Cougars unable to find confidence, or points

SEATTLE -- You can win a football game with 21 points. Just not when the opposing team puts up 44. A mere four weeks after being ranked first in the nation in scoring, with 61.5 points per game, Washington State is in a slump. That never was more evident than after Saturday's drubbing by Oregon State at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael said that the pair of easy wins against Idaho State and UNLV to open the season bolstered the Cougars' confidence – possibly to their detriment.

"Now we're getting into league play and playing high-caliber teams every week, and we've just got to execute our game plan no matter who we're playing," he said. "We have the ability to do that (every week), but we just have to play up to our potential."

Saturday was the Cougars' first conference home game on the Westside since 1976, and from the opening drive, it was clear that this game would not be getting them back on any lists. Not any good ones, that is.

In front of 49,219 fans, the Beavers were looking for revenge after a 31-14 loss in Corvallis last year.

And they got it.

THE BEAVERS' DEFENSE followed the Cougars right downfield and stuffed running back Carl Winston on fourth-and-1 at the OSU 24, killing a long drive –- and any hopes of scoring on the opening drive.

"I thought our kids were ready to play," WSU offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said. "We took the opening drive down the field, ran into the score zone there and didn't get it done."

It all went downhill from there.

Sure, the Cougars (3-4 overall, 1-3 Pac-12) put up 21 points, which in some games would be perfectly respectable, but they also surrendered 44 –- and gave up 551 yards of total offense to a team that came into the game 10th in the conference in that category.

Things didn't look as bleak when, trailing 7-0, junior Jeff Tuel led the Cougars on an 80-yard drive that culminated with a 20-yard touchdown reception to sophomore wide receiver Marquess Wilson with 14:51 left in the second quarter.

A little under five minutes later, it was Tuel himself who tied the game 14-all with a 1-yard sneak after a 48-yard reception to Wilson –- and a 15-yard facemask penalty tacked on for benefit.

WHILE THE COUGARS managed to hang in with Oregon State throughout the first half, with just over three minutes left, Tuel went back to pass on third-and-6 from the WSU 38. Freshman defensive end Scott Crichton descended, knocking the ball loose and giving the Beavers the ball back at the WSU 31.

Four plays later, the half was over and Oregon State led 24-14.

Not helping was the Cougars' anemic passing game. In trying to establish a strong running game, the receiving corps was left with little to do –- and just one touchdown on the board all night. Wilson racked up the best numbers of the group, with five catches for 75 yards.

"It's tough on the offense when we're not on the field, and when we are on the field and we can't get it into the end zone," said senior wide receiver Isiah Barton. "We want to score every opportunity that we're on the field, especially the receivers.

"It's our goal and mindset: to score and put points on the board, and make it easier on our defense."

In addition to surrendering points, the Cougars also may have lost Tuel once again; he left the game with less than 30 seconds before halftime with a left-shoulder injury, and Wulff said he later underwent X-rays. The junior quarterback returned Oct. 15 against Stanford after fracturing his left clavicle Sept. 3 versus Idaho State.

"We didn't do a great job of blocking a couple of times," Sturdy said.

Things didn't get any easier in the second half, when Lobbestael took over. The Beavers easily scored on their opening drive –- and then continued to dominate the field.

"We couldn't get them to punt," said WSU coach Paul Wulff. "They were converting everything."

THE BEAVERS SCORED on eight of their first nine drives, the only stop coming when sophomore cornerback Damante Horton ripped the ball out of wide receiver Markus Wheaton's hands in the end zone for a first-quarter interception.

Sean Mannion, a redshirt freshman who didn't start until the season's third game, was 26 of 34 for 376 yards and four touchdowns.

Wulff said that while his team played hard, Oregon State turned in "the best football game I have ever seen them play."

"We need to make a few more plays on defense," he said. "It's a game we lost –- they outplayed us. Oregon State played a hell of a game."

Barton, who finished the night with 69 yards on nine passes, admitted that the back-and-forth between quarterbacks has effected what he called the offensive "rhythm."

"We practice all week with one quarterback and get the timing set up, and it's just right, and the in the game, it's a new quarterback, and the rhythm is off.

"It's not really big, big deal." He paused. "But it is, kind of."

One bright spot of the game was Barton amassing 228 yards on nine kickoffs. His best return of the night was his last, good for 55 yards to put the Cougars at the OSU 36 and reignite hopes of shrinking the deficit.

Lobbestael's pass was intercepted on the next play. Game over.

Asked whether it is difficult to come in and replace Tuel while already trailing, Lobbestael said that his goal is simply to "pick up where he left off and just keep the offense rolling and do my part."

Still, he said, "When we don't execute our game plan as well as we can, and we lose, it's definitely disappointing."


  • Saturday marked the first time this season that the Cougars have allowed an opponent to score on their opening drive. Oregon State went up 7-0 with 8:18 left in the first quarter.

  • WSU's nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter was its eighth scoring drive of at least 80 yards this season.

  • Horton's interception in the first quarter was his third of the season, his career and in the last three games.

  • Tuel's touchdown pass to Wilson in the first quarter was the 25th of his career, moving him into ninth place on the university's career passing touchdowns list. His second-quarter 1-yard touchdown run was the second running touchdown of his career.

  • Oregon State racked up 551 yards of total offense against the Cougars; its last outing with as many yards was also against WSU, in a 41-10 win in 2009. Saturday was also the first time that the Beavers scored more than 40 points since that game.

  • Oregon State has several players from Western Washington: freshman defensive end Scott Crichton (Tacoma), sophomore offensive lineman Grant Enger (Bothell), sophomore linebacker Charlie Gilmur (University Place), sophomore wide receiver Garett Hall (Olympia), freshman tight end Connor Hamlett (Edmonds), senior punter Johnny Hecker (Bothell), junior offensive tackle Colin Kelly (Kelso), junior wide receiver Geno Munoz (Tacoma), junior safety Anthony Watkins (Burien) and junior cornerback Brian Watkins (Burien).

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