The Washington State Cougars are 3-1 (1-0 Pac 12) matching their total win total and conference win total already from the 2012 season. There are plenty of things to like about WSU’s early season success like the physical play of the defense and the team’s overall mental toughness in difficult settings. However, if WSU hopes to make any real headway in the Pac 12 this season, they will have to do something about their turnover problem.
Through four games, the Cougs rank No. 105 in turnover margin thanks to the 11 turnovers that their offense has coughed up. Even in their last two games, which have been blowout wins over lesser competition, WSU can’t seem to protect the ball. In their last two win, they have turned it over five times, including four against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday. A major culprit has been quarterback Connor Halliday who has thrown eight interceptions already this season and fumbled once, accounting for nine of the team’s 11 turnovers.
But he’s not alone. Against Idaho, two turnover came via Halliday interceptions, but the Cougs also put the ball on the ground twice losing fumbles. Kristoff Williams and Teondray Caldwell both lost control of the ball and gave possession back to Idaho. While the Vandals weren’t able to capitalize on any of the gifts Wazzu gave them, other teams on WSU’s schedule absolutely will.
There is plenty of positive momentum with the WSU program right now, highlighted by their gritty win over the USC Trojans to kick off the Pac 12 season. However, WSU is still going to be an underdog in the majority of their games this season against conference heavyweights like the Stanford Cardinal next week or Oregon Ducks down the line. If Wazzu has any hope of playing spoiler and pulling off any other upsets this season, the team has to play smarter football and protect the ball.
Giving away possessions to good teams is the easiest way to kill an upset. The Cougars have to be more protective of the football because they aren’t going to be able to overcome these kinds of mistakes as easily as they have the last two weeks when the Pac 12 schedule really gets going.