Wulff: No break this weekend for Cougars

WASHINGTON STATE'S RUN of playing consecutive ranked opponents is finished at three. But even with a schedule that college-football statistician Jeff Sagarin this week ranked as the second toughest among Football Bowl Subdivision teams easing up, Cougars coach Paul Wulff warned that it won't be easy.

WSU (1-7 overall, 0-5 conference) plays at 4 p.m. Saturday at Arizona State. The Sun Devils (3-4, 1-3) lost 50-17 last week at California.

"They're a lot better football team than what happened to them," Wulff said during his Tuesday teleconference. "I know they're going to be real fired up to play. I expect a very motivated football team."

The only common opponent between the two teams is No. 1 Oregon, which defeated the Sun Devils 42-31 on Sept. 25.

"I see the difference between Arizona State and the teams we have faced as three to four plays," Wulff said. "The difference between top and bottom in this league is not very much. We've got to play really good football on the road to win this game."

ASU allows an average of 351.43 yards per game, which ranks 48th among 120 FBS teams. Wulff said turnovers have put the Sun Devils' defense in "difficult positions." Their negative-nine turnover ratio is the worst in the conference.

"The statistics are a little misleading for them on defense," he said. "They're the most physical defensive line we have faced. They have great depth in their linebacking core and defensive line."

Wulff said expecting 4- or 5-yard gains on each play against ASU to be unrealistic. Instead, he said the offense needs to create some big plays. The Cougars were able to do that at times -- true freshman wide receiver Marquess Wilson caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel during the fourth quarter in a 38-28 loss last week at Stanford -- but Wulff said they also will need some explosive plays in the running game.

He said the turnover ratio might be the most significant factor in the game's outcome. Wulff believes WSU needs a positive turnover ratio of plus-two to win. At Stanford, his team had three turnovers to one for the Cardinal.

"We've lost that battle by two or three the last two weeks," Wulff said. "We've got to win that battle. I don't know that even is good enough."

THE SUN DEVILS' quarterback situation could lend itself to that. Stater Steven Threet, who has completed 141 of 235 passes for 1,844 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, suffered a concussion at California and is questionable. His backup, sophomore Brock Osweiler, also was unavailable because of back problems. If neither can play, that leaves junior Samson Szakacsy as the probable starter. In his only playing time this season, Szakacsy completed 8 of 17 passes for 52 yards and a interception last week.

Wulff said that situation will not affect how his defensive staff plans for the game.

"We're not really too caught up in who is going be the quarterback," he said. "We have to be ready to play the scheme."

ASU ranks 26th in total passing yards (1,971), but is 76th in rushing yards (994). But freshman Deantre Lewis, who averages 6.8 yards per carry, has three 100-yard rushing games. At wide receiver, the Sun Devils have seven players with 11 catches or more.

"Our defense has got to tackle well," said Wulff, adding that his team likely will have a full-contact practice Wednesday. "They have excellent speed at running back and wide receiver."

To counter the latter, he said Sunday that he can use as many healthy defensive backs as possible. Both starting cornerbacks -- sophomore Daniel Simmons and redshirt freshman Nolan Washington -- sustained injuries at Stanford. Wulff said Washington, who sprained his thumb and practiced Monday with a splint, will play Saturday.

Wulff said Simmons, who suffered a concussion, also is probable pending a test this afternoon. He said sophomore Terrance Hayward or junior Aire Justin will start if Simmons is unable to play.

That likely would be the only change to the starting lineup, Wulff said.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Wulff said he recruited ASU defensive lineman Bo Moos, whose father, Bill, is WSU's athletic director, when he coached at Eastern Washington. Moos graduated from Sheldon High School in Eugene, Ore., in 2007.

    "I would love to have him in the program," Wulff said. "He's a big, physical guy."

  • After finishing with 2-11 and 1-11 records in his first two seasons, Wulff said some people were skeptical when he declared that the recruiting class he signed in February was the best in school history. Safety Deone Bucannon, offensive tackle John Fullington, linebacker C.J. Mizell and Wilson all have started as true freshmen.

    "Now that people are seeing them on the field they're saying that maybe that is true," Wulff said.

  • Wulff was an offensive linemen at WSU from 1985-89, which included two seasons under ASU coach Dennis Erickson. But he said he does not think his familiarity with Erickson gives him an advantage.


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