PULLMAN – Jeff Tuel wasn’t about to complain, even after being sacked seven times and hit an innumerable more by an Arizona defense that seemed bent on knocking the sophomore from the game.
“I’m not going to say something was because of a low snap or the pocket condensing, it’s part of the game. It didn’t play a factor,” he said after Washington State had come up short, 24-7, against Arizona at Martin Stadium on Saturday.
But he was willing to concede one point after being sacked seven times.
“They caused some problems in the backfield at times,” he said. “They’re real physical, probably the best defensive line we’ve faced this year.”
Defensive ends Ricky Elmore (2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss) and Brooks Reed (one sack and a key play, causing a late fumble) caused most of the disruption.
But it was a team effort, from the linebackers who destroyed the WSU rushing attack (34 carries for 40 yards), to a secondary that played press man-to-man much of the night and rarely was burned.
“I thought in the first half, they kept us off-balance,” WSU offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said. “They’re not a big pressure team because their D-ends create so much havoc in the run and passing game that they don’t have to.
“We couldn’t establish a run game and that really hurt us.”
Arizona backup quarterback Matt Scott hadn’t thrown a pass in a month, but he acquitted himself passably when called on after starter Nick Foles suffered a knee injury in the second quarter. Scott completed 14 of 20 passes, with one interception, for 139 yards – but he was sacked five times.
Foles sprained his knee when WSU’s Travis Long “got tripped up and rolled into him. It’s just too bad I ran into his knee.”
In the wake of that, Long felt that the Wildcats “were coming after me a little bit.”
The Cougars suffered some major injuries as well, a couple of which might have longer effects than Foles’.
Left tackle David Gonzales, who has started every game, suffered a broken arm and will be lost for the season. Redshirt freshman Elliott Bosch replaced him in the first half, then guard Wade Jacobson slid over to tackle in the second half, with Andrew Roxas playing inside.
Freshman cornerback Damante Horton also was hurt, a knee injury of undetermined severity.
Punter Reid Forrest injured a shoulder on a fumbled snap early in the second half and did not punt again. However, he did hold on the Cougars’ extra point. The severity of his injury was not determined as well.
Is it time to retire the double pass?
In the first quarter of last year’s Apple Cup, the Cougars had receiver Gino Simone open near the goal line after running back Dwight Tardy had thrown back to quarterback Kevin Lopina – only to watch Lopina’s pass sail through Simone’s hands.
On Saturday, Simone looked to be open again when James Montgomery pivoted to return the ball to quarterback Tuel on the second play of the fourth quarter. But this time, Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed had penetrated deep into the backfield and nearly intercepted, and when the ball fell to the turf teammate D’Aundre Reed covered it. After officials looked at the replay, it was ruled a backward pass and a fumble, and Arizona took over on the WSU 32-yard line.
“We made a mistake on the back side of it,” said offensive coordinator Sturdy. “We turned back on the D-end and allowed him to come upfield, because it was a run away. All we had to do was step down and the D-end would have come flat. It’s just an execution thing. David (Gonzales) is out of the game and we’ve got a new guy in there.
“We’re going to continue to be aggressive. We had an opportunity to make a big play there.”
Marquess Wilson again made a big play – an 83-yard catch-and-run – and had more than 100 yards receiving – 131 on six catches. That gave him four 100 yard games this season, a WSU freshman record.
Wilson also had the Cougars’ only score, on a 23-yard pass from Tuel. The long pass came up just short.
“He just caught me by a shoelace,” Wilson said of Shaquille Richardson’s tackle.
Wilson wasn’t the only freshman with a big game. Safety Deone Bucannon set a WSU freshman record with 14 solo tackles, tied for fifth most in Washington State history and eclipsing Artie Holmes’ record of 13 set in 1985. He finished with 16 tackles.