Wulff: 'We've got to take another big step'

A 14-POINT LOSS against a Conference USA team, given how things have played out for the Cougars the past two-plus years, might be considered progress by some. Make no mistake, said Paul Wulff on Sunday night, it's not enough.

"By no means is that good enough," he said during his Sunday teleconference. "We've got to take another big step."

After reviewing game tape of Saturday's 35-21 loss at Southern Methodist, Wulff said that improvement starts along the offensive line. He said poor protection did not allow the Cougars to extend several drives. The Mustangs racked up four sacks and nine tackles-for-loss, along with lots of other "hurries."

"The worst thing we did was pass block," Wulff said.

But he said he remains confident that veteran offensive line coach Steve Morton can develop the '10 group into a successful unit. Wulff also said that the offensive line features more athleticism than in the past.

ONE PLAYER WHO meets that criteria is 6-foot-8, 330-pound sophomore Tyson Pencer. Wulff said Pencer, who battled illness in fall camp and has not started this year, continues to work on getting into shape.

"As soon as he got tired, he started playing pretty high," he said. "It's a little bit of a work in progress."

But considering how porous the offensive line's play was at times, Wulff said he felt sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns, and his wide receivers handled it well. Among the wide receivers, he praised junior Jared Karstetter, sophomore Gino Simone, senior Jeffrey Solomon and true freshman Marquess Wilson for their play. He said the return of Simone, who battled hamstring issues throughout fall camp and into the season, particularly was important as he gives Tuel another option in the passing game.

ON THE DEFENSIVE side, the Cougars (1-2) allowed 420 yards of total offense. SMU (2-1) had 421 in a 28-7 win Sept. 11 against the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"I thought the best thing we did was we applied multiple looks on defense and pressure," Wulff said.

True freshman Deone Bucannon made his start in place of senior safety Chima Nwachukwu, who suffered a neck injury during practice last week. Wulff said Nwachukwu will undergo tests Monday, but he expects him to play Saturday when the Cougars kickoff Pac-10 play against USC.

Wulff said Bucannon made mistakes based on his inexperience, including a slant play that resulted in a 68-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Padron to Aldrick Robinson.

"His eyes were focused on things they shouldn't have been," said Wulff, adding that he felt the personal foul call against Bucannon early in the game "made a statement of physical presence."

In addition to Bucannon, sophomore Tyree Toomer started at safety, while sophomore Daniel Simmons and redshirt freshman Nolan Washington opened at cornerback.

"I like our speed in the secondary," Wulff said. "There's a big, big difference in our ability to close the gap and make plays."

HE ALSO WAS pleased that the team suffered no significant injuries for a second consecutive week. Wulff said that is important because it builds continuity and depth, and allows the coaching staff to work with players on mistakes that occurred during the game.

He also praised the training staff as WSU did not have a player leaving with dehydration issues against the Mustangs. In comparison, he said about four SMU players were hooked to IVs. The game-time temperature in Dallas was 95 degrees according to one source, and hotter than that down on the field.

"They did a phenomenal job," Wulff said.


  • Senior running back James Montgomery turned himself in last week to the Pullman Police Station on an outstanding warrant. That stemmed from a driving with a suspended license charge. Montgomery started against the Mustangs and had 24 yards on eight carries.

    Wulff said the warrant came to Montgomery's old address, which he said is typical among student body. He added that while that does not make it right, he felt that it did not warrant a suspension.

  • Starting senior defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm (shoulder) did not play against SMU. Wulff said it was a lingering issue.

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