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WSU backs, lineman pick up more blocks, allow more offensive freedom

Oregon's Troy (Associated Press)
Oregon's Troy (Associated Press)

EUGENE, Ore. – If there was any doubt as to how much of a team game football really is, it should be dissuaded by one play in Washington State’s 43-28 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

It will go into next year’s Cougars media guide as a 24-yard touchdown pass from Marshall Lobbestael (his 16th of the season) to Jared Karstetter (the 17th of his WSU career).

But the play was really made by running back Carl Winston.

The junior, who rushed for career-high 69 yards on 14 carries, was next to Lobbestael as the ball was snapped, but quickly stepped to the right.

The Ducks, who often rushed six defenders in passing situations, sent seven rushers – including two from the offense’s right side.

“They came with two guys off the edge,” Winston said. “The tackle had the end and I had to get the most dangerous guy.”

He got two. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound Winston popped the outside rusher hard enough to knock him into the other rusher.

“We practiced that all week,” Winston said of the overloaded blitz. “We knew it would come eventually.”

Given time, Lobbestael stepped up and found Karstetter alone in the right corner of the end zone.

“Sometimes you can hear it,” Lobbestael said of blitz pickups by the backs. “That particular play, I can’t remember if I heard it or not, but it’s gotten to the point when we know who the back has and we see him coming, we have total confidence.

“That’s a really good feeling to have.”

A head not hunted

What’s not so good is getting a flag for something that didn’t occur.

Late in the first half, Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas tried to find wideout Justin Hoffman over the middle on third-and-17, but Thomas threw too high and the ball sailed over Hoffman’s arms.

Safety Casey Locker came up hard, tried to pull up and hit Hoffman in the chest and upper arm, replays showed. Hoffman flew back as Locker’s hands came up in a vain attempt to avoid contact.

Back judge Steve Hudson threw his flag. It was announced as a 15-yard personal foul for hitting above the shoulders.

Queried about the call, linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who led WSU with seven tackles, asked, “Is it wise for me to answer a question like that?”

He did.

“It doesn’t get any more ticky-tack than that,” Hoffman-Ellis said. “Not only was the hit right in his chest, he pulled up with his hands up as he hit him. If a ref is going to call that, maybe European soccer is the game for them to be reffing.”

Locker made a huge, unflagged, hit against Stanford’s Chris Owusu two weeks ago, knocking him from the game. Then he was flagged against Oregon State for the same thing.

“He’s someone they’re talking about in the conference office now, obviously,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “It’s a point of emphasis.”

Self-inflicted stops key

The Cougars have had red zone troubles before. San Diego State and UCLA – both losses – immediately come to mind.

It’s something of which they are aware, but seemingly unable to fix. WSU was inside the 25 seven times Saturday and came away with just two touchdowns.

“We’ve just got to execute,” Wulff said. “We get down in there, we have guys wide open and miss them, don’t get an accurate ball off because there’s pressure.

“The one time down there, we get the ball at the 1-inch line and there’s a holding penalty. We had to settle for a field goal. I think we missed it.”

They did. It was Andrew Furney’s first miss of the season.

O-line plays better as unit

The WSU offensive line had what left guard B.J. Guerra said was its best game of the season. With help from tight end Andrei Lintz and H-back Jared Byers, the group opened holes for 125 yards on the ground and protected Lobbestael well enough he was sacked just twice – though a dropped snap was credited for a third.

Oregon’s defense throws different looks at the offense. Helped by the noise generated by the Autzen crowd the Ducks can throw an offensive line off-kilter.

“They did a good job of sorting stuff out,” Lobbestael said, “communicating in a loud hostile environment.”

“Some of the looks they gave us were wacky,” Guerra said. “They left the middle open a lot. We just felt like the front they lined up in, we could take advantage of that in our run game.”

Taking the sacks out of the total, WSU averaged 4 yards a carry.

Ill-timed first for punter Wagner

It’s been close a few times, but WSU punter Dan Wagner had punted 25 times this season without having one blocked until Avery Patterson came in untouched on the Cougars’ first punt of the game.

Patterson got the ball right off Wagner’s foot, and Boseko Lokombo picked it up at the 25 and coasted into the end zone.

“Just a miscue on our left side, between two guys,” Wulff said. “They got confused.”

Asked if Wagner was a bit slow with the kick, Wulff answered, “A little. But they came on him so quick. We just didn’t get a clean block.”

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