The Washington State football team registered some incredibly ugly numbers in Saturday’s loss to Hawaii, but coach Paul Wulff didn’t realize how truly awful it was until he reviewed the game tape.
“Between seven turnovers and our defense – we had 21 missed tackles,” Wulff said during his Sunday night teleconference from Pullman. “That combination is deadly.”
So were Hawaii’s 38 points and 626 total yards. One year after WSU finished 118th in the nation with 43.9 points allowed per game and 108th with 443.4 total yards allowed per game, the 0-2 Cougars are tied for 107th in scoring defense (38.5) and rank 118th among 120 teams in total defense (553.5).
“We’ve got to make tackles,” Wulff said. “A lot of (Saturday’s missed tackles) were in the secondary.”
A repeat performance this Saturday against 2-0 Southern Methodist (2 p.m., no TV) in Pullman might leave Cougars followers contemplating the possibility of a winless season.
The Mustangs, who operate a run-and-shoot offense quite similar to Hawaii’s, are the lowest-ranked team left on WSU’s schedule from Sports Illustrated’s preseason rankings.
SMU was ranked 89th, compared to 95th for Hawaii and 105th for WSU.
The Mustangs are scoring twice as many points per game as WSU (33-16.5).
Wulff said he likes some of the work by quarterback Kevin Lopina, who will continue to start. Defensively, the Cougars have limited options on defense due to inexperience and injuries.
Saturday’s defensive starters included five players who redshirted last year, a true freshman, an NCAA Division II transfer and a fifth-year senior who has played in four games the past four seasons.
Wulff said starting safety DeAndre Daniels, who suffered a broken right fibula Saturday, is expected to be sidelined two months.
Starting offensive guard Zach Williams could be out “a few weeks” after spraining an ankle Saturday, the coach said. Junior Brian Danaher is the likely replacement.
Starting defensive end Kevin Kooyman is expected to miss at least two more games with a knee injury.
Wulff said starting wide receiver Gino Simone is “extremely questionable” for SMU, but starting outside linebacker Andy Mattingly is “probable.”
Both left Saturday’s game with concussions.
Wulff said safety Eric Block (concussion) and defensive lineman Dan Spitz (flu) will be back this week. Spitz will move from his usual tackle spot to end most of the time to cover for Kooyman, Wulff said.
Safety Jay Matthews may be ready to go after shoulder surgery. Linebacker Louis Bland’s battered knee looks better (he played Saturday after hardly practicing all week). Cornerback Aire Justin is still nursing a quadriceps strain.
Wulff said junior college transfer Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who made his first start Saturday, was named WSU’s player of the game for his stellar play at middle linebacker. Wulff also praised running back James Montgomery and redshirt freshmen cornerbacks Daniel Simmons and Terrance Hayward, and the coach said he liked the progress of WSU’s receivers (despite Jared Karstetter’s two lost fumbles after catches) and special teams.