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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Notre Dame runs over WSU


COUGARS

You saw it. This wasn't pretty, in the sense Washington State just got manhandled by Notre Dame. There's no other way to put it. The Irish dominated both lines of scrimmage, ran mostly within the tackles, put pressure on Jeff Tuel most every play and, to add salt to the wounds, made one heck of play on the Hail Mary. Read on for the unedited versions of the game story and the notebook. I love Jason Stripling's description of Notre Dame's offensive line.
••••••••••

• Here is the gamer ...

SAN ANTONIO – Size matters. Or at least it did Saturday night in the Alamodome.

The Notre Dame offensive line, the size of 3/4-ton pickup comprised of four seniors and a sophomore, rolled over the Washington State defense, and the Fighting Irish flattened the Cougars 40-14 before 53,407.

"It was all up front, we were just out-physicalled," said Washington State coach Paul Wulff. "That was probably the first time this year where we got that physicalled."

The almost completely pro-Notre Dame crowd – the game was its first in what the school hopes will be an annual off-campus home game – saw that physical dominance power the Irish to 255 yards rushing, 131 of them by 5-foot-11, 234-pound backup running back Robert Hughes.

And they saw quarterback Jimmy Clausen, rarely evened hurried, complete 22 of 27 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter after re-aggravating a turf toe injury.

In all, Notre Dame controlled the ball for more than 40 minutes, had four scoring drives that took more than 3 minutes and finished with 592 yards of total offense, 416 of them in the decisive first half.

"Oh ya, we just got done talking about that," Chris Ball, WSU's co-defensive coordinator, said of Notre Dame's size domination. "Not only just their size but their senior offensive line gave us problems."

But it wasn't just the Notre Dame offensive line that was winning the battle up front. The defensive group was as well.

"The line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball was definitely won by Notre Dame," Wulff said. "When that happens, it's pretty tough to function behind those guys and be really successful."

The Cougars first five possessions, which extended into until midway through the second quarter, resulted in just 36 yards of total offense.

But, trailing 23-0 – WSU's only lead this year was the game-ender against Southern Methodist – the Cougars' offense suddenly came alive.

"I honestly have no explanation for it," said freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel. "We just started clicking and we were able to establish the run."

Running a little different formation – freshman fullback Jared Byers up close to the offensive line, a little off center – WSU (1-7) got its running game going.

Dwight Tardy, who started and finished with 72 yards, averaging 9.0 yards a carry, broke loose for 20 yards behind right guard B.J. Guerra. Logwone Mitz got 12 more around right end. Two plays later, Tuel was given a little time to throw – a rare occurrence – and found Tony Thompson for 15 yards on a third-and-six.

Inside the red zone, Tuel went to his big target on the outside, 6-4 Jared Karstetter. The sophomore from Spokane created space and caught Tuel's perfectly thrown fade in the right corner for an 11-yard score.

"I always like to give him a shot for the ball over the top," Tuel said. "We just like our matchup with Jared out there."

With just 1 minute, 16 seconds left in the half, it looked like WSU would take momentum into the locker room along with a 23-7 deficit.

But Clausen, who came in as the nation's second most-efficient passer, patiently moved the 25th-ranked Irish (6-2) out to midfield, overcoming two major penalties in the process.

With seven seconds left, Clausen dropped back, moved to his right and tossed a Hail Mary from his 48 toward the Cougar end zone. He was counting on coming out golden, and the Irish did, thanks to Golden Tate.

The 5-11 receiver out-jumped Aire Justin for the ball, despite Xavier Hicks on his backside and Myron Beck grabbing at the ball in front. The touchdown, one of Tate would score, killed whatever good feelings WSU had built with its drive.

"We feel confident, we're two scores out of the game," Tuel said, "we feel like we're going into the half and they throw the Hail Mary and then it'sjust kind of like 'holy cow.' We were just kind of in shock.

"It definitely took a little bit of momentum away from us."

The Cougar offense would score again – another Tuel fade to Karstetter for eight yards with 5:16 left, supplying the final score – but that came against the Notre Dame backups. While the starters were in during the second half, WSU once again stalled, with Tuel throwing two interceptions.

The freshman, who threw for 354 yards against Cal last week, had just 104 in this one. He finished 12 of 23 with a long of 15 yards. He was once again sacked five times (including the game's final play), but he was also hit after he threw more than a dozen times.

Notre Dame didn't have the same trouble – WSU had just two sacks – but the Irish did lose two quarterbacks.

Clausen left late in the third after being tripped up by Toby Turpin. Backup Dayne Crist left about a quarter later, again after being tackled by Turpin. The Crist injury, to his left knee, looked to be more serious than Clausen's.

But Notre Dame's passing game, despite the 337 yards and two long touchdown throws – Crist found John Goodman for 64 yards down the middle early in the final quarter – took a backseat to the power running.

With leading rusher Armando Allen out with a sore ankle, Hughes, who came in with 180 rushing yards, took up the slack.

Running behind an offensive line that averages 6-5 and 315 pounds, outweighing WSU's defensive front by an average of nearly 50 pounds a man, the junior took a series of delays and draws up the middle for nothing longer than 18 yards.

"They had a pretty big line," said linebacker Jason Stripling, who led WSU with a career-high 13 tackles. "They had some monuments up front."

•••

• And here is the notebook ...

SAN ANTONIO – Defensive tackle Toby Turpin tries to make himself tough to block. Because of that, he's making a reputation as a guy who can block kicks.

The 6-foot-5, 284-pound Turpin slithered through to block his second kick in as many weeks Saturday, giving Washington State its first positive note in a 40-14 defeat to Notre Dame before 53,407 in the Alamodome.

Turpin, who blocked a field goal last week at Cal, got through a small hole in the left side of the Notre Dame line and got his left hand on Nick Tausch's extra point.

The ball bounded toward the right sideline, where safety Chima Nwachuku scooped it up at the 8-yard line.

The blocked extra point proved costly, however, as Nwachukwu sprained his right ankle when tight end Mike Ragone ran him down eight yards short of the end zone – and two points.

Nwachukwu did not return.

•••

Dwight Tardy knows one thing about the rest of his senior year.

"I'm hungry," Tardy said after rushing for a season-high 72 yards on eight carries. "I haven't gotten too many carries so I know whatever limited carries I get, I've got to make something out of them.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to get our team going in the right direction."

With the emergence of freshman Carl Winston and sophomore Logwone Mitz, Tardy has seen his time at running back diminish as the year's gone on.

But he had a good week of practice, according to WSU coach Paul Wulff, and earned his time. He made the most of it.

The senior, who hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game since hurting his knee his sophomore year against UCLA, helped jump start the Cougar offense on their first scoring drive late in the first half.

He opened that seven-play drive with a 20-yard run.

"We hadn't been executing," he said of a Cougar offense that had hardly moved the ball before marching down the field.

Then he tried to explain what clicked.

"Same guys, same plays," he said. "Nothing changed. We just executed better."

•••

Turpin, who was the last WSU player to block a point after, doing it last year, also had a hand, literally, in knocking two Notre Dame quarterbacks from the game.

The first came late in the third quarter. Notre Dame, leading 30-7, had a second-and-goal at the WSU 2, when Jimmy Clausen, who has led the Irish to four fourth-quarter comeback wins this season, began to drop back to pass.

"I crawled right in between both (offensive linemen) and got his foot," Turpin said. His swipe at Clausen not only caused a 7-yard loss – the Irish settled for a field goal – but sent the junior to the sidelines for the rest of the game. He had reaggravated a turf toe injury. He was well enough to return, but wasn't needed.

Ten minutes later, Turpin was at it again. The junior from California was being used as spy in case reserve quarterback Dayne Crist decided to scramble.

He did with the Irish facing a third-and-18. Turpin ran him down, diving at Crist's right leg as the sophomore tried to slip away. He did, but when Crist took another step he landed awkwardly, fumbled the ball and went down with what was later described as a knee injury of undetermined severity.

"I've never taken out two quarterbacks in one game before," Turpin said, before adding he hoped they were OK.

•••

Jason Stripling returned to Texas for the first time and made the most of it.

The senior linebacker had the game of his career, credited with a team-high and career-best 13 tackles.

"Coming back to Texas," said Stripling, from Tyler, about four hours away, "I had a lot of family members here. It was just a good environment."

Stripling had fond memories of the Alamodome, having won a state football title in the building as a high schooler.

Though WSU wasn't nearly as successful Saturday, Stripling took pride in the way the defense played in the second half.

"We kind of got a read on what they were trying to do," he said. "They were trying to spread us out to run the ball. We figured out how to stop that in the second half."

If there was one play he could take back, Stripling said, it was Notre Dame's 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass that ended the first half.

"That was like a punch in the gut," he said.

"That kid, all year long, has been there and done a great job for us," said co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball of Stripling. "He gets better each week. This time last year, if I was a betting man, I would have bet he wouldn't have been on the team."

Ball said Stripling was discouraged by his season-ending injury last year and had to think long before deciding to return. Now he had his best game in front of family and friends.

•••

Former Washington State football coach Forest Evashevski died early Saturday morning. Evashevski, 91, coached at WSU in 1950 and 1951. He was 11-6-2, including a 7-3 record in 1951. That year the Cougars won the Apple Cup, 27-25, in Seattle and finished 17th in the nation.

•••

• That's it for now. We'll be back in the morning. Until then …




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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