Helpful as always to the Fourth Estate, Mike Leach suggested after his team’s 59-17 win over Northern Colorado on Saturday that we scribes devote some commentary to the “pointing” penalty on Washington State offensive lineman Liam Ryan.
“As much as I would love to comment on that,” said the Cougars coach, who is fond of reminding us of the hefty fines he’s been assessed for carping about officials, “I think you should write what you’re thinking, because I suspect it’s what I’m thinking.”
Even if that were true, none of us could approximate the spirited disavowal of political correctness that Leach would muster if he did feel free to comment.
So I’ll say just this: What a marvel is the NCAA football rule book.
Oh, and this:
To borrow a phrase from WSU receiver Calvin Jackson Jr., the 2019 Cougars have some dog in them. He was actually referring to the team’s junior-college transfers, and his quote was, “Coming from juco, you got some dog in you.” But I think it applies to the team as a whole.
Surely it applies to Mr. Ryan, the new left tackle of an offensive line that’s been protecting its quarterback like a pack of rotweilers. On one third-quarter play Saturday, nearly 12 seconds elapsed between the time Anthony Gordon took a shotgun snap and the time he finally fled the pocket and darted out of bounds for a 10-yard gain and a first down.
At some point during or after that mini-series, we’re told that Ryan pointed his finger at an opponent. I’ll add “allegedly” to that assertion because we’re not going to risk a lawsuit just to please Mike Leach.
For the record, though, the official didn’t just make up that rule. You can find it there in NCAA’s annual tome: Rule 9, Section 2, line a-1-(a), which prohibits “Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat.”
Careful observers will note the Cougars violated that unsportsmanlike-conduct rule not once but twice in that quarter.
On the previous WSU possession, the always exuberant Easop Winston Jr. caught a 7-yard fade from Gordon in the east end zone of Martin Stadium and, with no hint of premeditation, turned toward the meager Northern Colorado fan section. Ever so fleetingly, he alluded to the game score – the Cougars now led 30-10 – by running a forefinger in front of his facemask, if not exactly his throat.
Fifteen yards. The Cougars’ consolation was that the gesture occurred after Winston had crossed the goal line, unlike the Marcus Strong “taunt” last year that wiped his defensive touchdown off the board in the Alamo Bowl.
Throat-slashing aside, Winston’s third touchdown catch of the young season demonstrated the palpable rapport he’s established with Gordon, not only recently but going back to their days at City College of San Francisco in 2015.
It also underscored how prominent the JC element on this team has become. It happened rather quietly. On any particular signing day, it’s never seemed as if the Cougars were loading up on “Last Chance U” characters.
Somehow, though, there are 16 juco transfers on this roster, and several of them played prominent roles against Northern Colorado.
Gordon, who spent three years chopping wood in Pullman before finally claiming a starting role for the season opener nine days ago, exudes a subtle swagger that was no doubt burnished at City Situation, as Winston calls their old JC. He’s completing a ridiculous 81 percent of his passes.
The Cougs’ starting lineup for this game included two other City Situation graduates: left guard Robert Valencia and cornerback Derrick Langford Jr. The promotion of the latter gave the team three new JC transfers in the secondary, with safeties Bryce Beekman and Daniel Isom acquitting themselves handsomely so far.
Jackson is a “Last Chance U” vet who, yes, has some dog in him. New running back Deon McIntosh, who during garbage time romped to his first Cougar TD, attended the prototype for that Netflix series, East Mississippi Community College. Gentlemanly nose tackle Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei took a JC route to Pullman from New Zealand.
And nobody speaks more passionately about the hidden benefits of the junuior-college rigors than defensive end Karson Block, who helped force a UNC fumble and recovered another.
Welcome to Pullman and prominence, one and all. Just take note of the motto that NCAA legislators placed on the cover of their 2019 rule book: “Celebrating 150 Years of College Football.”
And remember they don’t want you to take that too literally.
Dale Grummert may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2290.