PULLMAN – As a former offensive lineman, Washington State University coach Paul Wulff appreciates good offensive line play.
That’s why he found watching video of the Cougars’ 42-10 defeat to Oregon State Saturday not nearly as painful as most Sunday sessions have been.
The offensive line may have played its best game of the year, especially considering the opponent.
“Our offensive line did some good things blocking,” Wulff said.
Which led to something WSU (1-10 overall, 0-8 in the Pac-10) hasn’t had much this season.
“We had a tremendous amount of opportunities,” Wulff said, “that we didn’t convert on.”
To have chances against the 16th-ranked Beavers (8-3, 6-2) was more than could be expected, considering OSU leads the Pac-10 in rushing defense (98.5 yards a game) and is in the top half in total defense (340.5).
“The blocking was good,” Wulff said, “so rarely someone came free. We had hats on hats and they did a nice job blocking.”
With time, quarterback Kevin Lopina and the WSU passing attack had chances to make some big plays. There were a couple – Jared Karstetter had two catches of more than 20 yards and Dwight Tardy had another – but many more were missed.
Wulff gave Lopina a little bit of a pass, because the senior was making his first start since the second week of the year. But after the game Lopina was critical of himself.
“I still made some mistakes,” he said. “I’ve got to knock some of the rust off here and there. … I could have played a little smarter. I missed some quick throws on some third downs that I shouldn’t have done.
“But for the most part I felt I was competing and trying as hard as I could.”
The Beavers aren’t a sack-happy bunch – their total of 15 is ninth in the Pac-10 – but they do have a good enough front seven to be playing for a Rose Bowl berth.
In Washington (3-7, 2-5), WSU will be facing a group that will attack more, but is more vulnerable to a counter punch downfield.
“Our O-line definitely blocked better,” Wulff said, “which gave us more opportunities out there to connect. … Hopefully this week we can make a big stride in connecting and converting more in our passing game.”
The other side of the ball will still be thin this week, with Wulff saying cornerback Brandon Jones will probably be unavailable after re-aggravating a back injury last week.
Converted receiver Easton Johnson did so well – 10 tackles – Wulff said another walk-on receiver, senior Colin Huemmer, will probably move over this week.
Wulff was asked if he ever had someone switch sides of the ball midweek and play as well as Johnson had.
“Never,” Wulff said. “Never heard of it.”
No matter who plays, Wulff has a mandate for them this Apple Cup week.
“We’ve got to lay it out on the field,” he said. “We’ve got nothing to rest up for. It’s our last game. So we’ve got to dig and leave everything we’ve got on the field.”