Wulff: Team remains focused amidst noise

WASHINGTON STATE MIGHT be coming off a lackluster performance, but that has not changed coach Paul Wulff's conviction that the program is trending upward. Wulff discussed his job status, the Cougars' development, Saturday's 7:30 game against Arizona State (TV: Versus) and much more.

Wulff, who has an 8-38 record and is in the fourth year of a five-year contract, said he has not spoken with WSU athletic director Bill Moos about his status returning for the 2012 season.

"I think it ultimately comes back to Bill Moos," Wulff said. "If he feels we're headed in a good direction, it's his call. Let the man do his job and let the coaches and players do our job."

During the Pac-12 teleconference, Wulff was asked why fans should remain faithful that the Cougars (3-6 overall, 1-5 Pac-12) are heading in the right direction after Saturday's 30-7 loss at California.

"It goes back to them understanding that this was the worst BCS program in America by a long, long ways," said Wulff, referring to the situation he inherited from former coach Bill Doba in December 2007. "We've got great recruiting classes. It takes time when things are in bad shape.

"That's the reality of where this program is at. I'm not ashamed of that, I'm just here to fix that issue."

Dennis Erickson, who was Wulff's coach in 1987-88, said he has seen the team progress this year.

"Washington State has improved," he said. "They're a good football team and they've lost a lot of close games."

Wulff said he felt that WSU could compete for a bowl berth this year -- and added that remains a possibility -- but he felt junior quarterback Jeff Tuel "was vital to that." Tuel suffered a fractured left clavicle Sept. 3 against Idaho State and aggravated that, along with injuring his calf, Oct. 22 against Oregon State in Seattle. He has played only one full game, a 44-14 loss Oct. 15 versus Stanford, this season.

"When your team leader gets hurt in the first game … that's not bad coaching, it's an unfortunate break," Wulff said.

While Wulff did not make any official proclamations, Tuel appears closer to being shut down for the remainder of the year. Wulff said he should have more clarity on that by Sunday.

"He's still really sore," he said. "I think it's really looking like he's not going to play."

The possibility of Tuel gaining a medical redshirt for this season appears complicated by the fact that he played against OSU, which fell into the second half of the season. But Wulff said given that injury occurred on the game's third play -- and that Tuel has not played much -- should buoy his prospects for an extra year of eligibility.

"I do think we have every reason to file a waiver in his situation," he said. "I do think we have some things in our favor from that standpoint."

WULFF ALSO NOTED that the schedule has been a hindrance with the Cougars only playing at home against Stanford in the two months between the Sept. 10 game against UNLV and Saturday's contest at Martin Stadium.

"It's very challenging," he said. "But there's nothing I can do about that."

WSU's 2012 schedule has not been released, but Wulff said it is much more favorable. He said there is one case next year when the Cougars play consecutive road games.

Wulff also said it is reasonable to expect WSU to be much more successful next season. The recruiting class he signed in 2009, which was his first full one, will be comprised of juniors and seniors then.

"I really believe each year moving forward we're going to take big steps," he said. "We'll be a heck of a lot more veteran, savvy.

"You're not going to need a superstar effort from the quarterback per se."

AS FAR AS the Sun Devils (6-3, 4-2) are concerned, Wulff attributes most of their development to consistent quarterback play and experience. In his first season as the full-time starting signal-caller, Brock Osweiler has completed 211 of 325 passes for 2,539 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Even though UCLA defeated ASU 29-28 last week, the Sun Devils still had 465 yards of total offense. They rank 29th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with an average of 441.7 yards per game. Wulff compared ASU's explosive athleticism to Oregon.

"They've got a lot of speed and talent," he said. "For us to stop them isn't a realistic situation. They're a very big play, opportunistic team. Our defense has got to be really good."

Both Erickson and Wulff were dismissive of how game conditions could impact the contest. This is the latest the teams have played in Pullman since the Cougars' last win in the series, 34-19, on Nov. 15, 2003. WSU is 4-2 against the Sun Devils in November contests at Martin Stadium.

"It's football," Erickson said. "You've got to go play wherever it is. We've just got to go play in it. It's like coming down here and playing in 120 or 110 (degrees). Once the game starts, I think all that stuff goes away."

Wulff agreed.

"Regardless of what the conditions are, if we don't execute as a football team it doesn't matter," he said.

He particularly was referring to his offense, which has scored on 26 of 32 red-zone possessions, which ranks 64th in FBS.

"They've got outstanding talent and players and are a veteran football team," Wulff said. "We're doing everything we have to create consistency for our offense.

"We need to make sure we have the ability to control the clock. We put ourselves in more opportunities to be in scoring position, but we've got to cash in."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Wulff clarified some of his postgame remarks about California. After reviewing game tape, he felt the Cougars played hard, but lacked focus. He said a coach told him years ago that teams often will have poor or outstanding focus each for two or three games during a seasons and the rest will be normal.

    "That's held true in all of my years of coaching," Wulff said. "Cal also took it to us and you have to give them credit."

    He also has drawn criticism for his postgame remarks about the Golden Bears' talent level being superior to the rest of the conference.

    "I guess if you're down on the field and see their athletes, you might have my same opinion," Wulff said. "They're very big; they're very physical."

    While California (5-4, 2-4) does not have a record that reflects that, Wulff noted that interceptions by quarterback Zach Maynard directly impacted multiple games. The Golden Bears lost conference games at Washington (31-23) and UCLA (31-14) where Maynard threw multiple interceptions.

    "The play at that position is their Achilles heel," he said.

  • Former WSU linebacker Steve Gleason will be honored during Saturday's game. Wulff said he will meet with the team before the game. Gleason recently announced that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which commonly is known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

    "I want him to do what he wants to do and is comfortable doing," Wulff said. "I know he's struggling a little bit talking right now. I want him to be engaged as much as he's willing to be right now."

  • Recruiting misses during Doba's tenure from 2003-07 have frequently been rehashed on CF.C's message boards. One miss was ASU senior Bo Moos, a defensive tackle who played at Sheldon High School in Eugene, while his father, Bill, was the athletic director at Oregon.

    "He's just consistent, solid, tough and good in the run game," Wulff said. "He's become quicker in the run game.

    "I would have love to have had him. He fit's a lot of the profile things at Washington State and it is where he should have been."

  • Wulff reiterated that Erickson was a catalyst for him becoming a coach. While he had three coaches at WSU, Wulff said Erickson had the greatest impact on him. Wulff said Erickson "allowed players to be themselves" and added that the coaching staff had great camaraderie, as well.

  • Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Halliday could see some time Saturday even if senior starter Marshall Lobbestael is "playing OK," Wulff said.


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