Washington State still a long way away from winning


POSTED: Sunday, August 23, 2009


When Hawaii and Washington State last parted company, the Warriors were celebrating a bowl berth while the Cougars headed back to Pullman, Wash., in a far less jovial mood.

The Cougars' loss to the Warriors at Aloha Stadium last November was their 11th of the season, the most in the program's history.

Expectations for the Cougars aren't much higher this season, with Washington State picked 10th in the Pac-10's preseason poll. But Paul Wulff's second season as head coach - which includes a Sept. 12 rematch with the Warriors at Seattle's Qwest Field - can't be quite as rough as his first, right?







Sept. 4Central Arkansas
Sept. 12at Washington State
Sept. 19   at UNLV
Sept. 30at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 10Fresno State
Oct. 17at Idaho
Oct. 24Boise State
Oct. 31at Nevada
Nov. 7Utah State
Nov. 14New Mexico State
Nov. 21at San Jose State
Nov. 28Navy
Dec. 5Wisconsin





Along with going 2-11, Washington State finished next to last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in both scoring offense (12.7 points per game) and scoring defense (43.9 ppg). The Cougars landed in the nation's cellar in turnover margin and rushing defense, and ranked 106th or lower in seven more categories.

Injuries decimated the Cougars throughout the season, particularly at quarterback, where Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael and J.T. Levenseller return after all three saw significant playing time last season.

Lopina, a senior, did not throw a touchdown pass while tossing 11 interceptions. Lobbestael threw four of the Cougars' six scoring passes as a freshman.

Lopina was sharp in the Cougars' first scrimmage of fall camp, going 6-for-6 for 94 yards and a touchdown. As a group, the quarterbacks went 18-for-23 and didn't throw an interception.

“;Securing the football is their No. 1 goal,”; Wulff said in the Cougars' preseason outlook.

The Cougars figure to lean on the running game with the return of Dwight Tardy and Logwone Mitz and the addition of James Montgomery.

Tardy led the Cougars in rushing the past three seasons and enters this season with 1,824 career yards. Mitz averaged 4.9 yards per carry last year. Montgomery, a 5-foot-10, 202-pound junior, was a Parade All-American coming out of high school and sat out last season after transferring from California.

The backs will follow an offensive line led by senior center Kenny Alfred. The Cougars have size and experience, returning seven linemen who started games last season. But they'll need to improve on the 43 sacks they allowed.

The defense returns five starters, including senior strong safety Xavier Hicks, who finished second on the team with 78 tackles last season. He'll again play beside free safety Chima Nwachukwu (57 tackles).

Linebacker Louis Bland had nine tackles for loss as a freshman. Andy Mattingly (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) moves to linebacker after recording four stops behind the line of scrimmage as a defensive end last season.