Washington State's latest setback and its third straight defeat did nothing to help the Cougars' bowl hopes and coach Paul Wulff's job status.
Washington State’s latest setback and its third straight defeat did nothing to help the Cougars’ bowl hopes and coach Paul Wulff’s job status.
However, the immediate concern following a 44-21 loss to Oregon State is the health of oft-injured Jeff Tuel.
Making his second start, the junior quarterback has yet to finish a game this season. Last week, he was pulled late during a blowout loss to Stanford.
And Saturday night, Tuel didn’t make it to the second half after injuring his left shoulder late in the second quarter.
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“He’s sore and we still got do some scans to see where he’s at,” Wulff said. “We don’t envision it’s serious, but he’s definitely still sore.”
Without Tuel, backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael guided the Cougars to just one touchdown after halftime.
It wasn’t enough to counter a punishing offensive attack from Oregon State that pounded out 551 yards, including 175 rushing in front of 49,219 at CenturyLink Field.
The Cougars (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) entered having lost three of their past four games and were hoping to resuscitate their fading season with an impressive performance against a team they defeated last season.
With so much on the line and several famous alumni in the stands, including Ryan Leaf, the Cougar defense didn’t hold up against an Oregon State offense that scored on eight of its first nine drives. The Beavers punted just once, with 55 seconds remaining in the game.
“We got outplayed,” Wulff said. “Oregon State played the best game I’ve ever seen them play. They made every play possible. … At times we were in good position, but the bottom line, we couldn’t force them to punt all night.”
The Cougars had no answer for OSU quarterback Sean Mannion, who finished with 376 yards on 26-of-34 passing. Beavers running back Malcolm Agnew also tormented WSU with 103 yards on 23 carries.
“We didn’t show up,” WSU defensive coordinator Chris Ball said. “That’s my responsibility. No excuses.”
The game began positively for the Cougars until their 57-yard opening drive stalled at the OSU 24 on a failed fourth-and-1 attempt.
The Beavers needed 65 seconds to go 76 yards for their first score. Sean Mannion capped the drive with a short pass to backup running back Jordan Jenkins, who then raced to the end zone for a 31-yard score.
After the Cougars went three-and-out on the next possession, the Beavers quickly drove into WSU territory and Mannion threw into the end zone for what seemed to be a touchdown.
But WSU sophomore cornerback Damante Horton ripped the ball away from receiver Nolan Washington to prevent the score.
On the next drive, Tuel capped an 80-yard march with a 20-yard touchdown toss to receiver Marquess Wilson to tie the score at 7-7.
The offenses scored on the next three drives.
First it was Oregon State, which went ahead after Mannion connected with Brandin Cooks for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Washington State answered with a 68-yard scoring march capped by Tuel’s 1-yard run.
And then Oregon State responded with another lengthy drive — 78 yards in nine plays for a 21-14 lead with 5:21 remaining in the second quarter.
The momentum swung toward the Beavers after defensive end Scott Crichton sacked Tuel and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Dylan Wynn at the WSU 31.
Less than two minutes later, the Beavers pushed their lead to 24-14 following a 26-yard field goal from kicker Trevor Romaine.
The final drive in the half proved costly for WSU. It exposed Tuel to a heavy OSU pass rush. He was sacked on the first play and took a hard hit on the second-to-last play of the half.
He walked into the locker room gingerly and didn’t play again.
“This loss really hurt and we’re going to take the next 24 hours to make it hurt,” sophomore linebacker Sekope Kaufusi said. “We want it to hurt. We want to have the fire lit up. We need the motivation.”