Know Your Foe – Washington State

It would be easy to look at their 3-6 record and five-game losing streak to conclude that this Cougar squad is no different than other Washington State teams in recent years. Yet, ASU's next opponent could prove to be a bigger challenge than meets the eye. To get us more acclimated Washington State Greg Witter and Barry Bolton from answered some questions concerning the Cougars.

Granted, expectations were low for the Cougars this season, but it seemed that they started out the year stronger than expected. Why do you think the team hasn't played as well in recent weeks and do you view the current 3-6 record as a disappointment?

You can point to any number of factors, some changing week by week, but a pretty good place to start is not being able to finish off drives. Against Oregon, the Cougs were inside the Duck 25-yard line four times in the first half, and came away with just three points. Against UCLA, the Cougars dominated the first 20 minutes of the game and yet they were somehow behind 7-6 at that point. If you can't finish off drives with touchdowns, you're going to have problems at any level.

Has the transition at quarterback from Jeff Tuel to Marshall Lobbestael been seamless or is Tuel's absence a reason for the recent poor play? How has the offense changed with Lobbestael taking snaps?

Lobbestael has done a decent job and no one works harder. But the loss of Tuel has been devastating. Lobbestael can't run the way Tuel can when things break down, and Tuel's arm and savvy allow him to attack the whole field.

Still, the 3-6 mark can't all be put on Lobbestael by any means. If WSU could put together a strong running attack, these things could have been overcome. But the o-line and backs have not been able to break off enough long runs to carry the offense.

Wide receiver Marques Wilson is one of the most underrated skill players in the Pac-12. What makes him so special?

You'll hear about his athleticism and the extra gear he has but he has very, very strong hands that allow him to catch the ball at a variety of heights and positions that other receivers might not. He's just a sophomore, but he has All-American potential before it's all said and done for him on the college gridiron in a couple years.

What are the offense's strengths and weaknesses?

The receiving corps had been the strength but they've had some uncharacteristic drops in recent weeks. The o-line provided good protection last week against Cal but it's hard to call it a strength especially when they've suffered some injuries. Lobbestael is capable of lighting things up and moving the offense when he gets on a roll. The running game has not been able to put the offense in enough second and short situations.

How would you characterize strengths and weaknesses of the WSU defense? It seems that they usually present a lot of different looks for opposing offenses?

Defensive end Travis Long is a lot to handle. Alex Hoffman-Ellis is the Cougs' most consistent playmaker on defense. WSU has gotten a good push off the edge in recent weeks, but not enough of it. The linebackers and defensive backs will make good plays, followed by missed opportunities.

When WSU is playing well, the linebackers have enough speed to play sideline to sideline and limit a running game. When they're not, and when the d-line allows o-linemen into the second level, he Cougs have had tough sledding.

It appears that the Washington State kicking game is one of the team's strong suits. Can you talk about that team aspect and how much impact it has had this season?

The placekicker, Andrew Furney was nearly perfect on field goals headed into last week but then he then missed a 27-yard chip shot. He's still having a good year in that respect, but his kickoffs are not deep enough and do not have enough hang time, and that hurts.

Who are some of the Cougar players that have flown under the radar all season long on both sides of the ball that ASU fans should be aware of?

Linebacker Sekope Kaufusi is a potential star in the making. DT Kalafitoni Pole has struggled at times this season but the redshirt frosh is paying his dues now, he has the ability to be an awfully good one down the road. Deone Bucannon has not had the kind of impactful season as he had as a true freshman last year but he's made some plays and has star quality.

Kristoff Williams at wide receiver has loads of potential as does tackle John Fullington. RB Rickey Galvin, if he can get out in space, can be special. He seems to be getting healthier and might be ready to break out before the season ends.

From the outside it appears that Pullman would be near impossible place to recruit quality players to. As someone with great knowledge of that topic what are the Cougars' selling points that allow them at times to land above average talent there?

Pullman has some challenges other schools don't in terms of population base but it's not "near impossible" to recruit to. From 2001-03 WSU won 10 games each season and finished ranked in the top ten. At the time, you had to go back to the 1930's in the Pac-10 for the last time that happened. You can't do that if you don't have good recruits.

The traditional gap in recruiting is also shrinking with the advent of technology – the world is getting smaller. California kids' parents can starting next year see their son play every game on television if they're at WSU. And so some of the barriers that used to exist are falling. The big thing that determines success in today's college football climate is money, and WSU will have to improve in that area if they want to extend their reach.

That said, the gap will narrow some when the new Pac-12 TV contract kicks in. Everyone will enjoy in the spoils, but WSU could gain the most.

Do you feel that all the Hot Seat talk about Paul Wulff is justified? Do you expect to see him survive this season especially because he's an alumnus?

Paul Wulff will be coaching at WSU next year if Bill Moos feels he is on the right path and will soon be bringing Cougar Football back to bowl games and higher goals; it will have nothing to do with his being an alum.

The season story hasn't been completed yet and UCLA is a pretty good example. UCLA was dead, with their coach all but fired, two weeks ago by any- and everyone. Now the fans and media are singing a different tune. Utah was in the midst of a colossal 0-4 failure in the conference, and now two straight wins have reenergized the fan base and given them hope.

If WSU were to rip off three straight wins to close the season and get to 6-6, like their rival UW did last year, things look a whole lot different than they do now. As unlikely as it seems, no one thought it remotely likely what UCLA has done of late, either.

Fill in the blanks. If Washington State does (blank) they will win the game. If ASU does (blank) they will win the game.

If WSU finishes off drives, if they play have a solid conversion rate on third-down stops, they win. If ASU can effectively bring lots of pressure and limit yards after contact, they should be able to take care of business.

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