WSU Football | Coach Paul Wulff Pleased With Defensive Effort
Every week the Washington State Cougars play a football game on Saturday, the coaching staff's Sunday rituals includes watching game film.
They pour over video in search of things done well to build on. If there are areas where improvement can be made, notes are taken. Practice during the week will be built around the review of game film.
Coach Paul Wulff typically completes the day dominated by watching film, to meet with media to share comments from the game, and what the coming week may hold for Cougar football.
WSU came out on the short end of a 27-14 score Saturday against Arizona State. Though the Cougs lost the game, Coach Wulff was pleased with some aspects of the game.
"I thought defensively, obviously we did some really good things. Forced a lot of turnovers. Played extremely hard," said Wulff. He went on to say, "Had a few lapses that caught us but other than that a pretty darn good job."
Few could find fault with Coach Wulff's assessment. The Cougar defense was flying around the field Saturday, making plays with energy and intensity.
The defensive line earned the praise of Coach Wulff. They are a group that is learning and growing together, an important point he drove home.
"Playing across the defensive line, Dan Spitz and (Anthony) Laurenzi, two redshirt freshmen, Travis Longa true freshman and Casey Hamlett who came in here in the winter, the majority of the game I was very impressed with those guys."
Coach Wulff went on to mention the fine play of Louis Bland, who picked up the slack created when Alex Hoffman-Ellis required treatment for an infection, which forced him to sit out the game. Bland recorded one of the three interceptions created by the Cougar defense. Add to the interception a sack and eight tackles. For those watching, Bland is maturing as a football player right before your eyes.
Defense wasn't the only unit mentioned by Wulff when talking about improved performance on the football field.
"Special teams were really solid. They (ASU) have one of the best returners in the conference. I thought we were really good in our kick coverage. Very good in punt coverage. We probably had the best blocked kickoff returns clearly that we’ve had all year."
Unfortunately, things didn't look any better for the offensive line 24 hours after the game. The shuffling of players in and out of the lineup because of injuries has been well documented. It wouldn't be a Cougar game this season without at least one offensive lineman going down with an injury. The ASU game was no exception to that rule.
Senior Kenny Alfred suffered a gash on his knee that required getting cleaned out and stitched up. Wulff was confident that Alfred will be back on the practice field next week, and ready to go against Cal. Brian Danaher is another story. He suffered another concussion, and is out indefinitely. With his history of concussions, Danaher will be watched closely.
With only one starter from fall camp remaining in the OL lineup, the Cougar running game never got started, and the passing attack was the only way WSU could move the ball on the Sun Devils.
"Offensively, you know our protection broke down. We really struggled. We got man-handled up front. It just blew everything up in regards to protection in our passing game for any kind of consistency in our running game. We just struggled growing on offense. That was the disappointing part of it."
It wasn't all on the offensive line. Arizona State has the best defense in the conference this year. They are especially tough to run against. Not a good combination for the game Saturday if you're the head coach for Washington State.
Coach Wulff updated the status on Daniel Simmons. It wasn't good news. Simmons suffered a broken fibula, and is likely out for the rest of this season. LeAndre Daniels was lost earlier this year to a broken leg as well. Going back to fall camp, Tyree Toomer was lost for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. All three of these student-athletes were counted on to contribute to the secondary coverage for WSU this year. The status now, is wait until next year.
"I’ve been around the game enough to know when you go through times like this and you’re not winning ball games but you’re trying to get young guys to make plays. You’re trying to do that, it’s just frustrating things occur. But as they mature and get stronger, you hope they do it in the middle of the year and they keep growing. As you move year to year, these stepping stones we are making will continue to add up in our favor. We’ll perform better and better moving forward. It’s tough. We’ve got to learn from those mistakes we make and we’ve got to grow."
If ever a team needed a bye week to get players healthy, WSU is the team. There's a good chance Coach Wulff will see the return of a few players, but that won't be sorted out until next week. The bye week means even more to the future of Cougar football.
Seven coaches will hit the recruiting trails once again next week. Coach Wulff said they will primarily focus on prospects in California and Washington, though there will be time spent in Idaho and Oregon as well.
Fourteen student-athletes have verbally committed to Coach Wulff and Washington State. The class is shaping up to look like another excellent group of players. Wulff feels recruiting is on pace with last year, one of the best for WSU in recent memory.
Originally published in Lew Wright's column on Examiner.com
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