The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.
Last up: Washington State
Offense: The Cougars started three different quarterbacks in 2011, but nonetheless ranked ninth in the nation and second in the Pac-12 in passing offense with 322.3 yards per game, with 30 TD passes and 12 interceptions. That was the best news. The Cougars ranked sixth in the conference in total offense (422.4 ypg) and seventh in scoring (29.8 ppg). The didn't run the ball well, finishing 10th in the conference in rushing offense. As for the passing offense, it only ranked sixth in efficiency. The worst news was yielding 3.33 sacks per game, which ranked 116th in the nation. That was a product of offering little running threat, as well as shuffling quarterbacks who do things differently in the pocket and aren't in rhythm with the offense. Still, the Cougs' offensive numbers were dramatically better in 2011 than in 2010 (19.6 ppg, 330.2 ypg), despite the quarterback issues. Sophomore Marquess Wilson became one of the elite young receivers in country, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Defense: The Cougars ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in total defense (409.6 ypg) and ninth in scoring defense (31.8 ppg). They were 11th in the conference -- and 111th in the nation -- in pass efficiency defense, as foes completed 64 percent of their passes with 24 TDs. They only forced 17 turnovers, which tied for 10th in the conference. Still, just like the offense, the numbers were significantly better than 2010 (35.8 ppg, 467 ypg), when the Cougs ranked last in the conference in scoring and total defense. The biggest sign of a step forward? Rushing defense. In 2010, the Cougs yielded a conference-worst 220.2 ypg. In 2011, that number was down to 157.2 ypg, which ranked eighth in the conference. That shows increased toughest and physical maturity.
Overall: A 4-8 finish that gets coach Paul Wulff fired isn't going to get a high grade. But the Cougs took a significant step forward in 2011, and that bodes well for another step forward under first-year coach Mike Leach. A team that three years ago looked -- and played -- like a mid-level FCS team was highly competitive in 2011, recording its only quality conference win -- against Arizona State -- during the Wulff Era. The Cougars were still outmanned against most Pac-12 foes, but they fought back all season. The fact is, the general mood in Pullman at present is as high as it has been in years, perhaps since Mike Price was on the sidelines.