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Originally published Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 9:18 PM

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Bud Withers

Another tough night for the Cougars

Oregon has an easy time against visiting Washington State, 52-6

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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EUGENE, Ore. — Paul Wulff stood outside his Washington State locker room, out where the Oregon band was blaring and kids frolicked with foam footballs.

Even WSU's postgame interview quarters are lousy these days.

"I've been through this," said Wulff, the Washington State coach, "where you had a real young team and you take your lumps. They get better, and you get older and you start to win a lot of games. That's where we're at right now."

Where the Cougars are at is maintaining a balancing act, hard as that might be to understand after their bus fire of a game against Oregon here Saturday night won by the Ducks, 52-6.

WSU's insignia should be a Cougar on crutches, so depleted are they by injuries. They're a mess.

Yet to give in to that infirmity will stunt the growth of this team, and WSU fans can only hope that resolve trumps self-pity in the crimson locker room.

"It's difficult when you get beat like that," said WSU offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. "No one likes to get beat like that."

He gave props to Oregon's excellent team speed, but said, "We didn't execute very well. We have to hold our kids accountable."

Well, let's herd them out of the training room and call them on the carpet. WSU gave first starts to what amounts to its Nos. 6 and 7 guards, having sustained injuries to the first five.

Its starting defensive ends coming out of spring are gone, and so is a starting defensive tackle. So is James Montgomery, probably WSU's top playmaker. Awhile back, the best deep threat, Jeshua Anderson, decided the travail wasn't worth it and opted out for track and field.

The Cougars started four true freshmen and at one point had five true and redshirt freshmen on the field on offense.

"It's a disappointing way to start my college career," said frosh guard Alex Reitnouer. "But I can learn a lot from it."

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So destitute are the Cougars right now that they even soiled one of their few good story lines. Jeff Tuel, the true freshman quarterback who played so promisingly against USC, got his first start here, and lasted all of three series (which fittingly began at the WSU 15-, 5- and 14-yard lines).

Tuel got sandwiched between two defenders and left late in the first quarter with a bruised thigh, not to return.

"I just got a helmet on my lower right back," said Tuel, "kind of on my hip bone. It loosened up as the night went on."

Under the best of circumstances, WSU couldn't hang with Oregon, but playing with the Bohler Gym Irregulars, it didn't have a hint of a hope. Oregon led in first downs, 31-4, and scored six touchdowns on its first seven possessions. WSU's redshirt freshman cornerback, Terrance Hayward, was called on for an astonishing eight first-quarter tackles.

The Cougars were massively outplayed, even as Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli played less than a half before turning it over to oft-injured Nate Costa.

When WSU finally scored late in the third quarter, it was like constipation. After Oregon fumbled a punt at the Ducks' 1, it took three surges to get the ball across, and even then, it had to survive Oregon coach Chip Kelly's official challenge.

The Cougars seemed to compete, but they also helped Oregon with things like consecutive pass-interference calls on Chima Nwachukwu and Hayward, and Carl Winston's insistence on imperiling WSU field position by fielding the Ducks' corner-aimed kickoffs by the boundary instead of letting them hit, perhaps out of bounds.

Whoops, forgot. He's a true freshman, playing in his first game.

"We've got to get some guys back," Wulff said, referring to the injuries.

And he's got to keep demanding the best from the others, maybe more than they can give. Like everything else about the Wulff regime, it isn't easy.

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

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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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