Some things have changed around Washington State, that’s for sure. We document them, plus add our day after post, so read on.
• Washington State: Funny, two years ago, being in the game in the second half with the No. 17-ranked team in the nation would have been enough. Heck, it would have been enough to be in the game in the second quarter last year. Maybe even a month ago. But not now, at least not to the small group of fans who booed WSU not attempting a play in the final seconds Saturday. Going into the season, the prevailing thought expressed here and elsewhere was the Cougars had to show improvement. Winning would be great, but this was the year they had to make strides on the field. So what’s happened over the past month? Against the best conference in the nation – that’s not even debatable – WSU has shown it’s better offensively at times, defensively at fewer times and on special teams most of the time. But it still hasn’t learned how not to strangle the life out of a game with mental and physical mistakes in all three areas of the game, which happened Saturday. Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who spent more time on the field Saturday than the line judge, had this to say. “Washington State is better all the way through. Their souls are just deeper. They compete better. It seems to me they are turning a corner and shrinking the field. We started (our) process six years ago and, with the schedule they play, it’s hard, but they compete.” OK, I don’t know what he meant by “their souls are just deeper,” but I get the rest of it. The Cougars have made another step, learning how to compete, to stay in games, to hit with a passion, to put a scare into people. They haven’t, however, learned how to win just yet. … That may be coming, or it may not come until next year. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball, a veteran of Mike Price’s later staffs, has seen this before. “It’s starting to remind me of, I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but it’s starting to remind me of the 2000 team,” he said yesterday. “We had three overtime losses (that year). We kept getting better and better, then we got that whole crew back and that’s when we went on our run, you know?” … It’s hard for me to believe WSU won’t take a step back sometime in the next few weeks, though. The injuries are starting to mount and there is no rest week on the horizon. By the time the byes come, it may be too late. With left tackle David Gonzales gone for the year, the offensive line will have to make another transition, not a good thing in the middle of the year. With cornerback Damante Horton gone for at least a while, the secondary will have to make another transition. And if Reid Forrest is out, his Heisman campaign is out as well. Each injury puts more pressure on the healthy players, leading to more injuries. With Stanford, possibly the Pac-10’s most physical team, on the horizon, an already thin squad may get thinner. … There are a few players WSU can’t afford to lose at any price. One of those is Jeff Tuel, who went over 200 yards passing for the seventh consecutive week, the longest WSU streak since Alex Brink’s eight in 2007. Tuel has also tossed a touchdown pass in each of this year’s seven games. Coach Paul Wulff admitted last night he would love to run Tuel more – the sophomore made some big plays with his feet, avoiding sacks to rush seven times for 33 yards – but can’t risk it. “We need to keep him upright,” Wulff said. “For us to continue to grow, we need him in the game.” … OK, that’s enough of my thoughts this morning. On to the links. … You can relive last night’s game through Chris Anderson’s pictures. … Or you can do it through our game story, the notebook we put together with John Blanchette, his column, the scoring, the statistics or the four keys. Your choice. … Bud Withers does an excellent job of summing up the missed opportunities, a task I failed at miserably. He also had a game summary. … CougCenter, former headquarters for Forrest’s Heisman campaign, had these thoughts.
• Around the Pac-10: ESPN.com’s Ted Miller, as he does each week, hands out helmet stickers and tells us what we learned. … Oregon is about to become No. 1. … Washington: In the day’s most exciting finish, the Huskies hold off Oregon State 35-34 in double overtime. … It didn’t start that way, but the dramatic win may have saved UW’s season. … Oregon State: The game slipped through the Beavers’ fingers on a two-point conversion. … It’s sort of sad a local Puget Sound kid couldn’t hold the game-winning pass. … Oregon: John Canzano has a dream. … With the losses yesterday, the Ducks are poised to ascend to a place they’ve never been. … Cal: Wow. 48-14, USC. That was bad for the Bears. When was the last time WSU wasn’t the team that was beat down the most on a Pac-10 Saturday? … Stanford: Jim Harbaugh, the man, the myth, the mission. … USC: Wow. 48-14. That was good for the Trojans. … UCLA: Nothing here on a bye week. … Arizona State: Nothing here either, same reason. …. Arizona: The 24-7 victory may turn out to be really painful for the Wildcats. … Freshmen. For every great play, there’s a corresponding screw up. … Finally, some notes from Pullman.
• That’s it for this morning. We’ll be back later tonight after Wulff’s teleconference. Until then …