Search for consistency begins with o-line

BALANCE LONG HAS been a buzzword for Washington State coach Paul Wulff when he discusses his offense. The Cougars achieved that during their first two weeks, but were far less successful running the ball during Saturday's 42-24 loss against San Diego State. Wulff talked about that -- and provided a when-will-we-know update on incoming freshman wide receiver Rahmel Dockery -- on Tuesday.

WSU (2-1), which does not play this weekend as it prepares for its Pac-12 opener Oct. 1 at Colorado, averaged just 3.96 yards per carry against the Aztecs. That number is misleading because quarterback Marshall Lobbestael lost 31 yards on eight carries. He was sacked six times. Remove that from the equation and WSU finished with 142 yards on 20 carries.

But the Cougars also did not have any explosive plays out of the backfield. Junior Carl Winston's 11-yard run was a team high.

Wulff attributes that to the offensive line's performance, particularly junior-college transfer Taylor Meighen, who made his first start with senior center Andrew Roxas (ankle) sidelined.

"Taylor Meighen in his first career start maybe didn't play as well as we all would've liked," he said, adding that Roxas will not practice this week but he hopes to have him back next week.

Wulff said the Aztecs also benefited from playing a few teams that run the option recently.

"They were as sure of tacklers as we've seen in a long time," he said. "I thought how well they tackled had an impact on the ballgame."

AS DID SDSU'S running back. Sophomore Ronnie Hillman finished with 191 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. Wulff said he liked how his team played against the run until the third quarter when Hillman had a 59-yard run and "the floodgates kind of opened of us."

"I think a little bit of that maybe was being worn down," he said.

WSU faces another accomplished back in Colorado's 5-foot-6 senior Rodney Stewart, who rushed for 1,318 yards last year.

"The Stewart kid is a very quick back," said Wulff, adding that Hillman is more of a slasher and has good balance. "He's different than Hillman. I would be surprised if we see a better back this year than Hillman."

The Buffaloes (1-2) defeated Colorado State 28-14 on Saturday. They lost their opener 34-17 at Hawaii, but in their only game at Folsom Field they went into overtime against California before losing 36-33.

Wulff said the coaches will watch Colorado's game Saturday at Ohio State, but he is more concerned about his team for now.

"We've got to finish in practice really well and learn how to play a fourth quarter," he said. "You're not going to learn how to be successful until you've been in those situations. We've got to develop some confidence and consistency late in games."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Wulff said the NCAA Eligibility Center has more information on Rahmeal Dockery and "hopefully we get a response this week." Wulff said the Curtis High School graduate will redshirt if he becomes eligible.

  • While the Cougars primarily use a shotgun formation, Wulff said they "do have the ability to get into big personnel." He said the team uses the mobile Jeff Tuel under center more frequently than Lobbestael.

  • The NCAA is enforcing the chop-block rule, which WSU was penalized three for against the Aztecs, more frequently this season. Wulff said he did not agree with one of the calls on a wide receiver, but said he likes the rule and there "will be some teaching involved" with his players.

  • Tuel, who suffered a broken left clavicle Sept. 3 against Idaho State, has been cleared to begin throwing in practice this week. Wulff said all of Tuel's work will be individual.


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