One of the harder parts of writing the morning-after post is getting out of bed. Really. It’s Sunday morning, there’s a chill in the air and the pillows are soft. Why not just stay under the covers and let you folks forage for your own information. But such thoughts pass quickly, unlike the headache I’ve got. So we sit down at the computer and start typing. The result is on the link, so read on.
• Washington State: Where do we start? Saturday’s game never had the feeling it was going to be a blowout, even when 12th-ranked Stanford began to stretch the lead after halftime. Having a decent passing game will do that. But after the interception on the first possession, and subsequent field goal, you never had the feeling WSU could win it, either. Maybe that’s because it’s obvious this team isn’t ready to roar all the way back against a really good team, because the defense will struggle to get stops and earn possessions. Yes, the Cougar defense is better than it was a month ago, significantly better even if the numbers haven’t shown such a level of improvement – the competition has been improved the last five games – but it’s still not at a level that gives one confidence that a stop can happen in a key situation. Until that happens, an upset against a team the caliber of Stanford is still a dream. … Yet, the Cougars did some good things throughout the game. … Against a Stanford team that defends much better than it did a year ago, the offense moved the ball on the ground in spurts – and left it on the ground a couple times. Asked how the offensive line did in the running game, coach Steve Morton answered “Yards per carry, you see what the backs run, that’s how you judge a running game. Yards per carry. That’s when you’re headed in the right direction.” The Cougars averaged 3.9 yards a carry overall but, if you take out the two sacks, 4.6 on the 21 rushing attempts. That’s a number they can live with. And that’s with freshman John Fullington starting for the first time at left tackle – David Gonzales was at the game and said his arm was better; he had surgery and more than a dozen screws were put in to anchor two plates holding it together. And the fact Tuel was only sacked twice was an improvement (one of those also occurred on a play in which Marquess Wilson was open on a drag route and Tuel didn’t see him), though the sophomore was under pressure often, including getting whacked on the 74-yard touchdown pass to Wilson. … The defense did force one turnover and should have had at least one other – we have quotes on Kevin Kooyman’s interception and Tyree Toomer’s near-interception below – but struggled to get off the field on third down. … The special teams were pretty near perfect, especially Reid Forrest’s punting – the senior averaged 57.3 on his punts, with height and hang time as well, impressing the six NFL scouts in attendance I’m sure – though the kickoff returns weren’t as well blocked as they have been recently. … Finally, when this stretch of three games with ranked teams started, there was a feeling WSU would emerge a battered-and-beaten team. The Cougars are battered – there were some more injuries Saturday – and they’ve been beaten, but they’re not crushed into the turf. They actually seem to be a team on the rise. It will be interesting to see how they practice this week now that they are preparing for an ASU team that isn’t anywhere near being ranked. There has been a motivation the past three weeks that won’t be available this one. A young WSU group may just lose focus some. We’ll see. … By the way, there was only a light rain yesterday. But it was enough to make the field slick and people slipping to the turf was common. … Now on to the links. … We had our game story and notebook, and we have some more notes that didn’t make the paper below. We also had the scoring, though we can’t find the statistics on-line. … Bud Withers had his gamer and a Paul Wulff-is-the-right-guy-for-next-season column along with a two-minute drill for the Times. … Before we get to the quotes from outside the locker room, here’s a note that didn’t make the paper …
• What a difference two years can make. When Stanford defeated WSU here 58-0 in 2008, the crowd was announced as 26,662, but due to a driving rainstorm, there were never more than 12,000 in the stands, including about a handful when the rout ended.
And of the players who led the Cougars offensively that day – if you can term anyone leading as part of an offense that puts up 225 yards – only two, Logwone Mitz and Daniel Blackledge, suited up Saturday.
Blackledge was the only one of the eight players who caught passes that Saturday – he had one catch for 6 yards, his same total this season – still playing. And Mitz, who led WSU with 62 yards on 11 carries, is the only one of the seven ball carries from then who faced Stanford this year.
Chantz Staden should have also been part of this year’s Cougars, but the senior missed his second consecutive game with a rib injury. And linebacker Louis Bland, who had one carry for 4 yards two years ago – a fake punt – is redshirting this season, recovering from knee surgery.
• On to the quotes …
Jared Karstetter on the offensive line: “Everyone sees us complete the deep balls, but without the time no one completes those passes. It just speaks volumes to how much those guys have improved and how hard they’re fighting in there.” … “When we throw the ball downfield, those plays take time. You can just see how much better the line is getting.”
Deone Bucannon on his play: “I feel I did a decent job but I could have done a lot better for this team.”
Bucannon on Tyree Toomer’s dropped interception: “It’s one of those things. (You’re thinking) it’s Andrew Luck, I can’t believe you threw it right in my hands. I see where he’s coming from, that’s a first-round draft pick that just through it right in his hands. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting that.”
Kevin Kooyman on falling after his pick: “The turf monster got me.”
More on the interception:“(I) saw the running back go out and that’s what we’re taught to do, go with him.” … “It’s more like just catch the ball. That’s the only thing I was thinking about. Make sure you catch the ball. Ended up falling straight down, but at least I got the interception.”
Kooyman on the nature of the game: “They are definitely a physical team and I felt we held our own with them.”
Kooyman on the physical way the Cougars are playing: “Based on where we are at, I definitely wish it had happened earlier.” … “It helped us be physical (against Stanford) by taking those days off, resting the horses.”
Travis Long on Kooyman’s interception. Long was on the sidelines getting his shoulder looked at when it happened and didn’t see it: “All I heard was interception by Kooyman. I looked and saw him getting up. As said ‘you’re too slow, you got caught.’ He said ‘I didn’t get caught, I just tripped on the turf.’ If he kept his feet, he could have gone.”
Long on how close the Cougars got to an upset: “We left a lot, a lot of plays on defense open. Third-and-long on several occasions when we could have gotten off the field and we just gave them too much. Missing tackles. The same old stuff that happens every week. Coach said when you look at film, there are going to be about five or six plays that could have changed the outcome of the game.”
Micah Hannam on Jeff Tuel: “He can take his hits and step up and make throws as you saw on his last pass. It’s nice to have a quarterback like that.”
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh on the sparse crowd, announced at more than 36,000 but seeming like about 15,000: “Our fans didn’t even bother coming to the game today. This was a good football game today. We did more things right today than they did and got the win.”
Harbaugh on Stanford’s eight penalties: “Disappointing. More holding calls offensively than we have had and personal fouls as well.”
Harbaugh on Wilson’s long score: “Playing with some young freshman safeties in there and they need to step up. No excuses. You go into the game, you have to make the play and do what you are supposed to do.”
Harbaugh on Tuel: “The pass rush was good at time but he did a good job of standing in there. He was a real composed, poised quarterback that makes a lot of accurate throws. The fade routes down the sideline, he lays the ball in nicely. He’s an impressive quarterback.”
Andrew Luck on the win: “First of all we got the win and a win is a win. It was a little disappointing. We were a little sluggish, not sharp. We didn’t get in a rhythm. We are a bit frustrated, we know we can do better.”
• Our four keys to the game are not on-line, so here they are …
What went right
When Washington State gave Jeff Tuel time, the passing game clicked. Tuel, a sophomore, threw for 298 yards, his eighth consecutive game with more than 200 yards. Marquess Wilson’s 150 receiving yards is a WSU freshman single-game record. And Jared Karstetter had nine catches, including two touchdowns. His six on the season ties his total for last year. “Jeff is as good as they come,” said tackle Micah Hannam of his quarterback. “If we can protect him for long enough, he can do great things. … Giving him time really is the key.”
What went wrong
The Cougars couldn’t take care of the ball, turning it over three times, including two Tuel interceptions. The first led to a field goal, the second killing an early second half drive. “The turnovers hurt us,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “Two weeks in a row we lost the turnover battle.” The Cougars had a chance to be at least be closer, but Tyree Toomer couldn’t handle a sure pick thrown by Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck late in the third quarter.
The game hinged midway through the second quarter. The Cougars cut the Stanford lead to 10-7, but then gave up two long touchdown drives, the last one ending just 47 seconds before halftime. In between, they came up just inches short on a third-down play that would have kept possession with 3 minutes left and possibly kept Stanford out of the end zone. “We had a bad second quarter,” Wulff said. “We couldn’t stop the run, they had two long drives on us. They just ate up the clock.”
Let’s give this one to the Stanford offensive line. Jonathan Martin, Andrew Phillips, Chase Beeler, David DeCastro and Derek Hall bore their way through the WSU defensive front at times. With sophomore running back Stepfan Taylor – 142 yards on 27 carries – finding the holes, the Cardinal dominated time of possession. The group also gave Andrew Luck enough time to complete 20 of 28 passes for 190 yards. He was not sacked and has been only three times all year.
• Around the Pac-10: Ted Miller has his helmet stickers and what we learned on ESPN.com. WSU is included in both. … Washington: The Huskies, who we finally picked to win this week, played as poorly as they possibly could, and got blown out 44-14 by Arizona. … Oregon State: Bye, so nothing … Oregon: Played Thursday night, so nothing. … Cal: The Bears are darn good at home as their 50-17 rout of ASU shows. … Stanford: The 38-28 final score wasn’t what Stanford wanted but the Cardinal are happy with the win. … Jeff Tuel earned praise and criticism. … There were a lot of empty seats at Bay Area games Saturday. … USC: With a bye, nothing here. … UCLA: By playing Thursday, nothing here either, except quarterback Kevin Prince is out for the season. … Arizona State: Dennis Erickson is in trouble after the awful performance in Berkeley. … Arizona: Matt Scott was a more than capable fill-in for the injured Nick Foles.
• That’s it for this morning. We’ll be back after we get back in the Inland Northwest and talk with Paul Wulff on his conference call tonight. Until then …