been fighting with,” Long said. “Then you’ve got people who haven’t put in the same effort trying to be the judge and telling us how to fix it.”
And the criticism of Wulff and the coaching staff, which exploded this week?
“They do what they have to do,” Hoffman-Ellis said of the coaches. “At the end of the day, as players we have to do what we have to do. We have to take responsibility as well.”