Offense gives WSU something to believe in

HIS WORDS WERE definitive back then. "Our defense should make the biggest jump (in 2010)." But what Paul Wulff said last December couldn't have been farther from the truth on Saturday. In fact, it was the Cougars' offense that kept things high and tight until the last vestiges of the fourth quarter against UCLA.

The defense, on the other hand, gave up 565 yards, including an abysmal 437 on the ground, en route to the Bruins finishing the game with two rushers amassing more than 180 yards each for the first time in school history.

What an accomplishment.

Then again, is it that big of a shock, given that the WSU defense was ranked 108th in the nation coming into Pasadena?

More surprising was that the Cougars failed to come out on top after scoring 21 consecutive points to take a 28-20 lead into the last seconds of the third quarter.

"It's pretty disappointing on the outcome," Cougars coach Paul Wulff said in a postgame interview. "There's a lot of young guys out there playing their tails off."

That includes the defense, who gave up massive yardage but who stopped the Bruins and, at least, forced field goals so as to keep the game close.

LED BY QUARTERBACK Jeff Tuel, who was 20 for 37 with 311 yards and two touchdowns, the offense was able to keep the Cougars competitive.

"You can see the evolution of our offense," Wulff said. "We're nowhere where we think we're going to be."

Senior wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon had arguably his best game as a Cougar, scoring the Cougars' first touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Tuel with 10:30 left in the second quarter. His 83 receiving yards on six receptions were a career high after tallying 81 last year against California.

Senior running back James Montgomery rushed for 45 yards on 12 carries and contributed two touchdowns in the third quarter, the first a 3-yard run on the opening drive of the period. After the Bruins fumbled on their first possession, senior linebacker Myron Beck returned it 21 yards to the UCLA 20 and put Montgomery in position for a 1-yard run with 7:16 left.

A NOTICEABLE HUSH fell over the Rose Bowl as a 28-20 advantage by the visitors flashed on the scoreboard.

"We took that opening drive, scored and got a turnover and scored," Wulff said. "We've got to put ourselves in position to win a game."

With the score 28-all, the Cougars had a chance to do just that early in the fourth on a 1-yard keeper by Tuel, but officials ruled, by a delayed instant replay call, he was down at the 1 after freshman kicker Andrew Furney already attempted -- and missed -- the extra point.

"I couldn't tell if he was in or not," Wulff said. "The explanation was that the referee did not get the buzz before the snap. The guy in the booth said he hit the buzzer before the snap."

Tuel said he was put in that position when his running back went the wrong way.

"I was supposed to have someone there," he said. "I just took off for it."

ON THE ENSUING play, WSU eschewed a field-goal attempt and Montgomery was stopped short of the goal line on fourth down.

WSU held briefly but UCLA promptly marched 99 yards, led by a 73-run by Derrick Coleman, and quarterback Richard Brehaut scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10:08 remaining.

"That kind of killed the momentum right there," Beck said.

Shortly after Furney missed a 45-yard field goal attempt for the Cougars with 7:25 left, Coleman took the ball in four yards for his third touchdown of the game, to bring the score to its final tally.

"We played to a level that is Pac-10 football, and that's an improvement," Wulff said. "But we've got to keep growing them up."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Wulff said he replaced senior Nico Grasu with Furney because the latter has kicked well in practice and he wanted to get him some experience. But Furney missed what could have been a significant extra point if the touchdown that put the Cougars ahead 34-28 was not later negated by review. Furney also hooked a 45-yard field goal wide left in the fourth quarter.

  • The Cougars were penalized eight times for 90 yards, while the Bruins had 10 for 103.

  • WSU redshirt freshman Jamal Atofau made his first start at linebacker and committed two costly 15-yard penalties. Atofau, who began his career at safety, started in place of Beck.

  • True freshman Marquess Wilson, who had 118 yards on five receptions, tied Phillip Bobo for the most 100-yard games as a freshman in WSU history with three.

  • Rick Neuheisel now is 8-0 against WSU in stints at Colorado, Washington and UCLA.

  • Johnathan Franklin's 216 rushing yards were a career high. He previously had 158 in a 31-13 win Sept. 18 against Houston. Coleman's 185 rushing yards marked the first time he has produced a 100-yard game.

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