Offense must capitalize against Cal

EXECUTION IS THE new buzzword around Washington State's football team as it enters Saturday's game at 3:30 p.m. against California at San Francisco's AT&T Park (TV: Root Sports, CSN California). Coach Paul Wulff said Thursday that the Cougars (3-5 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) must take advantage of their opportunities to give their bowl hopes a boost.

Wulff not only was referring to last week's game at Oregon, when four first-half drives inside the Ducks' 25-yard line netted only three points, but last year's game against California. WSU produced just 194 yards of total offense in a 20-13 loss versus the Golden Bears.

"They're still very good on defense," Wulff said. "They've got six seniors on defense. For us, we've got to execute better. We've got to find ways to run the ball. We've got to play a dang good football game on offense."

But there figures to be scoring opportunities against California (4-4, 1-4). The Golden Bears allow just 199.3 passing yards per game, which ranks 32nd among FBS schools. Their pass defense efficiency, which ranks 53rd, suggests they are not quite as strong in that area, though.

He said California primarily uses a Cover 1 scheme, but also mixes in other protections. He then reiterated that his team's success is more dependent on how it performs than the opponent's scheme. Wulff said that means avoiding penalties and dropping balls.

"It goes back to execution," he said. "The things we want to do are there."

Wulff also said starting redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole (pinched nerve) likely will play Saturday if he is able to get through today's practice without any issues. He said Pole is adjusting to wearing a protective collar around his neck.

  • Wulff said California's Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones might be the best receiving duo in the conference. Allen, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, has 989 yards and five touchdowns on 67 receptions this season. Jones, a 6-3 senior, has 610 yards and three touchdowns on 41 receptions. He said both are big and physical and "are two NFL receivers."

  • WSU sophomore Andrew Furney, who has converted 11 of 12 field goals, was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award on Wednesday.

    "He deserves that," Wulff said. "He's kicked the ball extremely well this year. His kickoffs are improving."

    He cited other youthful players, such as sophomore wide receiver Marquess Wilson, that he also believes are deserving of recognition.

    "You're looking at a lot of first- and second-year players making their mark," Wulff said. "You're starting to see the young talent emerge in this program."

  • Jim Michalczik has returned to California to serve as the team's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach after spending the last two seasons in the NFL as the Oakland Raiders' offensive line coach. Michalczik played with Wulff on the Cougars' offensive line in the late 1980s alongside standouts Mike Utley and Chris Dyko.

    Michalczik briefly was the offensive line coach at the University of Washington, but resigned from that position when former Raiders coach Tom Cable hired him. Wulff jokingly said he was "not happy" about Michalczik taking the UW job and has not completely forgiven him.

  • Wulff said he felt the absence of wide receivers Daniel Blackledge and Jeffrey Solomon and running back James Montgomery "stymied us a bit" last year. All three have since graduated.

  • Junior quarterback Jeff Tuel (calf, clavicle) will not dress for Saturday's game, Wulff said.

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