PULLMAN – There was bad news and then there was more bad news from Washington State University’s 38-20 nonconference loss to Hawaii at Qwest Field last Saturday.
And WSU coach Paul Wulff will have to deal with all of it this week, as the winless Cougars prepare to take on the undefeated SMU Mustangs on Saturday in Martin Stadium.
The bad news?
“I didn’t even realize it when I was talking with everybody,” Wulff said Sunday of his postgame comments, “I thought we had six turnovers. We had seven. Between seven turnovers and, on defense, we had 21 missed tackles, that combination is deadly.”
The more bad news?
The Cougars may have lost as many as four starters to injuries during the game, added to the loss of starting defensive end Kevin Kooyman (knee) last week.
Starting safety LeAndre Daniels broke his leg early in the game and will miss at least eight weeks, putting the redshirt freshman’s season in jeopardy.
Wulff also said wide receiver Gino Simone (concussion) and guard Zack Williams (possible high ankle sprain) are doubtful for this week. Senior linebacker Andy Mattingly has a concussion, but it might be mild enough that he’ll be back.
Even when something positive was pointed out, Wulff saw the half-empty side of the glass.
Asked about the Cougars gaining more than 400 yards in total offense, Wulff pointed out “there were so many things out there we didn’t convert or we just didn’t execute real well. We thought that 600 yards was extremely doable, going back and looking at the film.”
But Wulff wasn’t completely dour. He pointed out the specials teams performed better than they had in the opening week; he praised the play of James Montgomery, who rushed for 118 yards; redshirt freshmen defensive backs Daniel Simmons and 17-year-old Terrance Hayward and linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who was named player of the game.
“The more he plays, the better he gets,” Wulff said of Hoffman-Ellis, who is playing only his third year of football.
Wulff even had some positive news on the injury front, saying reserve safety Eric Block (concussion) and defensive lineman Dan Spitz (flu) would be back.
Plus, he noticed something different in how the Cougars handled the early adversity Saturday, though the response wasn’t helpful.
“Looking back on it, we lost our poise a little bit,” Wulff said. “We got down early and guys didn’t quit, but if anything they tensed up and tightened up a little bit, trying to press.
“That’s different for this team. It’s a good thing in a lot of ways. … We just got a little too tense, instead of the other way. It used to be the opposite, we would give up.”
Which is why, despite the seven turnovers, the missed tackles, the injuries, all the negatives, Wulff saw something to build on.
“Usually, if you ever get in that situation, you’re probably going to lose by 40 or 50 points,” he said. “We didn’t. And we actually had a chance to come back in the game.”