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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cougars limping

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets UCLA in an NCAA football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2009. Arizona up 13-3 at the half
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets UCLA in an NCAA football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2009. Arizona up 13-3 at the half

To fans who typically enjoy rooting for the underdog, Washington State must be irresistable.

Not only are the Cougars alone in the basement of the Pacific 10 Conference (0-5, 1-7 Pac-10), but they are also alone at the bottom of nearly every statistical category. In fact, the only categories in which Washington State does not rank seventh or worse are third-down percentage, in which they rank sixth, fourth-down conversion percentage, in fifth place at 54.5 percent, and opponent penalties, in first at 80 yards per game.

However, the only other category this season in which the Cougars have been successful is red zone defense, which bodes well for WSU in their upcoming game against Arizona, as the Wildcats have struggled in red-zone offense.

That advantage could be the Cougars’ only hope of subduing an explosive Wildcat team.

“”This team understands where we’re at and that we have a lot of work to do,”” said Washington State head coach Paul Wulff. “”(Arizona’s) speed at their skill positions and the maturity they have as a team is going to make them a very tough opponent.

“”But our group has a strong attitude, and we know that if we keep working hard it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing results.””

One aspect of the Cougars’ game that Wulff stressed during his weekly press conference Tuesday was their improvement in offensive line play.

So far this year, the Cougars have given up 40 sacks, 17 more than the next worst Pac-10 team.

Last week against Notre Dame, Washington State allowed quarterback Jeff Tuel to be sacked five times, in addition to being knocked around on multiple other occasions.

“”(Tuel is) holding together pretty well both physically and mentally after getting hit quite a bit last week at Notre Dame,”” Wulff said. “”But he can’t take as much of the hitting like he did last week otherwise he won’t hold up. So we need to do a much better job of protecting him.””

Wulff appeared convinced that should his team’s pass protection improve, the Cougars’ results offensively would improve as well. He said that Tuel is talented at moving the ball down the field, and that giving him protection would showcase that fact.

However, whether or not they are attributable to the pass protection or not, Washington State’s offensive numbers have not compared with its opponents this year.

On the ground, the Cougars are averaging nearly three times fewer yards per game than their opponents. Through the air, Tuel and his offense have seen somewhat better results, but they are still being outgained by nearly 90 yards per game.

The impact of this lack of offensive production has led to the Cougars being outscored by opponents by nearly three times.

But despite what the statistics may show, Wulff is confident that Washington State is only a few key repairs away from becom a competitive football team.

“”Our focus right now is getting consistent execution on both offense and defense,”” Wulff said. “”We need to start faster and the way we do that is to go out and execute the game plan. That means no missed blocking assignments or mistakes right off the bat.

“”For the most part I feel everyone is doing a good job, it’s just that one guy making a mistake every time,”” he added. “”If we get all eleven (players) on the same page this weekend then we’re going to start moving the ball down the field.””

 

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