Good & bad on display in 24-10 WSU finale

WASHINGTON STATE WAS a 29 point underdog on the road at Hawaii but the Cougar defense, for the most part, didn't play like it. Oh, the Cougs made their share of mistakes, and on both sides of the ball. They had a lot of young guys out there, too. And WSU's starting quarterback went down at the end of the first half. But Washington State also had their chances in this one.

But, as Paul Wulff has been fond of saying this 2008 campaign, a loss is a loss.

And coming out on the short end of the ledger at Hawaii put a capper on a tough season where bright spots, such as the win over the Huskies in the Apple Cup, were hard to come by.

The Cougar defense seemed to be gaining the upper hand Saturday night in the fourth quarter against UH -- the Cougs steadily gaining speed and power since the first quarter. With about 12:54 to go, and with Wazzu trailing by two scores, WSU forced a long field goal attempt. And Matt Eichelberger blocked it.

And for the briefest of moments, hope, mised in with a little belief, rose to the surface.

Alas, before the whistle blew on that play, that hope was sucked away like so many dandelions in the wind.

Devin Giles snared the blocked kick and ran forward... and then back. He moved left, right, ... and then reversed his field again. Finally, interminably, and surely in a moment of desperation, he tried to lateral the ball.

Had the cornerback -- who it must be pointed out played a pretty solid game apart from just the one play -- simply ran straight ahead and taken whatever was there and no more, the Cougs would have been -- at worst -- somewhere close to midfield.

And with 'ol Mo in their pocket.

BUT NOT THIS season. And not on this night.

Giles was trying to make a play. And like much of the Cougars' 2008 season, that meant it ended about as badly as it could have gone. Hawaii recovered the fumble off the ill-fated pitch and they were back in business at the Cougar 23 yard line.

No change of possession. No crimson surge.

Eventually, Andy Mattingly picked off a pass in the end zone and no points were allowed but the momentum train had left town, and the Cougs could not narrow the gap on a 24-10 Hawaii lead the rest of the way.

IN ALL FAIRNESS, while Giles' play will prehaps be remembered most from this loss, there were a half-dozen -- or more -- that were its equal in shuttering the Cougs' hopes. ut they mostly didn't come in the fourth quarter, nor on quite as large a stage.

Next year, if Wulff's planned for progress occurs, Wazzu wins this game.

Hands down.

But not yet. Not this time. Not this season.

WASHINGTON STATE allowed 14 first quarter points, and they were victimized by the big play. But they also played Hawaii, a bowl bound team, even the rest of the way -- with each team scoring 10 points in quarters 2-through-4.

Kevin Lopina ran six times for 15 yards (including sacks) and was 2-for-6 passing in the first half before injuring his knee. Early indications gave no read on the severity. J.T. Levenseller played the entire second half and his stats weren't great but he made a few plays and helped engineer the Cougs to their only touchdown on the night.

Statistically, Hawaii owned the airwaves, passing for 315 yards to the Cougars' mere 76 hashes. Wazzu, on the other hand, outgained Hawaii on the ground, 120 to 63. Part of the reason why goes to the Cougars' five sacks for 35 yards. But Wazzu allowed Hawaii only 1.9 yards per rush -- solid in anyone's book.

Hawaii also sacked WSU quarterbacks five times. Washington State also fumbled twice, losing both, while UH retained possession on both of their fumbles.

Mistakes. Learning curves. And hard lessons learned for the crimson troops.

And hopefully, next year's Cougars will be the better for it..

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