PULLMAN – Paul Wulff is certain of one thing his Washington State football team is going to work on during this upcoming bye week.
“We’re going to find ways to work on it this week in practice,” Wulff said Sunday evening on his weekly post-mortem press conference. “Obviously it will have a lot to do with maybe, the last quarter of practice. But we’re going to come up with some ideas and really try to address it and make it a point of emphasis.
“We’re going to be in fourth-quarter ballgames, we know that. And we have to learn … take that next step, and play in the fourth quarter.”
The Cougars were in one of those four-quarter games Saturday night, and it didn’t turn out well.
They were outscored by three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes, turning the ball over three times in the final eight en route to a 42-24 defeat at San Diego State.
There is one thing that may help: Having starting quarterback Jeff Tuel’s fractured left clavicle heal quickly. It seems to be trending that way. X-rays taken Sunday showed Tuel was healing normally, Wulff said, and the junior should be cleared to start throwing a little Tuesday, when the Cougars return to practice.
“It looks really, really good and very much on target,” Wulff said, though Tuel’s return to game action is still up in the air.
Other than Tuel, Wulff is hoping the bye week will allow a couple of players to get better.
Center Andrew Roxas was on crutches during the San Diego State game, his right ankle, sprained against UNLV the week before, in a boot. Tight end Aaron Dunn did not suit up either, his strained quadriceps muscle responding slower than hoped. Both will skip practice this week and rehabilitate their injuries.
One player who won’t be back for a while is defensive end Adam Coerper. Coerper, who sprained a medial collateral ligament in his knee during the second half, is expected to miss at least two to three weeks.
With Washington State (2-1 in its nonconference games) off Saturday before opening Pac-12 play Oct. 1 in Boulder, Colo., against the Colorado Buffaloes, Wulff sees this week as a chance to fine tune.
“It’s a good opportunity to re-evaluate the first three games and the performance of some of our players,” he said. “There may be some guys who are stepping up. (It’s) an opportunity to try to enhance a few positions by maybe moving guys around.”
After the bye, WSU finishes with nine consecutive conference games, only three of them in Pullman. Before then, Wulff wants the Cougars to take one step.
“We’re on the road and we didn’t respond real well and didn’t handle the fourth quarter very well,” he said. “But that’s part of the next step this team has to improve on, and grow from, is handling, and learning how to play, in the fourth quarter.”