SEATTLE – Washington State’s defense literally couldn’t keep up with Hawaii’s offense.
WSU allowed 626 yards, its most in a game since 2005, including 489 yards passing. Senior quarterback Greg Alexander passed for 453 yards and three touchdowns. Receivers Greg Salas (seven catches, 195 yards) and Rodney Bradley (seven, 150) established career highs in the Warriors’ 38-20 win Saturday at Qwest Field.
“Their senior quarterback played like a senior,” WSU head coach Paul Wulff said. “I thought their speed at receiver hurt us. I think that was pretty glaring at times.”
Hawaii receivers piled up yards after the catch, often shaking off WSU defenders before breaking into the clear.
“They had better team speed than our guys,” co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball said. “A lot of (the missed tackles) had to do with (Hawaii’s) speed. They’d get the edge on us, and yeah, we didn’t tackle very well.”
Ball said the biggest issue facing WSU’s defense is slow starts.
“We get behind and all of a sudden we want to flip that switch,” Ball said. “That’s what happens when you’ve lost some games over the years and you’re in this mode. The toughest thing we have to overcome as a staff is to convince these kids they can win games.
“For some reason our comfort zone is when we’re behind. We have to learn how to start fast, and it starts in practice. They can’t expect the coaches to come out there and get them fired up individually. The players are responsible for getting themselves ready to play.”
Lack of heat
WSU sacked Alexander seven times in last year’s contest, but only got to him once this time.
“We lost Kevin Kooyman (to injury) during the week and Andy (Mattingly) went out early (concussion),” Wulff said. “Those are two guys that can usually provide pressure for us. That definitely hurt us in our ability to get pressure on the quarterback. They did a nice job of getting rid of the ball quickly with three-step (drops) and he was very accurate. You have to give them some credit.”
Given a chance at a mulligan, Ball said he wouldn’t have changed too much. “They were the same calls in the second half as they were in the first,” he said. “I probably would have heated (Alexander) up a little more and brought a little more pressure.”
James Montgomery became the first non-starting Cougars running back to surpass 100 yards since De’Maundray Woolridge ran for 105 against Grambling at Qwest Field in 2005.
“I was just trusting my track with the ‘O’ linemen. I got a couple of ones that hit for me,” Montgomery said. “It’s bitter right now. It really doesn’t mean nothing if we don’t get the ‘W’.”
WSU moved the ball decently, particularly with Kevin Lopina at QB, but numerous mistakes outweighed any progress. Lopina passed for 191 yards, but was intercepted twice and fumbled once. Marshall Lobbestael was 2 of 6 for 36 yards with one interception. He didn’t play in the second half.
“He did some good things,” Wulff said of Lopina. “We still need to continue to get better in the passing game, that’s pretty evident, as we do in our running game.”
“We had a bunch of yards on offense, but that doesn’t mean anything because we still made mistakes,” Lopina said. “Seven turnovers killed us. That’s what we did last year. We can’t have that.”
Injuries pile up
Going into the week, the Cougars had been able to avoid the injuries that helped sour last season. But that streak is over.
Kooyman, a senior defensive end, missed the game with a posterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee, though he was a captain and, on crutches, went out for the coin flip.
The injury list grew throughout the game, with safety LeAndre Daniels suffering the worst. The redshirt freshman broke his right fibula in the first half and could miss the rest of the season.
Mattingly, a senior linebacker, took a blow from a teammate in the first half and had to come out. It was diagnosed as a concussion and he didn’t return. Neither did freshman receiver Gino Simone, who was leveled by Hawaii’s Spencer Smith early in the fourth quarter.
The helmet-to-helmet hit left Simone prone on the field for almost a minute and resulted in a 15-yard personal foul penalty. After the play, WSU marched 30 yards to score its final touchdown.
“Things like that make me mad, it’s an anger that has to be controlled,” center Kenny Alfred said. “You see somebody you care about, who you work with quite a bit, you …,” his voice trailed off before changing the subject.
Simone and Mattingly will be re-evaluated today.
Guard Zack Williams rolled an ankle in the second half, returned for one series, then sat the rest of the game.
Tight end Skylar Stormo also left for a while after taking a big hit, returned, then sat the rest of the game.