PULLMAN – With nearly 24 hours to let everything sink in and examine the evidence, Washington State coach Paul Wulff realized something about the Cougars’ 42-0 loss at Arizona State on Saturday night.
“Arizona State played the best game they’ve played all year, based on what I’ve seen on film,” Wulff said Sunday. “They took care of the football, they were very efficient and, defensively, they harassed us all day long.
“They punched us in the mouth early, set the tone and we never responded.”
It was that last sentence that surprised Wulff.
Though the Cougars went into Saturday’s game 1-7 (0-5 in the Pac-10 for the third consecutive season), they have responded to challenges most of the year. And Wulff and his players knew they were in for a challenge for multiple reasons.
After all, Arizona State was coming off a 50-17 defeat at California and the Sun Devils were raked over the coals all week.
“I knew we were going to face a team that was going to respond after losing a game,” Wulff said. “I was guarded because I know what it’s like when you face a team that has a tremendous amount of talent and when they play bad, sometimes it doesn’t look very good.”
But when the Sun Devils have been good, they’ve been very good, giving No. 1-ranked Oregon as tough a game as its had this season and taking seventh-ranked Wisconsin down to the wire before losing by one in Madison.
“I’ve said this, and whether people believe me or not, that is the most talented defensive unit in the Pac-10,” Wulff said. “The have the best depth, the most physical presence and speed from top to bottom, from D-line to linebacker to secondary, of anybody in this conference.
“We didn’t respond very well and we got beat by a better football team. That’s the bottom line.”
Another wounded team, the California Bears, comes to Pullman this Saturday, licking abrasions inflicted by Oregon State, including the loss of quarterback Kevin Riley to a knee injury.
“I always say don’t let your last game cost you your next game,” Wulff said. “You’ve got to flush them. That’s what we’ve got to do. But the things we’ve got to take from it are you’d better understand if you don’t come to play every single week in this conference, you’re going to get knocked in the mouth.”