Coaches, players look for rebound against ASU

EVERYTHING, FROM THE margin of defeat to the offense's inability to move the ball indicated that Saturday's 52-6 loss at Oregon was the Cougars' worst game of the season. The Cougs, however, may get some key o-line players back from injury before this weekend's homecoming game against ASU and might quarterback Jeff Tuel also be ready?

WSU coach Paul Wulff didn't disagree with the notion the Oregon loss was WSU's worst game of the year.

"I think this is the first game where they felt they didn't respond and play well," he said during his Sunday news conference. "There was a certain level of being rattled out there.

"We didn't respond to their speed or the tempo they came at us with. I think everyone just felt disappointed. I think we all want to get back on that field."

The Cougars (1-4 overall, 0-3 conference) get that opportunity Saturday when they host Arizona State (2-2, 0-1) at Martin Stadium. They might even get some reinforcements on the offensive line. Wulff expects junior Brian Danaher (concussion) to return after being sideline against Oregon.

DANAHER EARLIER BECAME the sixth guard injured since August, which forced Wulff to insert true freshman Alex Reitnouer as the starting left guard against the Ducks. Reitnouer previously was targeted for a redshirt year.

In addition to Danaher, Wulff said junior Zack Williams should practice this week, but is questionable against ASU. Williams started the first two games, but has not played since he suffered a high ankle sprain Sept. 12 against Hawaii.

But Wulff said all the injury news is "not as pretty as we would like." WSU already lost junior defensive tackle Josh Luapo (knee) for the season in a 27-6 loss Sept. 26 at USC. Junior Bernard Wolfgramm (hip) won't be out that long, but Wulff classified him as doubtful against ASU.

WOLFGRAMM'S ABSENCE would create further shuffling on an already thin defensive line. Senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman (knee) has not played since the season-opener against Stanford and might be lost for the season.

The coaching staff shifted redshirt freshman Dan Spitz to defensive end to compensate for his absence, but he might be needed back on the interior now. Junior defensive end Casey Hamlett, a walk-on transfer from Western Washington, started against Hawaii before he was replaced by Spitz.

Wulff said senior safety Xavier Hicks had a tight back after the Oregon game, but is expected to play this week.

THE INJURIES AND LACK OF EXPERIENCE -- nine of the Cougars' 22 starters were freshmen and sophomores -- included a couple first-time starters on the offensive line. Both guards, Reitnouer and junior Joe Eppele, made their first starts. Redshirt freshman left tackle Tyson Pencer started for a second straight week.

Wulff said the young players made mistakes, particularly with run blocking, but also noted that the newcomers also made some blocks he has not seen in his two years at WSU.

"It was very encouraging to see the young athleticism in there," he said. "There were some very encouraging signs (for) the future."

RUNNING BACK CARL WINSTON became the fifth member of the 2009 signing-day class to see the field. He rushed for a team-high 56 yards on seven carries, but his 21-yard run resulted in a lost fumble.

"For a first-year freshmen and his first live action, he showed some explosiveness," Wulff said. "He sees things well. He's going to get quicker and stronger as he hits the weight room over the years."

Another young player who stood out was redshirt freshman cornerback Terrance Hayward. He tied sophomore linebacker Louis Bland with a team-best nine tackles. Wulff said the Ducks' system keeps cornerbacks more involved than most teams.

"They spread you out and you have to match their speed and tackle well," Wulff said. "It's kind of a different version of the run-and-shoot."

But Wulff felt Hayward, who still is only 17 years old, played well.

"He's physical," Wulff said. "He's getting better and better and growing up all the time."

  • Junior Nico Grasu missed an extra point for a second consecutive week. Wulff said senior Pat Rooney will have an opportunity to reclaim his position as the team's kickoff specialist, but stopped short of saying he will compete against Grasu for field-goal duties.

    "With Nico, he just isn't locked in," Wulff said. "He's let a miss or two really affect him. He's physically capable enough to do everything."

  • WSU's no-huddle offense is different than Oregon's offensive scheme, which Wulff classified as a run-first system, but he eventually would like at least one similarity.

    "We want to be able to have tempo like that," he said, adding that he believes the Ducks have the best team speed in the Pac-10. "It takes a veteran team and mature program to do that."

  • Wulff expects true freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel and sophomore wide receiver Jared Karstetter to play against ASU. Both suffered hip injuries at Oregon with Tuel also getting a bruise to the back.

  • Senior center Kenny Alfred was the Cougars' offensive player of the week for a third consecutive game.

    "He's an incredible student-athlete," Wulff said.

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