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Cougars coming up


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Progress is often a relative measure. Where Washington State's season-opening loss to Stanford last Saturday could be viewed as just another double-digit defeat for the Cougars, second-year head coach Paul Wulff saw indicators of the team's growth since last season.

“;We've been working on a lot of things with our team in terms of team unity, perseverance, body language, all the things we've lacked,”; Wulff said in his postgame comments. “;I thought all those things were displayed today.”;

Although it counts the same in the win-loss column, the 39-13 defeat was an improvement over Washington State's 58-0 showing against the Cardinal a year ago, one of three shutout losses in a 2-11 season that ended with a defeat at Hawaii.

So entering a rematch with the Warriors on Saturday at Seattle's Qwest Field, the Cougars bring with them a bit more optimism than when they visited Aloha Stadium last November.

True, the Cougars were coming off a dramatic victory over rival Washington in their annual Apple Cup meeting the week before the season-ending trip. But they didn't have much left for the finale of an injury-plagued season, closing with their 11th loss while Hawaii clinched a bowl berth.

Instability at quarterback contributed to ineffectiveness on offense as the Cougars were held to less than 200 yards in total offense seven times while accounting for only 19 touchdowns in 13 games (13 rushing and six passing). The defense, meanwhile, surrendered more than 500 yards six times.

Consequently, the Cougars ranked next to last in the FBS (118th) in scoring offense, total offense and scoring defense and were 108th in total defense. They hit bottom in rushing defense and turnover margin, losing the ball 38 times while recording 13 takeaways.

Although the Cougars trailed throughout their opener last week, there were signs of hope as the offense racked up 349 yards and didn't commit a turnover.

After giving up a touchdown to open the game, the Cougars responded with a 19-play drive that took 8 minutes off the clock. They reached the Stanford 1 before stalling and the possession ended with a missed field goal.

A 63-yard touchdown pass and an 85-yard kickoff return for a score helped Stanford pull away later in the contest.

“;I can't say I'm happy because we lost the game,”; senior linebacker Andy Mattingly said. “;But the way we played today shows we have a lot of positive things we can work off and I think we are going to be a good ballclub the next couple weeks as we fix some early-season mistakes.”;

The Cougars again played multiple quarterbacks, but this time the shuffle was a product of competition rather than necessity.

Kevin Lopina, Washington State's leading passer last year, got the start for the Cougars and went 10-for-16 for 122 yards and a touchdown. Lopina, a senior, missed three games with a back injury and didn't throw a touchdown pass in 153 attempts last season.

Lopina shared playing time with Marshall Lobbestael, who was 8-for-13 for 78 yards.

“;I think both guys did some good, and did some things we can correct,”; Wulff said. “;It was a great opportunity for both guys to get some live reps.”;

Senior Dwight Tardy returns to the Cougars' single-back offense with a chance to lead the Cougars in rushing for all four years in his career. He entered the season with 1,824 career yards and paced Washington State's ground game with 58 yards on 13 carries last week.

He'll be challenged for the team's rushing title by junior James Montgomery, a former Parade All-American who ran for more than 4,900 yards and 82 touchdowns in high school. He sat out last season after transferring from California and picked up 46 yards on 14 carries in his Washington State debut.

The offensive line is anchored by senior center Kenny Alfred, a candidate for the Rimington Trophy.

Washington State's starting defense included four players making their Division I debuts last week, true freshman defensive end Travis Long, redshirt freshman safety LeAndre Daniels, and tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo, both junior college transfers.

Junior safety Xavier Hicks Jr. is the Cougars' top returning tackler after posting 78 stops. He also had two interceptions and broke up five passes in the secondary.

Linebacker Louis Bland was second on the team with nine tackles for losses as a freshman and started at middle linebacker against Stanford, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles.

“;I'm proud of the way we did perform. The nice thing is we can get a lot better,”; Wulff said. “;As soon as we start making some big plays and making some things happen we can make some big steps as a football team.”;

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OTHER STATS

 

       

       

 WSU

Opp.
       

 

       

FIRST DOWNS
» Rushing613
» Passing106
» Penalty11
PENALTIES
» Penalties-yards4-224-55 
» Avg. per game22.055.0
TOTAL OFFENSE
» Total plays349481
» Avg. per play5.57.3
» Avg. per game349.0481.0
RUSHING YARDS
» Attempts3442
» Avg. per rush3.06.9
» Avg. per game102.0288.0
PASSING YARDS
» Att.-Comp.-Int.19-30-011-24-0
» Avg. per pass8.08.2
» Avg. per catch13.017.5
» Avg. per game247.0193.0
TIME OF POSSESSION/GAME
 28:0731:53

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2009 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
       
RUSHING
 GPAtt.GainLossNetAvg.TDLg.Avg./G
Dwight Tardy113602584.502058.0
PASSING
 GPEffc.C-A-IPct.Yds.TDLg.Avg./G
Kevin Lopina1147.110-16-062.5122139122.0
RECEIVING
 GPNo.Yds.Avg.TDLg.Avg./G
Jared Karstetter139130.314730.3

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SCORE BY QUARTERS
       
 1st2ND3RD4THOTTotal
» Washington State0310013
» Opponents81471039