Cougs lose, but reasons for hope apparent

WSU TRUE FRESHMAN Jeff Tuel made his Cougar debut Saturday at USC and surprised many, but perhaps just as big a story was the Wazzu defense. After allowing 20 points in the first quarter, Washington State shut out the Trojans the next two quarters in a 27-6 loss.

USC produced 195 yards of total offense in the first quarter, but just 143 during the two ensuing periods. The Trojans outgained 403 to 229 during the game.

"The Trojans have been outplayed by this Coug team," Fox Sports color commentator Petros Papadakis said.

But WSU's offense could not take advantage and a fumble by Dwight Tardy at the end of the third quarter gave USC possession at the Cougars' 23-yard line. The Trojans needed just three plays for running back Stafon Johnson to score on a 6-yard run that gave them a 27-0 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.

Tuel replaced sophomore Marshall Lobbestael, who completed 2 of 9 passes for 14 yards, in the second quarter and played the rest of the game.

"It didn't think Marshall was as effective as he should be with the experience he has," former WSU coach Jim Walden said on the postgame show.

He completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards and guided the Cougars down to the USC 14 in the fourth quarter before was intercepted.

"From the time he came into the game, the whole team picked it up a little bit," said Walden, who named Tuel as player of the game. "He led this team with a lot of poise and confidence for a true freshman."

WSU coach Paul Wulff said he liked what Tuel brought to the team in a postgame interview.

"He's got a lot to learn, but he's got the right head to continue to grow," he said. "He does a nice job of not forcing balls into coverage."

WSU coach Paul Wulff noted throughout the week that his team could stay in the game if it won the turnover battle. Washington accomplished that last week in its 16-13 upset win against USC in Seattle, but the Trojans forced four turnovers to the Cougars' one.

Tuel later guided the team on a 13-play, 71-yard drive that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds left in the game that prevented a second consecutive shutout. USC won last year's game at Martin Stadium 69-0. It was the seventh consecutive win in the series for the Trojans, but the smallest margin of victory during that streak with the exception of 2006.

His favorite target was freshman Gino Simone, who missed last week after suffering a concussion. Simone had nine receptions for 82 yards.

"Jeff and I have become really close over the time we've been in this program," Simone said on the radio. "The best is to come."

In addition to that, WSU also suffered at least one significant loss. Sophomore Steven Ayers was taken off on a cart in the second half. He moved from left tackle to guard after injuries prevented B.J. Guerra and Zack Williams from playing.

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