PULLMAN – For the first time this year, Washington State’s depth was really tested. And the grade for the replacements was passing, but not “A” work, in the Cougars’ 30-27 overtime loss to Utah at Martin Stadium on Saturday.
Although receiver Marquess Wilson and safety Deone Bucannon, two starters who missed almost every down of practice this week, both played, only Wilson was a major contributor, with eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Bucannon, who rolled his ankle at Monday’s practice, was used sparingly and finished with two tackles.
Right tackle Dan Spitz couldn’t go after spraining his right ankle this week, replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Rodgers, from Shadle Park High.
“I was able to do my job most of the time,” Rodgers said. “I know I made a few mistakes, but I felt overall I played pretty well.”
“I’m damn proud of what he did, thought he competed his butt off,” said offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. “I talked to the kids before the game and said this time of the year you’re going to have those type of injuries.”
Linebacker Chester Su’a made his third start and, though he led WSU with 11 tackles, his one big miss cost seven points, as his failure to wrap up John White in the backfield ended up jump-starting a 56-yard scoring run.
“Chester did some great things for a first-year player,” coach Paul Wulff said. “But there was that one, and sometimes all it takes, one slip-up and it costs you a touchdown. And that was one for Chester.”
Cornerback Daniel Simmons (ankle) did not suit up, forcing Damante Horton and Nolan Washington, who were matched up 1-on-1 with the Utes’ wideouts much of the game, to play every down.
Snow fell heavily on Martin Stadium overnight, but it was hard to tell by kickoff.
Some 70 people, led by Craig Culbertson and Mike Reisenauer, and including 27 prisoners from Airway Heights, labored all morning to clear the field and the aisles.
Wulff harps on winning the turnover battle means winning the game. His mantra proved true.
The Cougars, with four interceptions and a muffed punt, had five turnovers. Only the muffed punt led to points – White’s 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter – but the last interception came in WSU’s overtime possession.
The Utes gave the ball to John White 42 times and he dropped it twice, though the Cougars only got three points out of it.
“Five turnovers,” Wulff said. “Pretty tough to beat a good team, or a bowl team, which I guess they are, and do that. That was the biggest factor that cost us the game.”
Seniors have big day
On Senior Day, most of the seniors stood out.
Jared Karstetter had the fifth 100-yard day of his career and his 18th career touchdown catch, No. 3 all time for Washington State, tied with three others and trailing only Hugh Campbell (22) and Jason Hill (32).
Alex Hoffman-Ellis had eight tackles, two of them for loss, and broke up a pass. Mike Ledgerwood started at middle linebacker and posted four tackles.
Dan Wagner had his best punting game of the season despite the snowy conditions, booting seven for a 40.9-yard average, putting five inside the 20 and booming a 52-yarder.
Offensive linemen B.J. Guerra and David Gonzales, who played every down, and Andrew Roxas, who played a couple of series, helped power an offense that gained 399 yards.