So is anyone reading out there anymore? Or did you all go celebrate? There was a football win – on the road for goodness sakes – and a basketball victory for you Cougar Nation dwellers to party over. As if you need a reason. Read on.
• We have some minutia to pass on but before we get there, let’s pass on the links we do have. We have our football game story from Corvallis and the basketball story from Josh Wright, who was in Pullman filling in for me. … OK, that’s that. … Some other items from Saturday. … The last road win was the last game of Bill Doba’s career, the 42-35 Apple Cup win in Seattle. … The Cougar defense is coming around, having held two consecutive teams scoreless in the first quarter. That’s progress. Heck, it’s been since 2007 a WSU team had put a zero on the board for the opponent in the first half. … Aire Justin had an interception for the second consecutive week. That hasn’t happened since, yes, 2007, when Husain Abdullah did it. … Marquess Wilson had his fifth touchdown catch of the season, just one off Phillip Bobo’s freshman school record. … Daniel Blackledge had 76 receiving yards for the second time this year. It’s his career high. He did drop a 15-yard pass. … The 48 plays OSU ran is its fewest since running 49 against WSU in 1993. … Jacquizz Rodgers did pass Rueben Mayes on the all-time Pac-10 rushing list. Rodgers has 3,586, Mayes finished with 3,519. … It’s been six years since OSU has been shut out in a half at home.
• UPDATE: Here’s the unedited version of our notebook …
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Paul Wulff stood in the visiting locker room in the basement of Oregon State’s Gill Coliseum, tying his tie.
A long Jeff Tuel pass away, down a driveway and a somewhat-steep hill, sits the Reser Stadium field where, about an hour earlier, Wulff’s Washington State team had exited, yelling, screaming, clapping hands with their fans en route to the locker room.
The Cougars, 23.5-point underdogs, had just upset the Beavers, 31-14, sending much of the 45,389 in attendance home shaking their heads.
But the win, and the ensuing celebration, may have done more than that.
It quite possibly ensured Wulff, embattled after nearly three seasons and 31 losses, another year as his alma mater’s head football coach.
Asked about it as he was putting the final touches on the knot, Wulff took a page from Tuel’s playbook and sidestepped.
“We’re building a program here,” he said, sticking to a script he’s followed since taking over from Bill Doba after the 2007 season. “I say that over and over.”
And his athletic director, Bill Moos, has said over and over he’ll evaluate Wulff’s performance and determine his future following the Apple Cup.
But Moos, who guided the committee that recommended Wulff’s hire and who took over earlier this year from the man who made it, former AD Jim Sterk, has also said he wants to see progress.
No matter how it’s parsed, Saturday’s win was just that.
“I think, just playing better and better football like we have all year and winning a conference game on the road,” Wulff said, “I think that hopefully shows that things have been continually moving toward this all year.
“Hopefully, that’s what people see.”
The Cougar fans who witnessed the victory – the first Pac-10 road win Wulff’s teams have been able to earn – gathered in Reser’s southwest corner afterward, where the WSU band was playing.
The players started to flow that way, first slowly, then with a flood. Wulff and his staff joined them. The band played the fight song, the players and the fans shared the moment, and Wulff took a second to reflect.
Asked later what he was thinking, Wulff said it was “how the fans have deserved this as much as the players.”
“I was so happy to see so many Cougar fans happy,” he said. “I cannot have enough gratitude for their support and what they’ve been having to go through the last few years.”
Tuel’s running – he finished with a career-high 79 yards on 18 attempts – almost had dire consequences for WSU. With a little less than 6 minutes left before halftime, the quarterback scrambled to the goal line, where safety Lance Mitchell met him.
The sophomore didn’t bounce up.
“It could have been my head hit the ground, I’m not sure,” he said. “I just got my bell rung a little bit.”
And he was out, replaced by Marshall Lobbestael, who got the Cougars into the end zone. But Tuel couldn’t get back in the game on WSU’s next possession.
“I was pretty aggravated, actually,” he said. “I just wanted to be on the field. They ask you some pretty tough questions, actually, to test you for a concussion, so I was getting a little frustrated.”
The testing continued at halftime.
“They ask you questions, memorization-type thing, balance,” Tuel said. “(The doctors and trainers) all met outside and came to a group decision to say, ‘OK, if he can go out there and run around and throw, he’s good.’ I was fine.”
He played the second half and said afterward he had no ill-effects.
The seeds of Saturday’s victory were probably sown October 11, 2008. That’s when Oregon State defeated an injury-depleted WSU team 66-13 here. The Beavers scored on a 39-yard pass with 7 minutes left and threw another pass on their final possession.
“It really shows how Oregon State has no class, in my opinion,” cornerback Romeo Pellum said then. “In that big of a win usually teams run the ball and obviously (OSU) coach (Mike) Riley showed that he didn’t have no class.
“That’s just a thought for us to remember for the next time we play Oregon State, have that nasty taste in your stomach.”
Pellum is gone, transferring after that season, but a few Cougars remain. And they remembered. Though no one talked about it except Casey Hamlett, who was still playing at Western Washington that year.
“It was mentioned a couple times that they kinda gave it to us when they had the chance,” Hamlett said. “For the guys that were here then, that was probably a motivating factor.”
It seemed to be for Wulff as well. He said he learned something that day.
“What I learned was, when you have a lead, a big lead in a game at the end, you kneel on it,” Wulff said.
That’s exactly what the Cougars did, when they led by the final score with 1 minute, 48 seconds left.
“It feels good to win,” Wulff said. “It feels good to be ahead late in the game and be able to kneel on it.”
The Cougars defensive game plan was predicated on controlling Jacquizz Rodgers, the Pac-10’s second-leading rusher coming in. The 5-foot-7 junior did roll off one 28-yard, disappear-from-sight, tackle-breaking run, but finished with just 93 yards on 15 carries.
“We knew we had to stop 1 (Rodgers) and that starts with tackling,” said defensive coordinator Chris Ball.
That meant being aggressive Ball said.
“With this type of running back, as good as he is, we felt like we couldn’t sit back. We needed to attack and get after him,” Ball explained. “You wait for him and he’s going to make you miss.”
“He (Rodgers) torched us last year,” Hamlett said. “We just had to be aggressive, because he’s a guy who’s going to make you miss. If you want to just stand there and dance with him, chances are you’re not going to get hands on him.”
C.J. Mizell got more than his hands on him, driving Rogers out of bounds and to the ground on the game’s first play, drawing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
“I wish it wouldn’t have happened,” Ball said. “But the great thing about them, they didn’t let it bother them. In the past something like that happen and they go into the tank. This time they responded to it.”
Not only did the Cougars hold on that series, they shutout the Beavers until midway through the third quarter.
“I look at (Mizell) as like a tempo setter, because he’s always slamming people to the ground,” said offensive center Zack Williams. “It’s going to make me go out there and play harder.”
WSU has played 11 consecutive weeks. Now the Cougars have two consecutive byes until the Apple Cup. They get a few days off, return to practice over the weekend, then get Thanksgiving week off. Preparations for the Dec. 4 date with the Huskies will start the Monday prior.
• OK, that’s all for now. We’ll be back in the morning with our usual post. Until then …