California 49, WSU 17

MONDAY, OCT. 26, 2009

High point

For the second consecutive game we highlight a hookup between freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel and junior Johnny Forzani, the latter with less football experience than most freshmen. Trailing 35-3 early in the second quarter the Cougars were in danger of repeating last year’s 66-3 debacle. But Tuel showed again why the WSU coaching staff is so high on him, ignoring a quickly decaying pocket, stepping up and delivering the ball some 50 yards down the middle to Forzani, who had used his speed to get behind the defense.

Low point

With the ball at the Cal 35 in the second quarter, WSU had a chance to cut into the 28-3 lead. But three plays gained just 3 yards, leaving kicker Nico Grasu facing a 49-yard field goal. The junior, who has struggled at times this year, hit the ball well but the end-over-end kick came down solidly on the crossbar, bouncing back toward the end zone.

A pat on the back

The receiving corps has been in flux all season, in part due to the early defections of Jeshua Anderson and Kevin Norrell, two of its rare experienced members. But that’s starting to change. Forzani is emerging as a deep threat, Gino Simone and Jared Karstetter have become reliable possession receivers – Simone, a freshman, caught his first collegiate touchdown and Karstetter matched Simone’s six catches Saturday. But the emerging receiver is Jeffrey Solomon, who led WSU with seven catches.

Needs fixing

Depth is an area that has to be addressed in recruiting and, with 16 verbal commitments already, the Cougars are trying to do just that. The depth, or lack of, showed again versus Cal at the linebacker position. With Louis Bland on crutches, and probably out for the season, and Alex Hoffman-Ellis limited by his staph infection recovery, WSU relied on seldom-used Mike Ledgerwood at middle linebacker. The sophomore came through admirably – he had a career-high eight tackles.

Three unanswered questions

• Will WSU put all phases together in one game? One week the defense forces a half-dozen turnovers. The next game the offense explodes for more than 400 yards. The special teams shine one game, break down the next.

• How much longer will 32-point losses be considered progress? Listening to the coaching staff the past week, and especially after Saturday’s defeat, that point might have already passed. Despite the youth, despite the injuries, despite everything, it seems like Paul Wulff and his assistants are expecting more.

• Can WSU upset Notre Dame? The simple answer is yes. The Fighting Irish might be 5-2, but they haven’t been impressive, winning four games by seven points or less.

Vince Grippi

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