Cougars make the grade at halfway point
PULLMAN – Washington State football coach Paul Wulff wasn’t happy with his team’s performance Saturday night against seventh-ranked Stanford.
But he wasn’t about to let it color his thinking about the first half of the Cougars’ season. Well, not too much.
Asked to give out grades for WSU’s first six games, Wulff went through the performances of his offense, defense and special teams analytically, only occasionally mentioning the 44-14 defeat that dropped WSU to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in Pac-12 play.
Wulff gave his highest grade to the offense, a B-plus, pointing out they entered the Stanford game second in the Pac-12 in total offense.
“This game really knocked us down, because it was clearly our worst performance from an execution standpoint,” Wulff said, and he’s right. After being held to 257 yards, WSU dropped to fourth, averaging 453.33 yards per game.
The special teams earned a B-minus, C-plus, Wulff said, though he wasn’t happy the Cardinal’s Ty Montgomery returned the last play of Saturday’s game 96 yards for a score.
“I was disappointed,” Wulff said. “We have had a few special teams miscues. The last one was maybe a little bit of lack of intensity. There is 15 seconds left in the game and we go down there and miss a tackle.
“Make a tackle and it’s taken care of.”
But the Cougars are second in the Pac-12 in net punting (averaging 38.52 yards) and third in kickoff returns (25.63), so Wulff’s grades might be a bit low, considering WSU had to replace its punter, long snapper and kickoff specialist this season.
The defense, which was pushed around a bit in the second half against the Cardinal, still earned a B-minus from Wulff, who sees the recent trend as positive.
“They’ve progressed,” Wulff said. “They’ve gotten better and better.”
The Cougars were missing two players versus Stanford who have started at defensive end – Adam Coerper and Lenard Williams – along with starting linebacker Sekope Kaufusi. But Wulff said WSU came out of the game with no more than bumps and bruises.
However, the news wasn’t so good on the offensive side. Right tackle Wade Jacobson, out the past two weeks with a back injury, is still weighing treatment options, with surgery one of them. If that happens, Wulff said, Jacobson, a senior, more than likely will apply for a medical hardship season and could return next year.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel returned against the Cardinal after basically missing the season’s first five games and Wulff reiterated that, though Tuel was rusty and played like it at times, the other 10 members of the offense didn’t help much.
“Jeff just needs to get back in the flow,” Wulff said. “In defense of Jeff, he comes off an injury and we throw him out in a game against the best defense in the conference.
“Will Marshall (Lobbestael) play? I’m sure Marshall will have opportunities to continue to play (but) we have no plan on how that is going to play out. We will do it as a need-based situation.”