- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before we focus forward, we're going to look back with team-by-team season reviews.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
MVP: Safety Deone Bucannon was the only Cougar position player to earn All-Pac-12 honors, as he was on the second team. He led the Cougars in tackles (106) and interceptions (4). The rising senior needs to be a key leader in 2013 if the program is going to turn itself around.
What went right: Very little went right in Year 1 under coach Mike Leach, but the little bit that did was pretty darn nice at the end: an epic comeback from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit against rival Washington in the Apple Cup. That 31-28 overtime win can't be undersold as a first peg to grab hold of for the Leach Era. Further, despite the losing -- and several dreadful losses -- the Cougs played their best against their toughest opponents. They were tight with Oregon at halftime, and lost to Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA by a combined 28 points.
What went wrong: Washington State took so much hope to BYU in the opener that the 30-6 defeat seemed to have a more lasting effect than it perhaps should have, and it set a pattern for the season: A poor performance followed by Leach criticizing his team: "We can’t have all those basset hound looking faces on the sidelines," he said afterwards. Leach, widely celebrated for his offensive acumen, couldn't seem to figure out who his quarterback was, and the QBs struggled to stay healthy. That led to a significant offensive regression from 2011, when the Cougs averaged 9.4 more points per game. There was clearly a tension between the veteran players and Leach's new ways, the most obvious example of which being star receiver Marquess Wilson's decision to leave the team and then make -- later retracted -- accusations of abuse. That and injuries caused Leach to play a lot of young players. The hope is that pays off next fall. And, oh by the way, the Cougs could use a few more linemen.
2013 Outlook: Nine starters are back on both sides of the ball as well as both specialists. That's a nice foundation for a few more wins next fall. The first task is figuring things out at QB, where the hope is Connor Halliday takes charge this spring. Recall that he missed his first spring with Leach due to injury, and perhaps that's why he and Leach never were completely in sync. Or maybe a youngster gets into the mix, such as redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca? Leach promised a tough, focused offseason. If he gets his buy-in, there's no reason this team can't significantly improve from 3-9. But a bowl game would be a bit of a surprise.