Attrition affects Cougars’ ability to execute
PULLMAN – Paul Wulff has made it clear that when the Washington State offense is clicking it isn’t just one or two or three players who make it go.
And, when it plays as it did Saturday in the 20-13 loss to California at Martin Stadium, it isn’t just one player who struggles, the Cougar coach said Sunday night.
WSU struggled to move the ball, putting together just one drive of more than 38 yards. And, for the second consecutive week, the Cougars finished with a season-low in total offense, gaining 194 yards against the Bears.
“We were very inconsistent,” Wulff said. “We dropped too many balls, we didn’t block consistently enough, and (quarterback Jeff Tuel) didn’t have a great game himself.
“Boy, we had a lot of opportunities in open receivers or running lanes that were there that we just didn’t quite hit.”
That about covers everyone. Though it was not from a lack of trying, Wulff felt, as was the case in a 42-0 loss at Arizona State a week ago.
“All but a week ago, we’ve probably strung together six or seven games of very competitive physical football,” he said. “That’s all we can ask. What we can do better on is our execution levels and taking advantage of opportunities when we create them.”
California used a formula first cooked up by Arizona a month ago to slow the WSU passing game. The Bears played aggressive press coverage with their cornerbacks and let loose the offensive line, virtually ignoring the Washington State running game.
“That’s two weeks in a row we’ve faced two good defensive lines and a set of cornerbacks as good as we’ve seen,” Wulff said. “The combination of the two good corners … and defensive line has stymied us a little bit on offense.”
And now the Cougar offense is being bled with injuries.
Most of the game against the Bears, WSU had three healthy scholarship receivers and just Logwone Mitz and Chantz Staden, coming off a rib injury that cost him a month, available at running back.
The effect of the losses during the game were easy to see – WSU broke out formations using tight ends for the first time in a month – but Wulff pointed out a hidden cost.
Freshman wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who came into the game ninth nationally in receiving yardage, was not at the top of his game, Wulff said.
“I think it had more to do with our week’s preparation,” Wulff said, pointing out Daniel Blackledge (concussion) and Jared Karstetter (ankle) were either limited or out of practice most of the week. “Heck, Marquess was taking every single rep Monday through Friday. We tried to monitor it but the only other people we had out there were Isiah (Barton), Gino (Simone) and (walk-on) Bennett Bontemps. Those four. That’s all we had the whole week.
“It really felt like our receivers were lagging in the game and I can’t blame them. … The effort was there but I also thought they were just burnt out.”