Wulff strikes an adamant tone

IT ALMOST FELT like a State of the Union address. Washington State coach Paul Wulff insisted during his Sunday teleconference that the Cougars are not the same overmatched team of the last two seasons even after a 65-17 loss Saturday at Oklahoma State.

"I won't (let it happen) as a coach," said Wulff, who now has a 3-23 record at WSU. "They have worked too damn hard. I already have a few texts from some players saying this will not happen again. I feel they're confident in their character and strength that they will fight back.

"This team has a great attitude. We'll bounce back."

WULFF SAID HE felt better about the game after watching it Sunday. He said one problem stemmed from the multiple looks, including the wishbone, that OSU offensive coordinator Dave Holgorsen presented. Holgorsen previously held that role at the University of Houston and Wulff said many of the schemes were new.

"We had not seen any of that from Houston," he said, adding that his coaching staff attempted to make adjustments, but it is difficult when a team cannot practice against certain schemes. "It was something we didn't prepare for. Add in a great running back (Kendall Hunter) and it kept us on our heels."

Wulff also felt his defense, which featured as many as eight freshmen during the third quarter, was pressing at times. Hunter rushed for a career-high 257 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cowboys produced 544 yards of total offense.

He said Hunter deserves credit for his performance -- Wulff feels he is the best running back he has faced during his tenure at WSU and called him a future first-round pick -- but noted that his team must improve at tackling.

"They would go low at certain times," Wulff said. "We got a little out of sorts. We'll all just got to relax and let the game come to us."

IN ADDITION TO the young players seeing their first collegiate action, he added that senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman and sophomore safety Tyree Toomer combined to play just one game last year because of injuries.

"There was some pressing," he said. "There were some guys trying to do too much."

One player that stood out was true freshman linebacker C.J. Mizell, who made five tackles despite playing just 14 snaps.

"He was very productive," Wulff said. "There was a physical presence in there that we have not had."

On coverage, Wulff said the defensive backs often were in the correct position, but did not turn around to make a play on the ball during three touchdown passes from quarterback Brandon Weeden.

He also felt the defensive line, whose starters produced 10 tackles, was better than it appeared. While Wulff did not feel they played great, he said they controlled the line of scrimmage but were not able to adequately shed blockers.

WULFF SEEMED MOST pleased about the special teams' performance. Senior punter Reid Forrest averaged 43.8 yards on nine punts, and Wulff felt both coverage teams fared well. Forrest had a punt blocked in the fourth quarter that led to a Cowboys touchdown, but Wulff said that was an assignment error by the blocker who replaced injured fullback Jared Byers.

"Our special teams were very, very good," he said. "We had three tackles for loses in the punt game."

Senior kicker Nico Grasu also made a 56-yard field goal, the sixth longest in program history. Wulff said Grasu recently made a 58-yarder in practice.

"I felt the weather was warm … let's try and get on that (scoreboard)," he said. "He made it probably with 5 yards to spare."

Offensively, Wulff said quarterback Jeff Tuel, who completed 14 of 29 passes for a touchdown, displayed some inconsistency but he felt that was typical for a sophomore. He also said some drops affected the offense's ability to maintain some drives.

SOPHOMORE WIDE RECEIVER Gino Simone was unable to play because of recurring hamstring issues, while junior counterpart Jared Karstetter left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. Wulff said both players are questionable for Saturday's home opener against Montana State.

If neither is able to play, Wulff said junior-college transfer Isiah Barton and true freshmen Marquess Wilson likely will make their first starts. Wilson had 108 yards on four receptions, including a 48-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. He also is hopeful that true freshman Kristoff Williams (turf toe) will be ready to play this weekend.

"They make some really nice plays," Wulff said. "We're very encouraged by some of that raw talent."

He said those likely would be the only changes to the starting lineup this week. But the depth chart in the offensive backfield will change as Byers tore ligaments in his left knee and will undergo an MRI on Monday. The injury could end his season.

True freshman Rickey Galvin saw his season end on his first collegiate handoff. Wulff said Galvin fractured both bones in his right arm and had a metal plate inserted during surgery Sunday.

Galvin's departure means sophomore Carl Winston, who was expected to redshirt, will join the rotation at running back along with seniors James Montgomery and Chantz Staden and junior Logwone Mitz.

Wulff was pleased with the remade offensive line that featured junior-college transfers David Gonzalez and Wade Jacobson manning the left side. True freshman John Fullington also took about 40 snaps at right tackle. Wulff anticipates that senior Micah Hannam will start at that position against MSU, but the two could enter a job share.

OVERALL, WULFF SAID he remains bullish on his program's future.

"We're very positive in our football building," he said. "We're a much, much improved football team. But we've got to show it."

As for fans questioning the team's direction, Wulff said his program still is in the rebuilding process. He said programs such as Oklahoma State, which won nine games last year, can sustain success because they have enough quality depth to overcome the graduation of seniors.

"At this point, we're going to play a number of young kids," Wulff said. "The future is very bright for this program. We're going to take some positive steps.

"This was a major rebuilding job for this program. This is just the fact and we all have to accept it. We've just got to let them be kids and grow. We will get there -- I guarantee it."

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