Cougs looking for positives, big and small

PULLMAN -- The defensive game plan wasn't complicated. "The number one thing was to stop the run, the second thing was to stop the run, and the third thing was to stop the run. And we didn't," said Chris Ball. Call it what you want, the 63-14 loss Saturday to Oregon. Paul Wulff called it a landslide. Ball called it a nightmare. A Coug defender said it was his worst game of organized football.

Eventually, the Cougars hung their heads, and the Ducks took full advantage. Senior Alfonso Jackson was one who was beating himself up after the game.

"I had the worst game I possibly...since I've been playing ball...I had the worst game...We got in that hole, instead of trying to fight our way out, we were hanging our heads." Jackson said.

Of course, it wasn't as if Jackson was the only one who didn't play his best game -- there were breakdowns across the board on defense and not all of them were physical. Jackson said some of the players, including himself, simply didn't play with as much heart and intensity as they should have.

"Something is missing from keeping the bridge from being built," said Jackson, who said the senior leadership on the team will need to step up and make a difference this week in practice.

Paul Wulff saw his team fall behind early on a couple of turnovers, putting WSU in a 14-0 hole a few minutes into the first quarter.

"We're not good enough of a team to overcome those kinds of mistakes, it puts too much pressure on our defense, and we're just not that good...When things start going bad, it becomes more of a landslide for us now. We just don't have enough in the tank to overcome those types of things right now," said Wulff.

THE BRIGHT SPOTS were few, said Wulff, but there were some, including the poise of Marshall Lobbestael in his first college start. His 41 attempts were probably more than ideal but given the flow of the game and in the face of a Cougar running game that never got going, necessary.

"I thought he did some really good things," said Wulff. "...We just wanted to be careful that we didn't throw him to the wolves. We didn't want to start throwing the ball all the time...We needed to stay the course...It could've gotten worse if we did that."

ONE ADJUSTMENT saw defensive end Andy Mattingly stand up and play back off the line for a good portion, a familiar sight from last season when he manned an outside linebacker spot. But the alignment wasn't too different, said Chris Ball.

"It wasn't a whole lot different, with read-zone teams, sometimes you can stand that backside guy up, it helps him contain the was the same defense, he just stood up to help him vision wise. Fundamentally, coming in we knew we needed to tackle, and we didn't tackle. We had people in the right spot, it was a tackling issue," said Ball.

THE COUGS LOST the turnover battle and Lobbestael particularly lamented the fumble on WSU's opening drive where he didn't get both hands on the ball as he started to move out of a collapsing pocket.

"Three turnovers is too much, doesn't matter if it is my first start or my 10th start...Especially that first fumble, you can't give them that good of field position... We started on the wrong foot definitely. We gave them momentum...It is what it is, I've just got to fix it," said Lobbestael.

The Cougars went to a huddle for the first time this season, and Lobbestael said that helped. But nothing helps quite enough in the face of a 49 point loss, other than learning from it, moving on, redoubling the effort and pointing towards getting a win next Saturday against UCLA.

"Right now, we're taking any kind of victories, and they're gonna be small ones," said Wulff. "The outcome of the score is just not--it is what it is. I'm not going to get caught up in it. We lose a ball game, we lose it. And we win a game, we win it and the score is not our issue right now. We can't look at that.

"We have to look at the things we need to continue to improve to close that gap. There are some things that are truly getting better, but to look at the score, you wouldn't say that."

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