This was supposed to be the easy portion of the schedule. The part where Washington State put up big numbers -- both offensively and on the scoreboard -- on its way to a 3-0 record in time to welcome Oregon to Martin Stadium on Sept. 20.
Instead, nine days into a season met with high expectations, the Cougars are in an 0-2 hole without much reason for hope. Not after following up a defenseless loss to Rutgers with a punchless 24-13 defeat to Nevada Friday night -- neither of which figures to be a serious contender in its respective conference.
The Cougars' biggest problem so far? Take your pick.
Last week, they were bullied up front and had no answers for the Rutgers offense. The takeaway then was that at least the offense will give them a chance every week.
Against Nevada, it was surprisingly the defense that took on that role. Nevada found some success offensively -- it finished with 324 yards of total offense -- but this wasn't a loss that'll be pegged on the WSU defense or coordinator Mike Breske.
It was the offense that stalled in the red zone and two missed third-quarter field goals that changed the complexion of the game.
Without something to hang its hat on, this is a team without an identity.
Coach Mike Leach, who is now 0-3 since athletic director Bill Moos approached him with a $500,000-a-year raise, spoke last week about how expectations at the university have been too low and need to change. There's generally been good logic to explain those low expectations and two games into another season, that's again the case.
After losing to Rutgers, it was tough to find six wins on the schedule -- and at that point, Nevada was one of the obvious candidates. Now, discussing possible bowl destinations is wasted breath.