Grudge match?

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Paul Wulff and some of his players were angry when Oregon State went deep and scored 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 66-13 win two years ago in Corvallis. But Wulff said during his Thursday teleconference it shouldn't mean much to this year's outcome when WSU plays at 1 p.m. Saturday at OSU (TV: Versus).

"The majority of this football team wasn't there just two years ago," he said. "I don't know how many of them would carry that."

Six offense starters in that game for the Cougars (1-9 overall, 0-7 Pac-10) remain in the program, but just three on the defensive side. That includes junior linebacker Louis Bland, who is redshirting this year after undergoing surgery on his left knee.

Besides, Wulff said the Beavers (4-4, 3-2) have plenty of motivation of their own. OSU needs to win two of its final four games to become bowl eligible and it faces USC, Stanford and Oregon after playing WSU.

Wulff said his team's ability to contain running back Jacquizz Rodgers will be critical. Rodgers has 800 yards and 13 touchdowns on 176 carries this season.

"I think he means a tremendous amount for that football team," Wulff said. "It's really about what he does with the passing game because teams have to respect him. As he goes, their offense goes."

RODGERS ONLY CARRIED the ball 14 times in the Beavers' last-second 17-14 loss last week at UCLA, a fact not lost on the OSU fans or media. Wulff said he would not be surprised to see that number at least double given the game's importance to OSU.

His older brother, senior James Rodgers, added another dynamic part to the Beavers' offense, but he is out for the season with a left knee injury. Wulff said fleet footed Markus Wheaton, who has 361 yards and a touchdown on 29 receptions, has helped fill that void.

"Markus Wheaton is a great football player," he said. "He's a big-play guy, so that's allowed them to keep their passing threat."

The Beavers' defense has struggled at times this year. They rank seventh in the conference in total defense, allowing 412.6 yards per game. But Wulff said OSU has plenty of quality players on that side of the ball in addition to defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who is projected by some as a first-round pick in next year's NFL draft. Senior cornerback James Dockery ranks second in the Pac-10 with four interceptions.

"You look at that defense and see seven seniors," Wulff said. "They've been coached and taught. They're confident and make very few mistakes."

ONE AREA WHERE the Cougars have struggled this year is along the offensive line. They have allowed a conference-worst 42 sacks this year, and Wulff said injuries along the line are affecting the entire offense. Tackles David Gonzales (fractured forearm), Tyson Pencer (pelvis) and Dan Spitz (torn right-shoulder labrum) are out for the season. He said Pencer, who also missed the 2008 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, is a strong candidate to appeal to the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility if he desires. Wulff said all three could be starting for the team now.

He said he seeks to recruit big, athletic offensive linemen and that the team should have that next season in players such as John Fullington, Gonzales, Wade Jacobson, Pencer, Spitz and Jake Rodgers, a redshirting freshman from Shadle Park High School in Spokane, returning.

"I think (the offensive line) has improved tremendously this year," Wulff said. "They're starting to look like legitimate Pac-10 football players.

"This next year, we'll be legitimately in every ballgame. We'll have some depth on this football team, so when you have injuries late in the season you won't fall off."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Wulff said he still is waiting for results on sophomore cornerback Daniel Simmons' arthrogram. If it is a sprain rather than a tear in the rotator cuff, he said Simmons could return by the Apple Cup. In other injury news, Wulff said redshirt freshman linebacker Sekope Kaufusi (shoulder) should see limited playing time at OSU. He said the receiving corps should be buoyed by senior Daniel Blackledge (concussion) and junior Jared Karstetter (ankle) being back at full health. Senior safety Chima Nwachukwu (hamstring) also will play. Wulff said a trio of running backs, redshirt freshman Arthur Burns (quadriceps), senior Marcus Richmond (hamstring) and sophomore Carl Winston (hamstring) all could play at less than perfect health.

  • Senior James Montgomery likely will start at running back Saturday and could be joined by junior Logwone Mitz if WSU uses a two-man set, Wulff said.

  • Wulff said the futures of redshirt freshmen linebackers Jamal Atofau and Andre Barrington have not been determined. Both were arrested last month after Pullman Police found 38 marijuana plants growing in a house they rented with two other people. Wulff had said previously they would wait for the legal system to run its course.


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