Paul Wulff's Sunday observations

HE DID NOT MINCE WORDS. Simply put, Washington State coach Paul Wulff said that his team needs to play much better than it showed in Saturday's 44-14 homecoming loss against Stanford. Wulff discussed the Cougars' quarterback situation, gave a midseason analysis of the team and much more on Sunday evening.

Earlier in the season, Wulff said there was a possibility that senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael and junior Jeff Tuel, who made his first start of the season against No. 7 Stanford and played for the first time since suffering a broken left clavicle Sept. 3 against Idaho State, potentially could job-share when the latter returned.

But Wulff said Tuel, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 145 yards, will be the full-time starter Saturday when WSU (3-3 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) plays Oregon State at CenturyLink Field (TV: Root Sports).

"Jeff just needs to get back into the flow," he said. "In defense of Jeff, we threw him back into a game against the best defense in the conference."

Wulff said Lobbestael, who completed 7 of 9 passes for 64 yards and led the Cougars to a late touchdown, still will play. But he was noncommittal about how much time Lobbestael will see.

THERE WAS SOME sentiment that the Cougars' inability to capitalize on senior Isiah Barton's kickoff return to midfield to open the second half was a turning point. WSU trailed 10-7 at the time.

"I don't know if there ever was a turning point," Wulff said. "That was a missed opportunity for our team.

"I think from the first snap, our offense never did execute very well. There was some mental things we did that had no bearing on what Stanford did. We've got to be a heck of a lot better."

It was uncharacteristic of an offense that earned Wulff's highest midseason grade -- a B-plus. He based that on the Cougars ranking third in the Pac-12 -- they now are fourth with an average of 453.33 yards per game -- in total offense before Stanford, and only committing eight turnovers, which ranks 21st among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

"This game really knocked it down because this was our worst performance from an execution standpoint," Wulff said.

That was not helped by an offensive line that allowed six sacks as the Cardinal consistently applied pressure on Tuel. Stanford now ranks fourth among FBS schools with an average of 3.83 sacks per game. Wulff said the blocking woes were a combination of protection breakdowns and the Cardinal's talent.

"We misidentified and didn't get into a protection or two we really needed to get into," Wulff said. "There were a couple of guys that made plays."

DEFENSIVELY, WULFF GAVE WSU a midseason grade of a B-minus. He said the unit has improved each week. Wulff said throughout the week that the Cougars needed to contain Stanford's run game and he felt they did a good job on that front. The Cardinal averaged 4.6 yards per carry, but that includes a 31-yard run by Stepfan Taylor. Excluding that, Stanford had 108 yards on 29 carries (3.7 average).

But quarterback Andrew Luck, who is the consensus No. 1 prospect in next spring's NFL Draft, threw for four touchdowns in the second half. Luck threw for 336 yards.

"I thought we defended them well until late," Wulff said.

He noted that the defense played without sophomore linebacker Sekope Kaufusi (shoulder), but he felt true freshman Chester Sua played well in his place. Wulff also said that they rotated in more linebackers, such as senior Mike Ledgerwood, to try and keep players fresh against a physical Cardinal offense.

"Relatively, I don't think they're too sore," he said.

SPECIAL TEAMS EXPERIENCED another setback against Stanford when the kickoff coverage unit allowed their second touchdown of the season on the game's final play by Ty Montgomery. It was not the first breakdown this season by a unit that allows 23.85 yards per return, which ranks 101st among FBS teams.

Wulff gave the special teams a "C-plus to B-minus," and said he was not concerned about Montgomery's return.

"Our kickoff coverage has been relatively good this year," he said, adding that unit also has created turnovers.

"We've had a few special teams miscues. The last one was a lack of intensity. It was disappointing. We missed a tackle at the point of attack. We get out of a lane with one of our very good veteran plays."

  • Wulff said he still is consulting with team physicians and other doctors about senior right tackle Wade Jacobson (back), but "it looks more probable" that he will require surgery. If that is the case, he said that Jacobson might look into obtaining another year of eligibility through a medical redshirt. Jacobson started four games this season. Wulff said junior Dan Spitz will continue to start at right tackle.

  • Wulff said he has not had an opportunity to review game tape of OSU (1-5, 1-2), but still shared some thoughts on the Beavers.

    "I know they're getting healthy," he said. "They're getting some kids back on offense. They're a little more wide open than they've been in the last few years."

    Defensively, Wulff said OSU is similar from a structural standpoint to recent years.

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