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Williams, Ratliff pick up the slack

Sun., Nov. 11, 2012

UCLA’s Eric Kendricks returns the ball for a touchdown after he recovered a fumble by Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday. (Tyler Tjomsland)
UCLA’s Eric Kendricks returns the ball for a touchdown after he recovered a fumble by Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday. (Tyler Tjomsland)

PULLMAN – Dominique Williams, for one, didn’t seem too affected by the absence of departed receiver Marquess Wilson on Saturday.

Neither did Bobby Ratliff.

Ratliff, a redshirt sophomore, led the Cougars in receiving with five catches for 123 yards, including a 49-yarder on WSU’s last possession that helped the Cougars cut UCLA’s lead to eight points.

Williams, a redshirt freshman making his third consecutive start, caught seven balls for 108 yards and two touchdowns, also grabbing a crucial two-point conversion following WSU’s final touchdown.

“Both have steadily emerged,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “They’re both definitely getting better.”

Special teams not special

Forget about the Wilson saga. Washington State’s special teams in the first half against UCLA might have been the biggest disaster of the evening.

Count the ways:

• UCLA scored its first touchdown on a 68-yard return of Andrew Furney’s 39-yard field-goal attempt. Datone Jones blocked it. Sheldon Price scooped it and ran the rest of the way for the score. That was WSU’s first possession of the game.

• WSU’s next possession also resulted in a field-goal try. It also resulted in a blocked field goal, this one by Cassius Marsh.

• WSU’s next possession ended with a punt. An attempted punt. It was not a successful punt. It was a blocked punt, this one by Jordan Zumwalt, though the Bruins fumbled on the next play to give it right back.

• After UCLA scored to take a 14-7 lead, WSU running back Teondray Caldwell fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Bruins recovered, then scored a touchdown four plays later.

• After sacking Connor Halliday for a safety, UCLA returned the ensuing kick to WSU’s 41-yard line and scored another touchdown two plays later.

• Needing only to punt the ball away to run out the final seconds of the first half, WSU instead had another punt blocked after a low snap forced Michael Bowlin into a no-win situation. His boot was blocked by Anthony Barr, UCLA’s fourth blocked kick of the half.

“It’s kind of befuddling, really,” Leach said of the four blocked kicks. “I’ve gone full seasons without getting four kicks blocked. We’ll have to look at the film, but four different people, four different times.”

Tuel hurt again

The play seemed like a positive, as Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel scrambled and gained the necessary yardage to convert a fourth-and-4 late in the first quarter.

But when Tuel left the field after taking a hard hit and backup Connor Halliday took over, there was a familiar feeling of frustration inside Martin Stadium.

Trainers examined Tuel’s neck area, bringing back memories of his clavicle injury suffered in last season’s opener against Idaho State. Tuel reinjured the clavicle six games later, part of the reason he was sidelined for the rest of the year.

He returned healthy this season, but suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee against Eastern Washington on Sept. 8.

Leach doesn’t comment on injuries, so no update was provided on Tuel’s status. He was seen leaving the field through the tunnel, presumably heading back to the locker room for further evaluation.

Tuel completed 11 of 14 passes for 127 yards before the injury. Halliday completed 7 of 18 for 39 yards in the first half after taking over, but finished with 330 yards, and five touchdowns on 26-43 passing.

Asked if the starting job will be open next week, assuming Tuel is healthy, Leach replied: “Not sure.”

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