A milestone -- and then misery, again

IN A SEASON when even the smallest things seem impossible at times, there it was, in LED lights on the scoreboard. Cougars 10, Bears 7. The last time Washington State led at halftime, George Bush was in office. Alas, it wasn't to last...

While they hadn't led at halftime since a Sept. 30, 2008 win against Portland State, the Cougars also hadn't held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter since the Apple Cup that same year.

They had prevented California from scoring anything more than a 2-yard rushing touchdown that was the end result of a 95-yard drive early in the second quarter.

They had taken the lead on a 51-yard field goal by Andrew Furney with a little more than 90 seconds left in the half.

COACH PAUL WULFF said his team was excited when they returned to the locker room. Happy. Even a little bit optimistic.

After all, the Golden Bears had lost their last four road games by a combined score of 145-61. Maybe, just maybe, this would be the week. This would be redemption from last week's desert drubbing in Tempe, and at least some portion of what had come before it. This would be the win they so desperately needed.

"But it's a four-quarter football game," Wulff said following the 20-13 loss to California.

And, sure enough, then came the third quarter, perhaps best summed up by someone who was out there on the field as the Cougars stumbled to their 16th consecutive conference loss.

"The defense played their tails off," junior running back Logwone Mitz said in post-game remarks to The Kitsap Sun. "Credit to them for four quarters.

"The offense didn't come out in the third quarter ready to go, and that's where the game changes."

And change it did.

THE COUGARS WENT absolutely nowhere on their opening drive, and just four plays later, the Bears took the lead for good.

"We let them score early and I think that was a big turning point," Wulff said of Marvin Jones' 27-yard catch that set up a 27-yard fly sweep that Jeremy Ross took to the house with 11:17 left in the quarter.

But Ross wasn't done torturing the Cougars. On what looked to be solid defensive coverage by WSU for a key third-down stop in the fourth quarter, Ross just kept moving. The Cougars' determination to strip the ball -- rather than tackle him -- resulted in a first down.

"I think everyone was trying to keep him up to strip the ball," said junior cornerback Aire Justin. "He just kept pushing the pile."

Fellow cornerback Nolan Washington felt similarly.

"The defense gave up a big third down; 21 yards on a screen," the freshman said. "That's embarrassing."

Embarrassing, but all too common these days.

"We can not hurt ourselves," Wulff said. "When you make the amount of mistakes we're making at times, it's difficult."

ALSO DIFFICULT WAS watching quarterback Jeff Tuel as he suffered the worst complete-passing game of his career, completing just nine of 25 attempts. His 92 passing yards were his fewest of the season -- and snap a nine-game streak of at least 200 yards.

Not that he had much help, though. Five dropped balls and six sacks take top billing on the list of sad stats.

"Unfortunately we had some dropped balls that were critical," said Wulff, who referred to Tuel's protection as not being great. "We've got to make those plays."

Cougfan Top Stories