PULLMAN – An accurate gauge of Washington State’s run-game futility last season is provided at the bottom of the national NCAA rushing rankings, where WSU is indicted as the worst rushing team in the country.

A year ago, the Cougars rushed the ball just 252 times, by far the fewest of any team in the country. They averaged just 1.4 yards per carry and 29.1 yards per game, both marks worse than any other team, though yardage lost on 57 sacks played a role in that figure, too.

There is hope that the running game will at least be viable in 2013.

“We’re doing a much better job at the point of attack,” Cougars running backs coach Jim Mastro said. “It’s a drastic change from last year at this point.”

Mastro said there’s a three-man race for the Cougars’ starting running back position between sophomore Teondray Caldwell, junior Marcus Mason and third-year sophomore walk-on Jeremiah Laufasa.

Caldwell is the team’s leading returning rusher after carrying the ball 56 times last season for 269 yards, starting three of the nine games in which he appeared, and at 5-foot-8, 198 pounds, the sophomore has the kind of speed and shiftiness coach Mike Leach wants from his running backs.

So, too, does Mason, a 5-foot-8, 188-pound speedster who carried the ball only 12 times last season. But he’s taken quite a few reps with the No. 1 offense so far this camp.

The third candidate in this race is a surprising one. Laufasa transferred to WSU last season from Central Washington. If the season started today, it’s likely Laufasa would be the team’s go-to back in short yardage situations.