Wulff points to Hawaii off game film study

WHEN THE WSU coaching staff wasn't busy with recruiting activities Sunday, they sat down and watched game tape from Saturday's season-opening 39-13 loss against Stanford. Cougar running backs were among those who stood out, said Paul Wulff. But there is also plenty that needs to improve.

"Between coaches and players, there's obvious disappointment," said Paul Wulff. "We've got to take a big step and work extremely hard. There's potential for a tremendous amount of improvement by our football team."

Wulff said his post-game impressions were pretty similar to his current thoughts.

"There were a lot of really good things that showed up that we haven't done well in the past," he said, adding that he was impressed with the team's execution on its big plays.

WULFF SAID THE running backs and defensive line stood out on the tape. He felt that the running backs blocked well and the linemen were relatively decent against the run.

Junior defensive tackle Toby Turpin, who lost his starting status to classmate Josh Luapo just days before the opener, saw significant playing time and had a pair of tackles.

"Toby's really physical and he's capable enough to be a really good player," Wulff said. "We need to know we can get it from him all the time. We're right in the middle of that development."

The secondary also gave up one big play — a 63-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Chris Owusu on a hitch pattern — but Wulff said he mostly was satisfied with the defensive backs.

He liked junior Chima Nwachukwu's performance at cornerback, and said his flexibility gives them the ability to develop redshirt freshmen cornerback Daniel Simmons and safeties LeAndre Daniels and Jay Matthews. Wulff expects the latter to return from a shoulder injury in a week or two.

BUT NOT ALL is going to be positive after a blowout loss.

Junior kicker Nico Grasu, who later made field goals from 44 and 35 yards out, missed a short one on the Cougars' opening drive.

And after senior Kevin Lopina found sophomore Jared Karstetter in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown to cut WSU's deficit to 22-10 in the third quarter, the special teams allowed Owusu to score on an 85-yard kickoff return. Wulff said there were some breakdowns in that area that need to be addressed.

Those observations also extended to the offensive line; he liked the unit's work early in the game, but wasn't really happy near halftime and late in the game.

"We've got to get better there," Wulff said. "We're not good enough in that area."

He doesn't expect any starters to be replaced on the offensive line against Hawaii, but said some of the younger players might receive playing time. Junior Brian Danaher replaced sophomore B.J. Guerra when his back tightened.

"Maybe we'll give a couple of other guys opportunities to grow and play," he said. "They've got to have a good week and prove they can play."

The players took Sunday off, but will return to the practice field today.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Wulff said the staff hasn't made a decision on the starting quarterback between Kevin Lopina and sophomore Marshall Lobbestael for Hawaii. Lopina, who started against Stanford, completed 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. Lobbestael was 8 of 13 for 78 yards. Neither was intercepted.

  • Wulff was also noncommittal about whether the two would continue to share playing time at the position.

  • Eric Block suffered a stinger and a "slight concussion" on a hit that also knocked Owusu out of the game in the second half. Wulff said the sophomore safety will be evaluated the next couple of days, but might be available Saturday against Hawaii.

  • There were also "a few nicks and bumps" throughout the roster but the Cougs seemingly avoided significant injuries. He noted that wide receiver Daniel Blackledge, who had six receptions for 67 yards against Stanford, left with a fever late in the game and the staff fears he has the flu. Wulff said he doesn't believe the junior or anyone else on the team has contracted the H1N1 flu. Sophomore wide receiver Kevin Norrell, who was sidelined for the opener by the flu, is expected to back at practice no later than Tuesday.

  • Wulff said he just received film from Hawaii's 25-20 win in its opener against Central Arkansas. He doesn't anticipate many changes as the Warriors coach Greg McMackin enters his second year with the program. Hawaii beat WSU 24-10 last season in Honolulu. Saturday's game is set for 4 p.m. at Qwest Field.

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