Following a good week of practice, Coach Paul Wulff loaded his players on a charter flight to Phoenix, AZ. The troops were upbeat and positive about their chances to not just play good football, but win a game for only the second time this season.
In a pre-game interview, Coach Wulff endured questions that politely avoided pinning him down. He's a big guy. Go ahead, ask the tough questions, such as, "Will your team be competitive against ASU?"
Near the end of the interview, Coach Wulff tried to explain what he and his staff have done to get ready for the game.
What changes might be expected to shake things up?
"We're going to stay the course and not jump from A to Z. We're going to focus on moving from A to B and so forth..."
In other words, there will be no "shaking things up".
A frustrated guy? You bet. Has Coach Wulff considered caving in to the pressure to deliver wins? Not a chance.
Despite the futility of this Cougar football team, Coach Wulff is confident that his plan will work based on the combination of being a student of the game and having proved himself as a head coach.
The Sun Devils are having a poor season, unless you compare them with the Cougs. So what happened Saturday afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium where there was a relatively sparse crowd for Homecoming?
Arizona State shut out the visiting Washington State Cougars 31-0.
The game wasn't as lopsided as the final score.
On the first series of the game, the Cougar defense recorded back-to-back sacks for the first time this season. That intensity and success continued most of the first half for WSU.
The offense put together a nice 56 yard drive on their first possession that stalled on the Sun Devil 24 yard line. It looked as though the Cougs were going to take an early lead for the second week in a row when Wade Penner missed a 41 yard field goal.
Saddled by rather bad field position the rest of the half, that first drive was the only serious scoring threat for WSU.
For the second week in a row, the Cougs used a three man front for their base defense. It worked nicely for them throughout the first 30 minutes.
Things unraveled in the second half. Momentum swung to ASU when starting quarterback Kevin Lopina was lost for the game late in the first half. Lopina suffered a concussion. The Sun Devil defense gave him several hard lessons on "how not to" use the blocks of his offensive line.
The biggest problem for Washington State in the second half was their lack of depth. Fatigue clearly effected their play on both sides of the ball.
JT Levenseller gained some valuable experience playing all of the second half. He's got a lot to learn. Unfortunately there isn't much time for Levenseller to pick up his play. Next Saturday is not only a big game because of in-state rivalry with UW for the Apple Cup, it's possible he might be making his first college start.
Just to make things a little more complicated for Levenseller, he injured his left wrist. Adrenaline got him through the second half against ASU. The question is, how will that wrist feel tomorrow morning? It's not his throwing hand, but a sprained wrist can make it tough to take the snap from center.
After injuries to Lopina and Levenseller in this game, there's no doubt that the most dangerous position to play in college football is quarterback for Washington State. If Lopina can't make it back for the last two games, he'll join Gary Rogers and Marshall Lobbestael on the shelf. Nice way for Coach Wulff to begin his career as the head man at WSU, losing the first three quarterbacks on a razor thin depth chart.
Have to mention that things don't look good for return man/running back Chantz Staden. Staden injured his knee and preliminary reports suggest he's done for the year. He has played good football in his first year at WSU and will really be missed.
Two games left on the course set for the Cougs.
Two more chances to taste victory.
Considering the many, many good things WSU did on the field today, they could easily finish with two wins. Could be a simple as progressing from A to B and then moving on to C.