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Originally published Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Cougs sink further into football abyss

The low rumble of warming buses growled outside Gill Coliseum. The Washington State football contingent shambled toward them, angry, bitter...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The low rumble of warming buses growled outside Gill Coliseum. The Washington State football contingent shambled toward them, angry, bitter, maybe a little disillusioned. And, of course, injured.

Washington State's abyss grew deeper here Saturday, its season a bit more unbelievable. Oregon State — Oregon State, for goodness' sakes, the program that hasn't seen the Rose Bowl since early Lyndon Johnson — clowned the Cougars, 66-13.

It was an autumn day made for football, if only WSU had played some. Cloudy and highs in the 60s, that's the outlook, respectively, for the Cougars and their opponents.

"I had high hopes for this year," said defensive tackle A'i Ahmu, trying to find perspective for WSU's 1-6 start and the three games in which the Cougars have surrendered 60-plus. "I didn't think the process was going to be like this at all, to tell you the truth."

Naturally, the Cougars got another quarterback hurt. Right now, the job is about as appealing as window-washing at the Sears Tower in Chicago.

This was the snapshot: Marshall Lobbestael, the third-stringer playing because of injuries to Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina, was hit low by Oregon State end Slade Norris early in the fourth quarter. He came around the block of tackle Will Hunter, who is a walk-on and was filling in for starter Vaughn Lesuma, who banged up a shoulder. The line was starting its fifth combination in seven games.

Coach Paul Wulff said Lobbestael is likely out two to four weeks with a knee sprain. So WSU played the final quarter with walk-on Dan Wagner of Portland, who called it "a fun experience."

Not sure every crimson partisan would look at the day that way.

The frowns deepened on the WSU sideline when, with 7:35 left, OSU backup quarterback Sean Canfield threw deep for a 39-yard touchdown to Damola Adeniji, who said he was a secondary receiver on the play.

"It really shows Oregon State has no class, in my opinion," said WSU cornerback Romeo Pellum, while his coach refused to comment.

Indeed, it was a pretty cheesy maneuver by a team ahead 59-13, but the Cougars ought not waste any disgust on the play. They shouldn't have much left after assessing their own play.

Wulff did some unloading in the postgame locker room. His raised voice could be heard down a hall, imploring his team to "Fight!" and "Compete!"

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For a time, the Cougars did that. First, they fell behind quickly, 14-0, something they do almost as if scripted. But then Xavier Hicks Jr. picked off a tipped pass in the end zone, and the Cougars rallied to the ball defensively in the second quarter, intercepting Lyle Moevao three more times, a number that matched their interceptions in the first six games.

So it was 24-13 at half, Oregon State. Flushed with that positive feeling, the Cougars came out, and here's how they began the third quarter: Patrick Rooney whacked the kickoff at least 5 yards out of bounds, and WSU got a personal foul on the play.

Without even breaking into a trot, then, Oregon State began the second half at the WSU 45. The easy, seven-play cruise for a score was the first of 42 unanswered points after the break.

"We're not very smart sometimes," Wulff said of the flag, one of 12 for WSU.

Nor very good at running the ball, rushing the passer, stopping the run, or staying healthy. In dashing to an early lead, Oregon State had 161 yards on its first 10 plays. On a couple of first-down snaps, Beavers freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers had another first down before he was touched.

For his part, Wulff has no experience dealing with such abject football.

"Nothing close, ever," he said.

This isn't 1994 at WSU, when one side of the ball lorded smugly over the other. The Cougars are so uniformly faulty on offense, defense and special teams that no misstep can be minimized. There's simply no forgiveness. Where's a federal bailout when you need one?

Ahmu was asked about morale on a team that next faces USC, either with Lopina or true freshman J.T. Levenseller at QB.

"We just lost by 50-some-odd points," he said, forcing a sour laugh. "It can't be too high. But tomorrow we'll come back and look at the tape. It's never as bad as you thought it was and never as good."

Among other theories with the Cougars, that one might be debatable.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Pac-10 patsies
WSU has been outscored 223-33 in four Pac-10 games this season, and has the three worst and four of the worst seven conference losses in 2008:
Dif Team Opponent Score
63 WSU California 66-3
53 WSU At Oregon St. 66-13
49 WSU Oregon 63-14
34 Washington At Arizona 48-14
34 Washington At Oregon 44-10
34 Oregon At USC 44-10
25 WSU At UCLA 28-3
Source: Pac-10 Conference

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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