Cougars football team is no match for Hawaii, falls 38-20
Washington State trailed 35-0 midway through second quarter of loss at Qwest Field.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
At the back of an interview room at Qwest Field, Paul Wulff was composed. He'd been the same way moments earlier, explaining Washington State's mostly listless performance in losing to Hawaii, 38-20.
The guess here is, Wulff has a lot more conviction about where this is all going than most of the 42,912 fans who populated Qwest on a sizzling late-summer Saturday.
A lot of these folks are the ones who don't make the investment to drive five or six hours to Eastern Washington to see WSU football. They catch the Cougars live once, and one time only.
And maybe none now.
"Any time you rebuild," Wulff told me, "there's going to be some very painful moments."
Consider the crowd pained. Some low-level boos rained down on the Cougars, and there had to be a measure of disbelief among the fans. It's one thing to give up 63 points to Oregon a year ago when it was running wild with Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. It's another to have surrendered 316 yards with 10 minutes left in the second quarter to a middle-rung WAC team.
The seven WSU turnovers only gave its coaches an out. Those were important, but the real shortfall was the Cougars' defense. In a word, it was abysmal.
WSU is bigger this year, but its lack of speed is shocking. On more than one play, a Hawaii receiver simply ran away from a Cougars defensive back. The Warriors finished with 626 yards.
"Our guys are getting tested on resilience," Wulff said. "That's sometimes what it takes. You get slapped around when you're young and you don't like it. As you keep growing older, that carries with you in the back of your mind."
WSU's chance to win this game seemed to hinge on two dynamics: Run the ball consistently, and step up the pressure on Hawaii quarterback Greg Alexander that it applied last year in the final game of the season, when the Cougars rang up seven sacks in a 24-10 loss.
Hawaii returned only one starter and another part-timer from that offensive line, which seemed to augur well for WSU.
Let's back up. When spring drills ended for the Cougars last April, they might have expected their starting defensive ends in this game to be Cory Mackay and Kevin Kooyman. Well, Mackay, injured seriously in a truck accident in May, was left to hoist the WSU flag for this game, and Kooyman dinged a knee late in the week and didn't play.
Long story short, no pass rush. Alexander picked the Cougars apart bloodlessly, leading the Warriors to scores on their first two possessions. Hawaii played fast and precisely; the Cougars offered feeble resistance. WSU didn't lose 69-0, but it was out of this at about the same juncture as against USC last year.
Wulff says he told his team that of the 60-man travel roster for this game, 28 had never taken a road trip with Washington State. "That," he says, "tells you a little bit about our experience level."
While his team suffers indignities on the field, Wulff seems assured that the foundation is being laid, unseen to everybody else. He's redshirting almost all of what WSU feels is a very good freshman class.
"Right now, our program is making a lot of positive strides behind the scenes," he said. "My philosophy isn't a quick fix. We have to fix this the right way. We want to fix it with longevity."
But somehow, the program has to get some traction outside, too. It's hard to develop belief that you're the right guy when you're losing regularly by big margins, and other people are getting things turned around quicker — people like second-year coach Kevin Sumlin of Houston, whom WSU looked at when Bill Doba left, and whose team hung an upset on Oklahoma State on Saturday.
"People have got to understand and trust that we're doing it the right way," said Wulff. "We're working very hard, the players and coaches. It's going to take time."
A lot more time, apparently, than Hawaii's scoring drives Saturday.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
email@example.com | 206-464-8281
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment