NOTES: Experience, $1.5 million payday helps

PULLMAN -- Despite the wide eyes on some of the younger Cougar players and a lopsided 40-14 defeat to then No. 25 ranked Notre Dame, Paul Wulff said the Cougs will benefit from the experience. And there are also 1.5 million other reasons why the game will help Washington State.

WSU will pocket more than $1.5 million for playing the Notre Dame game -- that includes a school-record $950,000 from Notre Dame, plus another $600,000 for national television rights from NBC.

Aside from the 40-14 final score, Wulff said playing Notre Dame on national television at a neutral site was important.

"This was a phenomenal experience for our players," Wulff said. "We were able to put ourselves into somewhat of a bowl atmosphere."

"It was fun, definitely, and exciting," WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel said. "I would agree with Coach Wulff: That is the atmosphere that bowl games are played in."

"It was a really, really great experience," Wulff said, "because San Antonio made it really good."

WULFF WAS CRITICAL of the Cougs' linebacker play on Sunday night but at least one may have performed better than others.

Texas native Jason Stripling, playing in front of many friends and family members for first time in college, led all players with a career-high 13 tackles against Notre Dame.

"He's done a great job for us," co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball said. "He gets better each week."

Years of health and academic woes led Stripling to consider passing on his fifth and final year of eligibility.

"At this time last year, if I was a betting man, I would have bet he wouldn't be on the team," Ball said.

The 5-foot-11, 242-pound Stripling joked about going up against "some monuments" on Notre Dame's huge offensive line. Still, Stripling made his mark in the Alamodome, just as he did in his previous game there, when he returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown to help Robert E. Lee High win the Texas Class 5A Division I state championship in 2004.

An outside linebacker, Stripling ranks fourth on the Cougars with 46 tackles.

"He's done a great job of buying in," Ball said. "I'm really proud of him."

A YEAR AGO, walk-on DE Casey Hamlett was gearing up for battle against the likes of Humboldt State, Western Oregon and the Colorado School of Mines. On Saturday night, Hamlett started at defensive end against Notre Dame.

"The ‘ND' I was playing last year was North Dakota," Hamlett said with a smile.

Hamlett, a junior from Edmonds, transferred to Washington State in January after NCAA Division II Western Washington dropped football. The walk-on has made four starts, having seen his playing time increase with injuries on the d-line.

AMONG THE LARGE number of freshmen playing this season, (WSU has started 10 freshman this season), is Terrance Hayward . The 17-year-old cornerback will be making his third straight start for WSU when the Cougars take on Arizona on Saturday in Tucson . The Wildcats are ranked No. 19 in the Coaches Poll, No. 21 in the AP.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound Hayward, who won't turn 18 until Nov. 26, was just 16 when he redshirted last fall. Hayward skipped a grade in middle school, but even before that, he was accustomed to being the young one in the crowd.

"All my life, it's been like that in athletics," Hayward said. "I've always played with older kids. My mom wanted to push me to get better."

WASHINGTON STATE IS a 31-point underdog to Arizona.

The Cougs have covered 6-out-of-8 point spreads this season. Last year, they covered one -- in the Apple Cup victory.

THE VAST MAJORITY of the 53,407 spectators in San Antonio cheered for the Irish, but one corner of the 65,000-seat Alamodome was awash in crimson.

Notre Dame sold all 25,000 tickets allotted to the school. The Cougars sold most of their 4,000 tickets. The humongous Notre Dame marching band -- it took nine buses to transport the band from the team hotel to the stadium -- briefly played the WSU fight song before their own prior to the game. The Cougars did not bring their band, but six members of the cheer squad made the trip.

Hordes of crimson-attired Cougar fans were seen patronizing the River Walk, a popular dining, shopping and entertainment area in downtown San Antonio.

FORMER COUGAR COACH Jim Walden predicted recently that freshman wide receiver Gino Simone will break WSU's career receptions record.

"I just think he's real clever," said Walden, who now serves as the color man on WSU radio broadcasts. Walden said Simone will benefit greatly from Mike Levenseller's coaching.

Michael Bumpus holds the career record of 195 catches. Simone, starting in the slot as a true freshman, has 24 receptions in seven games. He missed one game with a concussion.

WSU DEFENSIVE TACKLE Toby Turpin's intensity level hasn't always been apparent, but Turpin was one of the few bright spots for WSU in the Notre Dame game.

"Toby Turpin had a very good game, played maybe his best football game," Wulff said. "He was very active and made plays."

Turpin, a junior defensive tackle, blocked a kick for the second straight week and recorded a career-high five tackles, including his first sack of the year.

THE TWO CHICAGO newspapers that covered the game in San Antonio did not treat the Cougars kindly. The Sun-Times headline on a Sunday game story read "TEXAS BARBECUE." The Tribune reported, "Getting to Washington State's level would have required a backhoe and 100 coal miner's helmets."

AT THE GAME in Berkeley two weeks ago, crimson celebrities on hand include Fab Five wide receiver Shawn Tims on the sidelines while Ike Fontaine, WSU's all time leading scorer in Cougar hoops history, took in the game from the stands.

Forest "Evy" Evashevski, one of five former Cougar players or coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, died Friday at his home in Petoskey, Mich. He was 91 and suffering from liver cancer.

Evashevski, a Detroit native who starred at quarterback and linebacker for Michigan, coached WSU in 1950-51. After guiding the 1951 Cougars to a 7-3 record and No. 18 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, he landed a school-record $15,000 annual salary at Iowa and turned the perennially inept Hawkeyes into a Big Ten powerhouse.

Due to his short stay in Pullman, Evashevski is not a member of the WSU Hall of Fame. The other College Football Hall of Famers from Washington State were longtime coach Babe Hollingbery and players Mel Hein, Turk Edwards and Rueben Mayes.

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