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WSU’s lost Saturday


COUGARS

This one is in the books. Pretty interesting in a stop-to-watch-the-car-crash sort of way. We have our game story and the notebook on the link, unedited versions of course. Read on.



••••••••••

• Here’s the game story …

PULLMAN – It was supposed to be homecoming. Instead it turned into Washington State’s own episode of “Lost.”

And a multi-arc episode at that.

Twelve sacks. Twenty-three negative plays. Minus-54 yards rushing. Five penalties on offense. Three turnovers.

When the confusing, convoluted offensive day – for both teams – was over, Washington State had lost, 27-14, to Arizona State before 26,010 in Martin Stadium.

It was another loss built up front.

“We just got completely dominated from their defensive line and our offensive line, more of a domination than I’ve ever seen,” Washington State coach Paul Wulff said. “It just put so much pressure on our quarterbacks.”

More consistent pressure than true freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel admitted to have ever seen.

Tuel, making his second career start, was sacked nine times, including being flattened on the game’s second play by defensive end James Brooks.

The pressure was intense enough Wulff and offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy replaced Tuel with Marshall Lobbestael for the last half of the second quarter and the start of the third.

“It didn’t matter what quarterback was back there, he was going to get hit all the time,” Wulff said. “Sometimes pulling him back, let him see some things, is good. When he came back, he played lot better football.”

But the pressure remained.

“We thought their O-line was kind of vulnerable,” Brooks said. “We did some stunts that could get to the quarterback and every starter on the D-line got a sack or two so it was a successful night.”

Brooks had 2.5 sacks, tackle Lawrence Guy another 2.5, end Dexter Davis 1.5 – plus an interception – and six others had a sack or a piece of one.

WSU’s offensive line Saturday was the same group that struggled last weekend at Oregon. Only center Kenny Alfred, who sat out the fourth quarter after suffering a deep cut on his leg, and tackle Micah Hannam, had more than two games experience at the positions they played. The other three spots were held down by two freshmen and a rarely-used junior.

“I wouldn’t say I was frustrated, I would say I was disappointed,” Hannam said, “because I couldn’t help out the defense when they helped us out.”

Despite being handed six turnovers, the WSU offense could only take advantage of one, and that after ASU (3-2 overall, 1-1 in Pac-10 play) had built a 19-0 third-quarter lead.

Andy Mattingly’s interception and 13-yard return put the Cougars (1-5, 0-4 in the Pac-10) at the Arizona State 31. After losing 3 yards on a run, Tuel, who had returned the possession prior, found Jared Karstetter for a 12-yard gain. The next play was another run with another yard loss.

On fourth-and-2, Tuel play faked, then rolled to his left. Daniel Blackledge was in the back corner of the end zone, though Terrell Carr had good coverage. Still, Tuel, who finished 11 of 22 for 175 yards, tried to loft the ball to his receiver. It fluttered, then floated toward Carr’s hands.

But Karstetter came from out of the picture to dive and grab it in front of a shocked Carr. It was Tuel’s first career touchdown pass.

“I love him for it,” Tuel said of Karstetter. “Obviously not a very good throw. But I was just running for my life, just trying to throw it up and give our guys a chance.”

Two possessions later, Tuel tried again.

Stuck on the 1-yard line after an ASU kickoff and a 4-yard, first-down loss, Tuel dropped back into his endzone and lofted a ball down the left sideline toward Johnny Forzani.

Forzani went up at the 29-yard line, wrestled the ball away from Josh Jordan, kept his balance and raced down the field. Jordan had no chance. The 99-yard pass-and-run was the longest scrimmage play in WSU history.

“He put in a spot that was just perfect for me, outside of the defender’s hands,” said Forzani, the Calgary, Alberta native who has just one year of football experience. “I caught it and I just took off. That’s what I do. I just kind of catch and run.”

The defense did a lot of that as well.

Besides Mattingly, Louis Bland and Xavier Hicks also had interceptions. Bland and Dan Spitz knocked balls free, forcing two of ASU’s three fumbles. The six turnovers were the most Washington State’s defense has forced since 2003.

“We threw some different looks at them,” co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball said. “We played them pretty well last year against the pass. We pulled out some of that same stuff … just disguised it a little different.”

It worked. Though the Sun Devils finished with 220 yards rushing and 410 in total offense, the six turnovers kept them from making it a runaway.

“We did not help ourselves out in the turnover margin,” said ASU quarterback Danny Sullivan, who threw all three interceptions. “That’s what kept this game close.”

Sullivan, under fire in Tempe, was 19 of 29 for 169 yards, throwing one touchdown and running for another. Freshman Brock Osweiler, from Kalispell, Mont., played a couple series and was 3 of 4 for 21 yards.

Kyle Williams, who caught two touchdowns last year against the Cougars, gathered in a career-high 13 receptions for 126 yards and the Sun Devils first touchdown from 9-yards out. He also set up their third with a 53-yard run on a reverse.

The Cougars’ longest run was a 15-yard fake punt by Reid Forrest. But it didn’t lead to anything, as Tuel threw the first of his interceptions three plays later, overthrowing Carl Winston at the ASU 18.

His second, late in the first quarter, also came deep in Arizona State territory. The other WSU turnover, a Blackledge fumble, also may have cost points.

“He was just trying to make a play,” Sturdy said. “That play hurt. If we could have somehow come away with points. (Then) we go for it on fourth down, we get a catch and fumble it. They get it back. We would have had it on the (ASU) 22.”

Just another lost opportunity in a day of them.

•••

• And here’s my part of the notebook …

PULLMAN – No matter what happens from now on, quarterback Jeff Tuel and receiver Johnny Forzani are in the Washington State record book.

The two teamed up on a 99-yard touchdown pass Saturday in the Cougars’ 27-14 loss to Arizona State, the longest offensive play in Washington State history.

Trailing 27-7, the Cougars’ Carl Winston touched a kickoff before it went out of bounds on their 5-yard line. On first down, ASU’s William Sutton broke through on first down and wrestled Logwone Mitz to the ground just outside the endzone.

“Before we went out on that drive, actually we were talking about it,” Tuel said, “because he was telling me, ‘I don’t care what the route is, I can run by these guys. I can get a step on them.’

“I thought it was a good time to give him a shot for a ball and he made a great play on it.”

Arizona State cornerback Josh Jordan had decent coverage on Forzani, a redshirt junior from Calgary, Alberta who played last year for the scout team of the Stampeders. But Forzani was able to adjust quicker, taking the ball away as Jordan tried to get his hands on it.

“The ball was just perfect the way (Tuel) put it,” Forzani said. “That was pretty much it. I just took off with it.”

Jordan was off-balance and, by the time he regained his footing, Forzani had a couple yards on him.

“We all know he can run,” said Tuel, the true freshman making his second start. “It’s just a matter of giving him the opportunity.”

“I’ve got pretty good wheels,” Forzani said. “I’d be surprised if anyone caught me.”

No one did this time and the duo had replaced Steve Birnbaum and Nian Taylor’s 97-yard pass play against Idaho from the record book.

“I didn’t even think about (the record) until it came up afterward,” Forzani said. “They were like, ‘you set a record, you set a record.’ I was … mad we were still behind. I wanted to get back in the game.”

•••

The Cougars set another record, at least as far back as the schools’ books reach.

Since 1957, which is when WSU began keeping the statistic, the Cougars had never had a worse rushing game than the minus-54 yards they accrued against ASU.

Prior to Saturday, the record was listed as minus-38 yards against Cal in 1976.

•••

Daniel Simmons, who had fought his way into the starting lineup at cornerback against Southern Methodist, fractured his fibula in his right leg during the second half. The redshirt freshman will join defensive backs Le Andre Daniels (broken leg) and Tyree Toomer (pectoral surgery) on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Offensive lineman Brian Danaher may be there as well after having suffered his second concussion in three weeks.

With a bye next week, the Cougars hope to get back senior center Kenny Alfred, who suffered a cut on his leg that required stitches and forced him to miss the fourth quarter.

When asked if the bye comes at a good time, Wulff snorted, laughed and said, “ya, ya,” and snorted again. “It’s at a good time,” he continued. “We need to get healthy. The guys who are playing who are nicked up need to get healthy, and then our offensive line and defensive line, we need to get a couple guys back.”

In that latter category, guards Zack Williams and Steven Ayers should be back and B.J. Guerra might be. On the defensive side, tackle Bernard Wulfgramm should return, though Josh Luapo is out for the season and end Kevin Kooyman is talking about redshirting. Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis is also expected back.

Of the former, linebackers Andy Mattingly (deep thigh bruise) and Louis Bland (knee), receiver Jared Kartstetter (hip) and Tuel (hip) played through their injuries.

•••

The WSU Athletic Foundation has launched a campaign to increase its donation base by about 4,000 in the next year.

The initiative, labeled 10/10/10, will try to raise the foundation’s donor base to 10,000 by Oct., 2010. A donor is classified as someone who donates $100 or more on a yearly basis.

“The Athletic Foundation has a number of major projects on the table, with none bigger than the Martin Stadium Phase III renovation,” athletic director Jim Sterk said.

However, Sterk said the most importance aspect of the foundation’s work is to pay for athletic scholarships. With the increases in tuition, costs have risen above donations.

“When we can’t cover scholarship costs with annual donations,” Sterk said, “it puts us behind our Pac-10 competitors in a significant way.”

The WSU athletic budget of around $26 million is the lowest among Pac-10 schools.

•••

• That’s it for tonight. We’ll be back in the morning with more. Until then …


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