WSU endures painful defeat at Arizona
The most damaging part of Saturday's 48-7 loss might be the knee injury sustained by freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Just when it looked like it couldn't get any worse for Washington State, it did.
In a lot of different ways.
The most pronounced was the final score — 48-7 in a loss to Arizona.
The defeat, dropping WSU to 1-8 overall and 0-6 in the Pac-10, came before a sun-drenched crowd of 50,242 on Saturday, many of whom left after Arizona built a 34-0 halftime lead.
The most damaging, however, might be the injury sustained by freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel in the second quarter.
Tuel suffered a slight dislocation of his kneecap on a sack by linebacker Xavier Kelley and did not return. His status was to be determined after the team's return to Pullman, but Tuel did say he felt fine as he hobbled off the field on crutches.
"It's not serious, which is good," said Cougars coach Paul Wulff. "I mean, how long it will be, we don't know."
But by the time of Tuel's injury, the game's outcome was known. Heck, it might have been known following the opening kickoff.
"They blocked us, we couldn't get off blocks and run him down," Wulff said of Travis Cobb's 95-yard scoring return.
Thirteen seconds in, WSU trailed 7-0.
That wasn't unusual. The Cougars have trailed in all nine games this season, and last led in regulation a year ago today, when Dwight Tardy scored on the opening drive against Arizona. This time, it was the Wildcats' turn.
"They opened up with that kickoff, and it's hard to open the game when you're down seven," said Cougars linebacker Andy Mattingly, who had 11 tackles despite playing on a sore right knee. "And then when you are on the field that long — I think they ran like 70 or 80 plays — we just got tired."
In their 78 plays, the 21st-ranked Wildcats (6-2, 4-1) never punted and scored on their first seven possessions.
"They had long drives and we couldn't get off the field," Mattingly said. "They made plays. We didn't."
The Wildcats made plays on the ground (294 rushing yards, 91 of them by second-string quarterback Matt Scott) and through the air (177 passing yards, with starter Nick Foles going 12 for 19 behind a line that has yielded just four sacks all season).
Arizona coach Mike Stoops wasn't entirely impressed.
"[Our] offense today was a little weird," Stoops said. "I didn't see us get a great rhythm today."
The Wildcats also made plays on special teams (besides Cobb's touchdown, William Wright returned a punt 86 yards right after halftime) and after WSU turnovers (Tuel had two fumbles, the first leading to a 14-yard scoring drive, the last to a Alex Zendejas 27-yard field goal).
"Between turning the ball over and special-team issues," Wulff said, "you hand over three touchdowns. You give them three touchdowns, you just don't give yourself a chance."
The Cougars' best drive of the game was also their worst.
Starting from its 9 on its first second-quarter possession, Washington State ground out play after play, moving the ball methodically down the field.
On the seventh play of the drive, Tardy — who finished with 44 yards and moved into eighth place on WSU's career rushing list — burst through the middle for 37 yards to the Arizona 21. A personal foul moved the ball back to the 36.
It was temporary setback. Two passes, a run and a facemask penalty put the ball at the Arizona 9. But a holding call moved the ball back to the 19.
That's when Tuel, playing for the first time as a collegian in the town where he grew up, scrambled, tried to make a play and was taken down by Kelley. He was 5 of 10 for 23 yards passing and sacked four times.
"When you see one of your friends go down like that, it's a crappy feeling," said backup Marshall Lobbestael. "At the same time, you have to prepare yourself to be the No. 2 guy."
Lobbestael completed 7 of 11 passes for 103 yards, 64 of them coming on the Cougars' lone score.
Trailing 48-0, Lobbestael found Jared Karstetter down the numbers on the right side. The sophomore was able to avoid Mike Turner, grab the ball with one hand, and sprint in the last 40 yards for the score. It was Karstetter's sixth touchdown catch of the season, the most since Brandon Gibson caught nine in 2007.
Lobbestael and Karstetter each gave the other credit for the call. Whoever called it, it worked. Not much else did.
"We had bodies always on people," Wulff said. "It seemed like we were in position, we just didn't make the play."
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