We know you didn’t have a chance to watch the game yesterday, but we have some thoughts we want to share. We also have all your links. And all this is coming to you from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, as we wait for the flight to Portland and beyond. Read on.
• Washington State: Before we get to a few quotes from the players and a lot of links to the Pac-10 games, we have some thoughts about last night’s game. … As the past three weeks wore on, I could see the Washington State players start to wear down. Physically, yes. That’s a given, especially since this is a young bunch and still not as physically developed as most of its opposition (more on that soon). But more than anything you could see – maybe it would be more accurate to write, hear – the mental fatigue set in. After the Stanford game, one in which the Cougars used maybe their last reserves of mental fortitude to dig out of a huge hole, the players sounded worn out. The week-in, week-out grind of the Pac-10 season was getting to them. That’s why I figured Arizona State would be a tough nut to crack. The Sun Devils needed a win in the worst way, and they got it. The Cougars needed a rest, and they took it. The result was a 42-0 pounding. All week I asked coaches if they were worried about a letdown and Paul Wulff admitted on Thursday he was. Though practice had been efficient, the fire wasn’t there. Wulff tried to push the right buttons, but like a car with no gas, pressing the accelerator did no good. So when it came time to race, the Cougars had no get in their geteeup, as Jim Walden might say. … So why didn’t I pick ASU to cover? Even if Washington State didn’t play with any fire, I believed, at least they would cover a 21-point spread. That was stupid. … The mental grind that is a Pac-10 season – one that includes, for the Cougars anyway, no bye for another couple weeks – seems to be having an effect on a lot of teams. I asked Jeff Tuel if that was a reason behind the weird scores you see in the conference each week, with an ASU getting blown out one week and routing someone the next, or Cal doing the same, or Washington pulling an upset than getting walloped, or UCLA doing the same. Tuel thought about it a bit and said there probably was something to it. “That could be it. Every team in the conference has to play with that. … It’s just something you’ve got to get good at, get fired up for every game. At any time you can get your butt kicked. … It’s an intense mental grind. That’s part of the game though.” The conference is so good, a middle-of-the-pack team has to be so focused to play well that even a little variance against a team that has none can mean a huge margin. … As for the Cougars’ youth, they were playing a team Saturday that was nearly as young. The Sun Devils started just one senior and all six touchdowns they scored were by either freshmen or sophomores. The most impressive player on the field was 5-foot-11, 233-pound true freshman Junior Onyeali, who used his quickness to blow past John Fullington a few times. He ended up with three sacks and four tackles, all behind the line of scrimmage. Dennis Erickson might be OK next year. … Some interesting statistics. Freshman Marquess Wilson failed to get over 100 yards, catching five pass for 89 yards. He and Tuel couldn’t hook up on a first-half bomb that would have been six when Tuel’s pass wobbled and floated, allowing the defensive back to make up about 5 yards and knock the ball to the grass. Wilson did catch a 47-yarder later though. Jared Karstetter had a case of the drops, with at least two. Wulff thought the receivers dropped more balls than they had at anytime this season. Deone Bucannon led WSU in tackles again with eight, all solo, but he was tied by Tyree Toomer and Alex Hoffman-Ellis. On the post-game stats, one of C.J. Mizell’s tackles was credited to Jeffrey Solomon, so the freshman linebacker also had eight. … Don’t take this as anyway having a huge impact on the outcome, but that was the poorest officiated game I’ve seen in the Pac-10 this season, and everyone knows how low that bar is set. The 10-minute fiasco that was, ultimately, an incomplete pass was just the tip of the ice shelf. Some of the calls were just unexplainable against both teams. Twice I happened to be focused with the binoculars on a certain player who was called for a penalty and didn’t see a thing, including a false start. Once I was sure it was another player doing the holding, but a 6 and a 7 can look so similar. Oh well, the game wasn’t on TV so no one saw it except for the 50,000 or so empty seats in Sun Devils Stadium. … Some numbers to ponder. WSU has lost seven consecutive games, 15 consecutive Pac-10 games, 18 straight against FBS schools and 19 on the road. With the defeat, Wulff dropped to 4-30 as Cougars’ head coach. … All the above being said, I believe that Washington State can break most of those streaks Saturday when California comes to Pullman. The Bears are a poor road team, have played badly at the end of the season recently, don’t like cold weather and lost their starting quarterback against Oregon State (see below). … Now on to some quotes. …
• Wulff on the performance: We were flat and didn’t execute in any phase. I thought we had been mentally ready, but today we were not. It comes back on me and I have to do a better job. Hopefully, they feel embarrassed, because I know I do.”
• On the lopsided score: “I think it’s an accumulation of a lot of things. I thought Arizona State played a very good game. Offensively, this was probably the best they’ve played all year. They were in sync and played good. We couldn’t force anything and we couldn’t make plays. We didn’t block well and there were a lot of dropped balls. Defensively, we tackled poorly and couldn’t get to the quarterback.”
• On ASU’s defensive pressure: “It’s misleading that they didn’t have a lot of sacks this year. If you watch their games closely, they pressure the quarterback all game long. … There is something that disturbs the pocket non-stop. When they know it’s pass they will sack you.”
• Tuel on his wobbly pass to Wilson that was knocked away: “It just came out real bad. It just kind of came out funky. I think I was probably trying to throw it too hard.”
• Arizona State defensive back LaQuan Lewis on ASU’s performance: “I believe we stepped up and put the game last week behind us, instead of having it hang over our heads. We weren’t talking about how many points we gave up and how many mistakes we made. I feel like if we stay consistent and believe in what we have, we will be very good.”
• On his interception: “I thought I had two feet in. I thought I had some part of my body inside the end zone.”
OK, on to the links. … We have our game story and notebook to start with. But if you read those, we’ll also throw in our four keys, the scoring (for ASU only, of course) and the statistics (it’s Halloween, so the scary numbers fit right in). What a bargain.
• Around the Pac-10: ESPN.com’s Ted Miller hands out his weekly helmet stickers. … Washington: Though we know how much Cougar fans love to tweak the Huskies, that shouldn’t happen today. Both teams embarrassed themselves yesterday, so leave it alone. … The Huskies’ 41-0 defeat to Stanford in Seattle was something the UW fans didn’t deserve, according to Steve Kelley. … Jim Harbaugh took joy in kicking around Washington and its high-paid coaching staff, which John McGrath now compares to the Tyrone Willingham group. … Andrew Luck dominated the quarterback competition. … Oregon State: The Beavers’ defense came through in a big way in the 35-7 win, evenknocking quarterback Kevin Riley from the game – and maybe from next week’s contest in Pullman. … But it was a team effort according to Jacquizz Rodgers and possibly the start of another late-season run. … Oregon: The showdown in Los Angeles was all Ducks late, as they ran away to a 53-32 victory over the Trojans, probably solidifying their hold on No. 1. … Cal: The Bears not only lost the game, they also lost Riley to a left knee injury. … Stanford: Now this is what a rout looks like. … USC: One observer is convinced Oregon is No. 1. … UCLA: Bruins play much better, but still lose 29-21 to visiting Arizona. … Arizona State: The onus was on quarterback Steven Threet against Washington State and he responded in a big way. So did the Sun Devil defense. … Arizona: The Wildcats’ defense also came up big, but it may have been a fake punt that turned this one.
• That’s all for this morning. We’ll be back after we travel back to the Inland Northwest and talk with Wulff. Until then …