Wazzu can't overcome Huskies, lose Apple Cup 38-21
Wedged against a concrete wall, Paul Wulff faced a mass of cameras and notepads, all wondering if he would be back for a fifth season at Washington State.
Wulff might just have the same question himself.
''I love our coaches. I want them back. We'll see what happens. I don't know,'' Washington State defensive end Travis Long said. ''I just try to not focus on it. It's obviously in the back of your head. You want to play harder for them since we know their job is on the line. We'll just see what happens on Monday.''
Marshall Lobbestael threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns, but Washington State couldn't overcome two turnovers and a blocked punt for a touchdown, as the Cougars lost the 104th edition of the Apple Cup 38-21 to rival Washington on Saturday night.
The Cougars (4-8, 2-7 Pac-12) rallied from a 14-0 deficit to pull even and cut the Huskies (7-5, 5-4) lead to 28-21 in the third quarter when Marquess Wilson took a screen pass 38 yards for a touchdown. But that was as close as Washington State would get.
And now comes the wait for when a decision is made on Wulff. An answer for Wulff, Long and the rest of the crimson and gray faithful could be coming sooner than later, with Wulff and athletic director Bill Moos scheduled to meet as early as Sunday morning. Wulff is 9-40 in his four seasons in charge, but inherited an empty program and doubled the Cougars win total during a more competitive 2011 season.
The Seattle Times reported on its website late Saturday night that Wulff would be out as Washington State coach barring a last-minute change, citing unnamed sources. A school spokesman would only say that Wulff and Moos are expected to meet.
''Our program has come a long way. I'm very proud of where we're at. We're right on the cusp of being really, really good,'' Wulff said. ''Not a lot of teams can start three different quarterbacks in a season and still be in a position to be bowl eligible going into the end of the season. Looking around I'm very proud of what this team did under the circumstances with our quarterback situation, which is such a key role for a football team.''
Lobbestael was starting in place of redshirt freshman Connor Halliday after Halliday suffered a lacerated liver during last week's 30-27 overtime loss to Utah that ended the Cougars hopes of becoming bowl eligible. Halliday's injury only added to the peculiar list of injuries sustained by Washington State players during Wulff's tenure, another factor adding to the debate about Wulff's future.
Lobbestael completed 29 of 42 passes, but was battered and sacked seven times by Washington's defense that ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in that department. Wilson finished with seven catches for 108 yards and two TDs, but had to watch as a double pass in the fourth quarter eluded his hands and after being batted by Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant land in the hands of safety Sean Parker, ending the Cougars final scoring threat.
''It comes down to execution and we didn't execute at the beginning of the game,'' Lobbestael said. ''Part of that was just me over-thinking stuff, but then when I settled down the offense kind of settled down and we started moving the ball. We've just got to take advantage of situations that our defense gives us to take advantage of the scoreboard and be on top of the momentum.''
With no bowl berth at stake, the Cougars came out flat and uninspired, rife with mistakes from the start. Washington State committed five penalties, gave up a pair of sacks, fumbled and had Dan Wagner's punt blocked by Thomas Tutogi for a touchdown in the first 15 minutes. .
They recovered to pull even late in the first half on touchdown throws of 16 yards to Jared Karstetter and 16 yards to Wilson five minutes apart in the second quarter. The momentum from that rally was snatched away when Washington's Kasen Williams added to his first-half showcase by catching a crossing route wide open and leaping over Washington State cornerback Nolan Washington on his way to an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Williams got free on a broken play and Keith Price found him for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Huskies a 21-14 lead at halftime.
''I was a little quiet that second half, but as far as the first half goes, I think I was complete, you know, as far the team goes,'' Williams said. ''We won and I feel like I did enough to get the victory.''
Price became Washington's single-season record holder in touchdown passes after throwing three more against the Cougars. Price has 29 on the season and completed 21 of 29 passes for 291 yards as the Huskies snapped a three-game losing streak. Two of the touchdown throws went to Williams, while Chris Polk caught a 22-yard TD pass in the third quarter to put the Huskies up 28-14. Polk later added a 1-yard TD run and finished with 22 carries for 100 yards.
The Huskies now wait for their postseason assignment, likely either the Holiday or Alamo bowls, while the Cougars wait for an answer to a tenuous debate.
''We're going out there and expect to win and that's a difference from when these coaches first got here,'' Lobbestael said. ''It's a huge difference to me and I think it's going to keep growing.''
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