Tired Cougars rush absolutely nowhere

EIGHT IS ENOUGH. But not when you're talking about rushing yards. And for the Cougars, eight was the net number of rushing yards their lifeless offense produced against Arizona State in a 42-0 desert drubbing Saturday in Tempe. Never mind that you can probably rack up more walking back to the locker room. And never mind that the Cougars looked to be on an upward swing.

Coach Paul Wulff was moving right along in the rebuilding process. The defense was starting to come together. The Jeff Tuel-led offense was making things happen.

"I thought we had been mentally up for four, five weeks in a row," Wulff said in a postgame interview with the Spokesman-Review. "We had been playing that way. Today, we weren't."

SO WAS IT heatstroke that had dead Cougar carcasses scattered around the terrain?

Or maybe fatigue?

"This is a tired team," said former WSU coach and color commentator Jim Walden in his postgame radio show. "I don't want to make excuses, but this is our ninth week in a row."

Yes, the Cougars got screwed when they got a schedule that included no byes for 11 staright weeks. The Pac-10 would never have done that to USC. Or UCLA. Or, hell, anybody else. But at the same time, one would think that the team would be tired of losing, not in need of a glass of warm Tang and a soft pillow once they arrive back in Pullman.

"It's clearly our worst performance of the year," Wulff said in a postgame interview with The Kitsap Sun. "We didn't do anything right."

Well, except make that statement.

WULFF SAID HE wasn't totally sure heading in his team wouldn't stumble in the wake of three consecutive losses to ranked teams. After all, a fair amount of speculation was cropping up that this could be the week Washington State broke through with a win. ASU had just been blown out by Cal the week before.

"It's possible," he had said of a potential letdown. "I don't think it will happen but I'm not saying it couldn't happen, it could. But right now each day our focus is on moving forward."

Now, he needs to focus on moving way forward. WSU can't play like this next week when it hosts California. Or against Oregon State. Or against Washington. Because if they do, any gains that had come before start to disappear from fans' minds.

The Cougars' 28-point deficit going into halftime was the largest of the year. The shutout was the first of the season -- for both teams.

"I'm not surprised that it happened," Walden said. "I'm disappointed it happened."

So how exactly did the Cougars manage to only produce eight rushing yards?

IT STARTED WITH poor play on the offensive line. And a even poorer performance by the running backs. Junior Logwone Mitz led the team with 16 total rushing yards, and senior James Montgomery added another 10. And backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael was sacked three times, thus contributing negative 30 yards.

Washington State gained 72 yards on the night. And then they lost 64 of them.

The passing game couldn't make up for the rushing problems. Tuel, who finished 17 of 26 and threw two interceptions, was under constant pressure despite the Sun Devils coming into the game with the fewest number of sacks in the conference.

And that was far from the only issue.

"Offensively, we may have broken a record for most dropped balls in one half," Wulff said at halftime. "It was ridiculous."

FOR BRIGHT SPOTS you have to look over the offense, and defense, and then go to the punting game. Reid Forrest's fifth punt, with a little more than 13 minutes left in the game, which traveled 57 yards -- and into the record books.

It was the 255th punt in his time with the Cougars, tying him with Kyle Basler atop the all-time list. He broke the record later in the quarter, finishing the game with 10,845 career yards and passing Basler's record of 10,794 yards set in 2005.

Forrest, who had a 22-yard punt in the third quarter that gave Arizona State possession at the WSU 41, said that the achievement was humbling.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • WSU has lost four consecutive games against the Sun Devils in Tempe by a combined score of 165-45. The Cougars have been shut out in their last two trips to ASU. WSU's last win in Tempe was 28-16 in 2001. Overall, the Sun Devils have defeated the Cougars seven straight times.

  • WSU entered the game ranked 109th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 651 rushing yards. The Cougars average just 2.6 yards per carry, which is the sixth lowest total among FBS programs.

  • Tuel completed 17 of 26 passes for 200 yards. He has thrown for at least 200 yards in every game this season.

  • Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson improved to 6-3 against the Cougars. He coached at WSU in 1987-88.

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