There is an argument to be made that instant replay is the most significant invention in the history of football. At least the broadcast part of it.
In a game with many 30-second pauses, filling the time with replays helped make football America’s favorite game.
But its most-recent advancements, like super-slow motion and the replay review, has added a Dr. Jekyll to replays’ Mr. Hyde.
Both were on display on the Pac-12 Network’s broadcast of Saturday night’s Washington State 59-24 win over visiting Eastern Washington.
What they saw …
No one can accuse the Pac-12 Networks of showing too few replays, which is great for viewers – unless there is the occasional moment when the beginning of a play is missed.
The abundant replays are also good for the broadcast crew.
Play-by-play voice Guy Haberman is adept at setting up what happened, and Ryan Leaf, the former Washington State quarterback, didn’t back down no matter what the play showed.
Leaf pointed out the good, like each of Gage Gubrud’s three touchdown passes or the key block on Travell Harris’ 100-yard kickoff return for Washington State. He also pointed out the bad in most cases, highlighting a stiff-arm by WSU receiver Easop Winston before a touchdown pass arrived as well as a possible uncalled hold on an Eastern running play.
That is also part of replay’s influence, the ability of viewers to criticize every flag or nonflag.
Replay highlighted two first-half spots that were off by a couple of yards. It didn’t show a holding call that took away a 53-yard touchdown pass for Washington State.
And it also allowed Leaf and Haberman many opportunities to discuss the physical nature of Washington State’s defensive backfield.
Late in the game, Haberman and Leaf discussed an incomplete pass that featured aggressive hand-fighting by Marcus Strong.
“That’s pass interference,” Leaf said, then explained why.
Thanks to replay, he had multiple chances to do that.
What we saw …
One person we didn’t see or hear enough was Cindy Brunson, especially in the second half.
Too often the sideline reporter is little more than an appendix, someone whose job seems to be nothing more than running after coaches as they leave the field at halftime.
That shouldn’t be Brunson’s role. She puts more emphasis on the reporter part.
The initial example of this came in the first quarter. Washington State was on a defensive roll, seemingly bothering Gubrud with its blitzes.
After another stop, the defense was on the sidelines. Brunson listened to what was being said.
Brunson relayed to the viewers WSU’s linebacker coach Ken Wilson’s message to the group, talking about Eastern’s formations and what the Cougars were going to do differently.
“Let’s really confuse this quarterback,” Brunson quoted Wilson as saying.
As Eastern rallied, Eagles’ coach Aaron Best had a decision to make in the third quarter. Either try a long field goal or punt. After a timeout, he decided to punt.
Brunson told the viewers the why behind the decision. Best trusted the group that had started to give WSU fits with an aggressive mentality starting in the second quarter.
“Go get me that ball back,” Best told his defense.
The Cougars went on a 99-yard drive capped by James Williams’ 8-yard run.
And Leaf questioned the passive defensive scheme all the way down the field.
“I just can’t get over they’re bringing three every time and sitting eight back there,” said the former quarterback, pointing out more than once the Eagles’ lack of pressure. “That just hasn’t worked for them.”
This was only Leaf’s second game as an analyst and it showed at times.
With less than 5 minutes left in the first half, WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew threw one of his rare incompletions, mainly because two Cougar receivers were standing right next to each other. Immediately, Leaf pointed out the problem, explaining a mesh route and how it wasn’t run correctly.
Two plays later, a 19-yard pass to Jamire Calvin, Leaf gushed about the WSU receivers.
“These receivers are in the right place at all times,” he said. “That’s why Gardner Minshew has so much confidence in where they are going to be.”
It can’t be both.
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