Cougars' youth served ... on a platter

JIM WALDEN, THE straight-shooting Cougar radio analyst, didn't mince words Saturday in Eugene following No. 16 Oregon's 52-6 rout of Washington State. "It was men playing with boys," the old coach said, noting that 25 or more of the Cougars' chief contributors were true freshmen, second-year freshmen or sophomores. "Whether we like it or not, that's a junior varsity team out there."

Walden noted twice during the broadcast that the Cougars, who feature just a handful of senior starters, are painfully young. Citing all the youngsters who are playing significant minutes for WSU, he said they used to have a name for those guys in the old days -- "the junior varsity."

WSU (1-4 overall, 0-3 conference) fell behind 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. But unlike last week's 27-6 loss at USC, the worst was not over. The Ducks (4-1, 2-0) dominated every significant statistic in the first half, outgaining WSU 373 to 51 in addition to a 22 to 2 first-down edge.

"This is a much, much better football team than the Cougars," Walden said "... They just exploited the Cougars to death."

Oregon junior Jeremiah Masoli, who completed 14 of 18 passes for 116 yards, was lifted for classmate Nate Costa after he was injured in the second quarter. Costa promptly guided the Ducks on a nine-play, 83-yard drive that culminated with his own 4-yard touchdown run.

"If we had any kind of offense, it would've helped the defense a lot," WSU coach Paul Wulff said on the post-game radio show. "The defense got worn down.

"We're disappointed."

FORMER OREGON COACH Mike Bellotti, who served as a color commentator on the Oregon Sports Network broadcast, said he tried to get as many players involved as possible in blowouts.

"You're going to try and run the clock," he said. "Let's try and get out of the game with everyone healthy."

Neither team was able to accomplish the latter. Masoli suffered a tweaked right knee, while Spokane product C.E. Kaiser was carried off with a bruised left shin.

WSU true freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel, who completed 1 of 2 passes for 3 yards in his first collegiate start, left early after he was sacked. Starting defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm also was helped off the field with about 13 minutes left in the third quarter.

WULFF EXPECTS TUEL to return soon from his back bruise and hip pointer.

"I'm doing a lot better now," Tuel said during a post-game radio interview.

Wulff said he was not sure about how long Wolfgramm will be out.

"We've got to regroup and get some guys back," he said.

Bellotti was asked about how he managed games when the Ducks were being routed. He said he looked for any way to find "positive momentum," specifically citing turnovers.

THE COUGARS ACCOMPLISHED that when Oregon punt returner Scott Grady fumbled, which gave WSU possession at the Ducks' 1-yard line. Three plays later, Marshall Lobbestael scored on a keeper to avoid the shutout. But junior Nico Grasu missed an extra-point opportunity for a second consecutive week.

"Nico has to kick the darn ball," Wulff said. "It's just a lack of focus and concentration."

It was the largest margin of defeat for the Cougars this season, but Wulff said he is not concerned about his team losing focus as it did a year ago when it allowed 58 points or more in 6 of 9 Pac-10 games.

"We have to keep growing through these tough times and find a way to get better," he said.

WSU HAS BEEN outscored 168-27 by Oregon since the Cougars' last win in the series in 2006. But Walden said there is a significant difference between the '06 team that finished with a 6-6 record and was ranked No. 25 at one point and this year's WSU team.

"What (coach) Paul Wulff is putting out there is a junior-varsity football team," he said. "Most everyone's names you hear are freshmen and sophomores."

Walden said he still believes that WSU will be much more competitive the next time it visits Autzen Stadium in 2011. By then, Wulff's '08 and '09 recruiting classes will have matured.

"You're going to see a whole different team," he said. "Right now you're seeing growing pains."

WSU returns Saturday to Martin Stadium for its homecoming game against Arizona State. The Sun Devils lost 28-17 Saturday against Oregon State. Kickoff is set for 2 pm.

"There's certain teams we match up better with based on our personnel," Wulff said. "I like our match up against Arizona State."

NOTABLE:

* WSU's Reid Forrest, the No. 3 punter in the nation coming into the game with more than 45 yards per boot, looked good again Saturday. He punted 9 times against the Ducks, averaging 43.1 yards per, and dropping three inside the Duck 20.

* Running back Carl Winston and offensive lineman Alex Reitnaur became the fourth and fifth Cougar true freshmen to have their redshirts burned. Winston carred the ball 7 times for a team-leading 56 yards.

* Lobbestael completed 7 of 13 passes for 48 yards. WSU's leading receiver was Jared Karstetter, with two grabs. He left the game with a hip pointer and didn't return in the second half.

* The Cougars' top tacklers were linebacker Louis Bland and defensive back Terrance Hayward with 9 stop each. Bland had one tackle for loss and Hayward two.

LOGWONE MITZ GOES AIRBORNE SATURDAY NIGHT.


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