Wulff dissects game tape, likes what he sees

THE SCOREBOARD IS a definitive indicator of which team won and lost, but it does not always provide an adequate barometer of a coach's mood. But Washington State coach Paul Wulff said during his Sunday teleconference that he was just as happy after reviewing game tape of the Cougars' 64-21 season-opening win against Idaho State 24 hours later.

"I thought the players, based on watching the film, did a nice job," he said.

From a defensive standpoint, Wulff particularly was excited about WSU's tackling, which often was a struggle last season. He noted there were "a few breakdowns in the second half," but most of those came against the Cougars' backups.

One that did not occurred in the third quarter when an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on safety Deone Bucannon, who slammed his helmet to the ground after breaking up a third-down pass, set up the Bengals with a first-and-goal at WSU's 3-yard line. Jahmel Rover immediately scored on a run to give ISU its first points.

Wulff said Bucannon's response surprised him and added that the sophomore used "poor judgment." But he also said Bucannon is an emotional player and feels that is a significant factor in his success.

"He made a poor choice, but I'm never going to brow-beat a kid and not allow him to show emotion," Wulff said.

OFFENSIVELY, WULFF LIKED the Cougars' balance. WSU had 36 run and 35 pass plays against ISU. While Wulff said the coaching staff strives for balance, he said they do not chart the ratio of run-to-pass plays during the game other than glancing at halftime statistics.

Redshirt freshman running back Rickey Galvin, who rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, praised the offensive line's play after the game. Wulff said the game tape reiterated that.

"Our offensive front did a heck of a job," he said.

Wulff said junior Dan Spitz, who sat out last season after suffering a torn right-shoulder labrum, played 32 snaps at both left and right tackle. It was the first game action for Spitz on the offensive line since he converted from defensive tackle last year.

"He looked good," Wulff said. "He did a lot of really good things. He needs to keep growing with each opportunity. I think he's going to."

He also said he was "relatively happy" with special-teams play. Senior Dan Wagner averaged 43.8 yards per punt on four attempts, while kickers Andrew Furney and Alex Gauper converted all three of their field goals. Wulff said the only breakdown occurred when a player forgot to run out on the field after senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis scored on a 67-yard interception return late in the first quarter.

Wulff said senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael ran onto the field because of that.

But special-teams duty was far from Lobbestael's only activity. After saying during the week that a backup quarterback might not be determined for at a couple of games, Wulff ended up starting Lobbestael when junior Jeff Tuel was too ill to enter the contest.

"We knew going in that if anything drastic happened, we were going to go with Marshall based on experience," Wulff said.

Tuel entered the game after the Cougars built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. He exited after playing a couple of series when he broke his left clavicle.

"He went for an extra-effort think, took a hit and fell to the ground," Wulff said. "Hindsight is 20-20. I wish he would have run out ... but I can't fault him for that."

As previously reported by CF.C, Wulff said Tuel will be reevaluated in two weeks. He said the bone was "not displaced, but it's a decent fracture."

  • The Cougars played six scholarship true freshmen -- wide receivers Henry Eaddy and Isiah Myers, linebackers Darryl Monroe and Chester Su'a, running back Marcus Mason and cornerback Spencer Waseem. Three true-freshmen walk-ons also played -- long snapper Alex Den Bleyker, linebacker Cyrus Coen and safety Jordan Simone. But Monroe, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon, will qualify for a medical redshirt. Wulff said Monroe will have surgery in about a week.

  • He said the volume of true freshmen playing was a reflection of both filling needs, particularly on special teams, and others who simply earned playing time. Wulff previously said Mason was an example of the latter through his play in fall camp.

  • Wulff said the Cougars still intend to redshirt many others, including offensive lineman Rico Forbes, a junior-college transfer.

  • WSU hosts UNLV at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Rebels lost their season opener 51-17 against Wisconsin, but Wulff said they have good speed on offense and also are "bigger on their defensive line than we would've anticipated."

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