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Looking back at WSU’s loss in the desert


COUGARS

Well, there is basketball tomorrow. It’s obvious some of you are looking forward to that. We’ll be there. But before we begin another sport and another season, we’re still wrapped up in football. Our follow on WSU’s loss at UA is on the link, along with the look back and, yes, a short basketball advance. Read on.

••••••••••

• Here’s the follow …

PULLMAN – Whether or not Washington State University has freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel available for Saturday’s home game with UCLA has yet to determined.

“He’s sore today, but (there was) very little swelling, which is a real positive,” coach Paul Wulff said Sunday. “He had to get an MRI today to see if there was anything going on more than they anticipated.”

Tuel, who is still on crutches, was injured in the second quarter of the Cougars’ 48-7 loss to the University of Arizona last Saturday, a defeat that dropped WSU’s record to 1-8, 0-6 in the Pac-10.

The freshman was trying to scramble when linebacker Xavier Kelley caught him from behind. As Tuel went down, he slightly dislocated his kneecap, suffering what is known as a subluxation, in which the kneecap is pulled laterally from its usual path.

“It’s just wait and see,” said Wulff, who expects to know the MRI results today. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow and on Tuesday.”

Since taking over as the starter five games ago, Tuel has completed 71 of 121 passes (58.7 percent) for 789 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.

If he can’t go against UCLA (4-5, 1-5) on Dad’s Weekend, sophomore Marshall Lobbestael will step in as the starter.

Lobbestael was 7 of 11 for 103 yards in relief of Tuel on Saturday and is 56 of 116 for 578 yards this season. He started two games earlier this year and has thrown three touchdown passes – including a 64-yarder to Jared Karstetter for WSU’s only score against UA – and five interceptions.

But quarterback isn’t the only area of injury concern for Wulff this week. The Cougars lost two safeties Saturday and played the second half with Myron Beck, who has played mostly linebacker this season, filling in deep.

Wulff is hoping usual starting strong safety Chima Nwachukwu will be able to return from his sprained ankle.

“We think Chima has a good shot at coming back,” Wulff said. “We think Jay Matthews will be back, so with them and (starting free safety) Xavier (Hicks) and the ability of Myron to play there, we’ll be OK.”

Matthews suffered a shoulder subluxation against UA and missed the second half.

Kicker Nico Grasu (quadriceps pull) and left tackle Tyson Pencer (ankle sprain) will probably miss this week, replaced by Kevin Rooney and Steven Ayers, respectively.

Wulff admits his team is tired after playing five of the last six games on the road, all losses and all against schools that were ranked at some time this season.

“That’s a pretty tough stretch for any team in the country,” Wulff said.

He canceled on-the-field practice Sunday and expects to hold shorter sessions this week.

“They were a little relieved, sure,” Wulff said of the time off. “It’s what they need right now. We need to come back on Tuesday and have a good, solid practice.

“It won’t be long, but it needs to be a crisp practice.”

•••

• And here’s the look back …

Arizona 48, WSU 7

• High point of the game

After nine games, sophomore receiver Jared Karstetter has six touchdown catches for a team that has found the end zone just 14 times. But none might have been better than his fourth-quarter 64-yarder that was the result of an audible between he and backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael. Though each gave the other for deciding to go for a big gain, it was Karstetter who made the play work. He snagged Lobbestael’s pass with one hand despite Mike Turner’s best efforts, tucked the ball away and sprinted for the score.

• Low point of the game

It didn’t take long to get to this point. Thirteen seconds, in fact. The opening kickoff came down to Travis Cobb at the Arizona 5-yard-line. He cut to the right, up the middle, where the Wildcats’ return team had opened an Escalade-wide hole in the Cougar coverage. Cobb raced through, made kicker Patrick Rooney miss and out-ran Terrance Hayward’s best effort. The 95-yard kickoff return was the first time since 1998 a Wildcat had returned the opening kickoff for six.

• A pat on the back

As he tried to drag his 22-year-old body up the locker room steps after the game Saturday, senior linebacker Andy Mattingly grimaced. “When did you turn 50,” he was asked. Mattingly smiled. “Today,” he answered. Playing more than 60 plays in 80-degree heat against a physical Arizona team aged Mattingly perceptibly. But he persevered, despite a sore right knee that limited his speed, and ended up with 11 tackles, second only to safety Xavier Hicks’ 12.

• Needs fixing

There is no easy way to say this. Until the Cougars receive competent – not outstanding, not great, just competent – left-tackle play, their passing attack won’t work. Tyson Pencer tried first Saturday, whiffed a couple times and finally left with a sprained ankle. Freshman Alex Reitnouer, 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, was up next and he got overpowered, being stood up and driven back into quarterback Jeff Tuel on one play. Steven Ayers took the final turn and seemed to be more productive, especially sealing off the outside on running plays. But this is a key position for every team and one that is probably the Cougars’ most unsettled in an unsettling season.

• Three unanswered questions

• How long will Tuel be out? According to coach Paul Wulff on Sunday night, it’s not known how long Tuel’s knee injury will keep him from the field. The good news for Tuel was the swelling was light, indicating the damage may have been light as well. The bad news? Until there is no swelling and Tuel can perform certain exercises without pain, he will probably have to sit.

• Is there a chance this Saturday? Last week things looked brighter. But that was before UCLA held off Washington, Tuel went down, there was another rash of injuries at safety and kicker Nico Grasu came up lame. Maybe the best hope for the Cougars now is a good old-fashioned Palouse snow storm. After all, the Bruins, an 18-point favorite, have never seemed to play well when it’s cold in Pullman. Add in their injuries at the quarterback spot – starter Kevin Prince is questionable after taking a blow to the head against UW – and this might still be WSU best chance for another win.

• How will WSU fill its safety gap? Though Anthony Carpenter could probably help the Cougars this week, there is no way the freshman’s redshirt will be burned for just three games. So the Cougars will have to hope Chima Nwachukwu’s ankle heals enough for the junior to play. Along with Hicks, that would give WSU two experienced players back there. Jay Matthews, a redshirt freshman who missed the second half Saturday with a shoulder injury, should also be back. Myron Beck, who bulked up to play linebacker this year, will also be thrown into the breach.

•••

• And here’s the basketball advance

PULLMAN – The public will have their first chance to see the Ken Bone-coached Cougars tonight at Beasley Coliseum, when Washington State University hosts Lewis-Clark State College at 7.

The Cougars, who were 17-16 last season under current Virginia coach Tony Bennett, play their only exhibition game of Bone’s first year against the NAIA Warriors. Admission is free. The first official game is Friday, when Mississippi Valley State comes to Friel Court.

Sophomores Klay Thompson, who averaged 12.5 points a game, and DeAngelo Casto, both members of the Pac-10 All-Freshman team last season, and senior Nic Koprivica are expected to play crucial roles for WSU this year.

Bone comes to WSU from Portland State, which he guided to the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons.

•••

• That’s it for now. We’ll be back in the morning with some thoughts – we only ever have “some” – and links. Until then …


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