Commentary: Weekend belonged to the Cougs, who needed big win after abandonment by Pac-12 bretheren

On a weekend filled with intriguing storylines in the local sports world, this one still belonged to the Cougs. 

They needed a win like this, they deserved a celebration like this. Regardless of their future, they earned the right to scream it on National TV: 

"In this moment, it's everything," WSU head coach Jake Dickert said after a 31-22 win over Wisconsin on Saturday. "We belong in a Power Five. These kids have worked their ass off. I'm so damn proud of them - we're all we got, we all we need."

Let’s face it: Washington State and Oregon State have been the biggest losers in the mass exodus from the Pac-12. It’s been a trying time for anyone associated with both schools with their athletic future up in the air – the Cougs and Beavs, left fending for themselves and even having to file a lawsuit this week to protect the conference’s assets.

But Saturday night in Pullman wasn’t about legalese or any of that. It was simply a team with its Cougar family in full force behind them, earning a statement win against the same Top 25 Team for the second straight year.

Wisconsin was the first non-conference Power 5 team to travel to the Palouse in more than 25 years. Opportunities like that don’t come around very often. And that’s what is so great: Seeing a group rise to the occasion, understanding the context of their situation, and delivering a win in front of a packed crowd that everyone will remember for years to come.

In many ways, it brought things full circle, with memories of the fans storming the field after a win over USC in 2017, and then-coach Mike Leach declaring that it was quote, "Like Woodstock, but everyone’s got their clothes on."

And then last night, where the school honored the late head coach, with pirate flags and memorabilia throughout Martin Stadium, the crowd, once again celebrating a meaningful upset win. 

I’ve said it before, but I’m not a Coug, nor am I a Husky. But I am a sports fan who appreciates stories that go far beyond the boundaries of the field. Washington State flat-out got the short end of the stick, abandoned by most of their longtime conference brethren because of the almighty dollar. But for one night in September, the school got its chance to shine. There’s no better story than that. 

This was a big Opening Weekend for the Seahawks. The Huskies easily maintained their Top Ten ranking. The Mariners continued fighting for a playoff spot. And Jewell Loyd re-signed with the Storm – a huge development for the future of that franchise. 

But in my opinion, this weekend still belonged to the Cougs. Because they needed that win and that moment in the spotlight. It's them against the world. Who knows what the future will hold. But if we weren’t convinced already, last night proved those Cougs will always stay strong.