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Last look at WSU loss to UCLA


COUGARS

We have a lot for you tonight. There’s our usual look back at Saturday’s game. Then there is the follow story. And an advance of Monday’s basketball game with Eastern Washington. All, of course, will appear in tomorrow’s S-R. Read on.

••••••••••

• Here’s the look back …

UCLA 43, WSU 7

• High point of the game

In a game with one WSU touchdown, it should always be the choice. It is, but it came in the third quarter with WSU trailing 29-0. The Cougars had moved from their 20 past midfield for the first time in the game, but faced a third-and-7 from the 46. Senior quarterback Kevin Lopina, in relief of starter Marshall Lobbestael, decided to take a shot deep against the UCLA zone. Jeffrey Solomon raced down the left sideline, safety Rahim Moore took a bad angle at the ball and Solomon gathered it in a couple of yards behind the defense. The 46-yard score accounted for more than 25 percent of WSU’s total offense.

• Low point of the game

Trying to avoid a slow start, WSU won the toss and took the ball. Two plays gained a little more than 9 yards, leaving the Cougars facing a third-and-1 at their 29. Lobbestael, seeing UCLA in man coverage, changed the play at the line, switching from a run to a pass. Fullback Jared Byers, leaking out of the backfield, was his first look, Jared Karstetter, running a slant, his second, according to coach Paul Wulff. Byers was covered decently by Akeem Ayers, Kartstetter was free. But Lobbestael tried to hit Byers, Ayers dove, intercepted the ball and UCLA had the first break.

• A pat on the back

Though he hasn’t played in months, Lopina relieved Lobbestael and brought the Cougars a little spark. Though his pass statistics were nothing special – 7 of 14 for 102 yards and the one touchdown – Lopina at least supplied a couple of highlights. One of those, however, he would love to have back. His second-quarter scramble resulted in a 36-yard gain, but also a turnover, when Lopina allowed Andrew Abbott to strip the ball and the Bruins recovered.

• Needs fixing

The Cougars are 1-9. They are a lot of things that need fixing, most of which have been discussed here throughout the season. They include a talent gap, which results in a lack of depth, speed and playermakers. But, with two games left, there is one aspect of the game WSU can control: How hard it plays. Wulff has been happy with the effort most games this year. The Cougars need to continue to play with passion no matter what the next eight quarters bring.

Three unanswered questions

• How long will Jeff Tuel be out? It’s the same question that dominated the discussion last week. The Cougars’ loss Saturday underscored how much they need the freshman quarterback’s abilities. But they also need a healthy Tuel to lead offseason workouts. If the 18-year-old needs two more weeks to heal properly, he needs to take them.

• What will the crowd be like this week? Two years ago Oregon State came to Pullman the week before the Apple Cup – and Thanksgiving break. The crowd was sparse at the start (22,660), but following halftime, driven from their seats by a soaking rain and a 31-3 Cougar deficit, it was nearly non-existent. No one knows what the weather will be like, or what the halftime score will be this week. But there’s a chance both could be similar.

• Who will be back? Besides Tuel, tight end Tony Thompson (concussion), safety Chima Nwachukwu (ankle) and kicker Nico Grasu (quadriceps) – all upperclass starters – were also on the disabled list last weekend. Wulff sounded pessimistic Sunday that any of the three could return this week, though Nwachukwu did try to practice some last week. If any return, they help the Cougar cause.

•••

• And here’s the follow …

PULLMAN – Sometimes, Sundays around the Washington State University football program can seem a little like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

The hospital part, not the drama.

With 27 players unable to practice last week due to injury or illness, the Cougars suited up 50 to take on UCLA.

Though that group got overmatched, with the Bruins rolling to a 43-7 victory, at least no one was added to the injury list – at least not yet.

“No one new, we don’t think, that should (be out) until we get more information (today) or the next day, ” coach Paul Wulff said Sunday night when asked if there were any new injuries. “But no, no one that was obvious.”

Much of Wulff’s conference call was dominated by the WSU (1-9 overall, 0-7 in the Pac-10) injury situation, most notably five starters who missed the UCLA game but are expected to return sometime before the season ends after Thanksgiving weekend’s Apple Cup.

The key name, of course, is freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel, who suffered a subluxation of his kneecap at Arizona a week ago.

“His health is still in question,” Wulff said. “He made some progress early. It’s kind of slowed down … in terms of the healing. Again he’s very questionable for this week.”

Wulff was still pondering who would start if Tuel were out another week, having to choose between Saturday’s starter, Marshall Lobbestael, and senior Kevin Lopina.

“We don’t know whether it’s Marshall or Kevin,” Wulff said. “We have all day (today) to see how that’s going to unfold and what direction we want to go on Tuesday.”

Lobbestael, who missed the end of last season with a major knee injury, was pulled early in the second quarter against UCLA, having thrown interceptions on three of his first five passes.

“The mistakes early kind of stymied any momentum we had going into the game,” Wulff said of WSU’s 14-0 deficit after 9 minutes, 43 seconds. “We just couldn’t overcome the early points we gave up.”

Lopina relieved, had one long run, threw for the Cougars only touchdown and generally added a spark to a listless offense.

“Kevin did some good things,” Wulff said. “To do what he did in a live situation, he hadn’t been in that situation in a long time, he did a good job.”

Of the others who did not play – tight end Tony Thompson (concussion), safety Chima Nwachukwu (ankle), kicker Nico Grasu (quadriceps) – or played sparingly – defensive tackle Bernard Wulfgramm (back) – Wulff was non-committal on their playing status this week.

The game time for Saturday’s home game with Oregon State is still to be determined as WSU tries to televise the contest. Due to other Pac-10 television commitments, however, it will start no later than 2 p.m. The 20th-ranked Beavers (7-3, 5-2) have been installed as a 31-point favorite.

•••

• And the basketball advance …

PULLMAN – The coaches know each other. The schools? Not so much.

Washington State University hosts Eastern Washington tonight at 7 in a non-conference basketball game between two schools separated by about 75 miles, but have played only once since the 1998-99 season.

That one game, a 68-41 WSU win in 2007, marked the debut of Eastern coach Kirk Earlywine.

Cougar head coach Ken Bone made his WSU debut last Friday, a 94-66 win over Mississippi Valley State. The Cougars were led by guard Klay Thompson, with 20 points, and post DeAngelo Casto, who added 18.

But Bone knows Earlywine’s teams well.

While at Portland State, Bone and the Vikings played EWU twice a season in Big Sky Conference play.

“I have a lot of respect for (the Eagles),” Bone said Friday. “I want to make sure our team has a lot of respect for them. I think we understand, at least I understand, it’s a huge game for them. It needs to be a huge game for us also.

“We need to respect who they are because they have a chance to be really good this year.”

The Eagles are 0-1 after falling to Portland 64-58 at home last Saturday. Guard Benny Valentine had 20 points and center Brandon Moore chipped in 14.

•••••

• That’s all for now. We’ll return in the morning. Until then …


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