Cougs look at WR youth to fill Barton's void

WASHINGTON STATE HEAVILY recruited skill-position talent during its 2010 and '11 signing classes. After wide receiver Isiah Barton suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee versus Utah, that depth figures to receive a test as the Cougars close out the season at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against Washington at CenturyLink Field (TV: Versus). Wulff also provided an update Tuesday on Connor Halliday.

One area where WSU did not need to worry as much about playing its youth this season was wide receiver. The Cougars (4-7 overall, 2-6 Pac-12) started two seniors in Barton, who had 638 yards and five touchdowns on 49 receptions, and Jared Karstetter and sophomore Marquess Wilson That's changed.

"It definitely has an impact," Wulff said. "Isiah has made a lot of big plays for us this year. Some guys are going to have to step up and play."

He declined to name a starter other than saying redshirt freshmen Bobby Ratliff and Kristoff Williams would see most of the time in place of Barton. Ratliff is fourth on the team with 310 yards on 25 receptions. He scored his first touchdown during Saturday's 30-27 overtime loss against Utah.

Williams has been lauded by Wulff since he signed in 2010 out of Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif. But the 6-foot-2, 206-pound Williams battled turf toe and redshirted last season. He also has dealt with various alignments this year en route to 113 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. Williams also threw for a touchdown on a trick play against Utes.

But it was a non-touchdown call that remains on the minds of many spectators. As previously reported by CF.C, Wulff said he felt Wilson crossed the goal line in the waning seconds of regulation versus Utah. But the referees placed the ball at the Utes' 1-yard line and declined to review the play. That forced WSU redshirt freshman quarterback Halliday to spike the ball, which led to a 17-yard field goal by sophomore Andrew Furney to send the game into overtime.

"There wasn't any reason to overturn it based on the video evidence," said Wulff, referring to the explanation he received from Pac-12 officials. "He was coming back toward the field of play."

HE SAID HIS team will need to do a better job of containing UW running back Chris Polk if they expect to end a two-game losing streak in the Apple Cup. Polk rushed for 284 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries to lead the Huskies to a 35-28 win last year in Pullman.

"I think is the best back in the league," Wulff said. "He's a guy who makes yards even when things aren't exactly blocked. He also has the ability to catch the ball. We're not naïve enough to think we can stop him."

Instead, Wulff wants to limit him. OSU last week "held" him to 125 yards and won the game. Wulff said there are a couple of factors that could help WSU in that regard.

"Do they have the ability to take it 80 yards and outrun everyone like Jake (Locker) did?" Wulff said. "No."

He said the Huskies (6-5, 4-4) still feature a quarterback capable of scrambling in Keith Price, but added that they no longer essentially have an extra standout running back at that position especially given Price's recent injury battles.

In addition, WSU is substantially improved against the run this season. The Cougars rank 65th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision team by allowing an average of 158.6 rushing yards per game. They also surrender 4.36 yards per carry. In 2010, WSU allowed 220.3 rushing yards per game, which ranked 115th in FBS. The Cougars also allowed 5.59 yards per carry.

  • Wulff said Halliday, who suffered a lacerated liver against Utah, could be released from Pullman Regional Hospital as early as this afternoon. He said Halliday's laceration is inside the liver, which should expedite the recovery process. Wulff said he expects Halliday to be out 2 to 4 months.

  • Wulff said he is not concerned about senior Marshall Lobbestael being awed by playing in the Apple Cup. Lobbestael is an experienced senior, has started seven games this season and has completed 179 of 299 passes for 2,240 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    "Marshall has been a part of this before," Wulff said. "He should handle this fine."

  • Saturday's game will mark the first time that the Apple Cup has been played off campus since 1980, when it was held at Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium. Wulff said he hopes that will mean a better environment for his team than if the game were at Husky Stadium, which is being renovated. He said he thinks both crowds will make it challenging.

    "I'm sure it's going to be a noisy game for both," he said.

  • Starting left tackle David Gonzales (ankle) will be a game-time decision. Wulff said his status will be further evaluated during Thursday's practice, where Gonzales' participation likely will be limited.

  • Wulff was asked about UW running back Bishop Sankey, who committed to the Cougars before signing with the Huskies. He said he maintains his long-standing position that coaches should not poach commitments from other schools, but added that he has not spoken with UW coach Steve Sarkisian about Sankey's recruitment.

    "I know there used to be an old gentlemen's agreement in the Pac-10 in the early '80s," Wulff said. "I guess we're not in the old days."

  • Cougfan Top Stories