PULLMAN – It was a confused company of Washington State University players who entered the media room in Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday night.
They had just been steamrolled 65-17 by Oklahoma State before 48,962 next door in Boone Pickens Stadium. The butt-kicking was as unexpected as it was thorough.
What happened, that was easy to explain.
But how and why it happened? That question was harder to answer.
“I really don’t know,” said senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman. “I really don’t know. It was just one of those things, we were in the game, and then they made a big play and they made another big play.”
The result: In 8 minutes, 8 seconds of offensive possession sandwiching halftime, the Cowboys scored 34 consecutive points.
If Kooyman wasn’t sure what hit the defense, senior safety Chima Nwachukwu thought he had an idea why the group yielded seven touchdowns (two on a short field) and 544 yards of total offense, including 257 rushing yards to Kendall Hunter, 208 of those coming before halftime.
“I’m not sure the guys came out ready for what the offense was going to attack us with,” said Nwachukwu, a fourth-year starter. “We’ve been watching a lot of film on the offensive scheme that they had (and) they came out with something a little bit different, although we’ve seen that stuff consistently in the Pac-10 and from our offense.”
Ready for it or not, plays weren’t made.
“Guys just didn’t come out and play,” Nwachukwu said.
Or they played with feelings of inferiority. The first scrimmage play – a fumbled handoff between James Montgomery and quarterback Jeff Tuel, leading to a 7-0 Oklahoma State lead 30 seconds in – didn’t help.
“I feel like we came out expecting not to be able to compete with these guys at some positions,” Tuel said. “But when we where down a touchdown midway through the second, some guys were like, ‘holy crap, we’re in this game and we’re playing with these guys.’ And they were just too late.
“They kind of took off with (the game), I think our eyes got a little wide and we just kind of lost it.”
Wide-eyed or not, another game in a 12-game season looms Saturday, when Big Sky Conference member – and 24th-FCS-ranked – Montana State comes to Pullman. Dwelling on the Oklahoma State blowout can’t help.
So linebacker Myron Beck won’t.
“I don’t feel the score tells the story at all,” the senior said. “I feel like we’re a whole lot better team than last year.
“You would see glimpses of it in the game, when the defense would start playing and the offense would start playing together, we would just start clicking.”
Glimpses aren’t enough anymore. That much was clear.