Despite his Cougars giving up a plethora of points in their 39-13 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday, Washington State head coach Paul Wulff still found plenty to be happy about with his defense, even after watching the game film.
“I thought we were OK there,” Wulff said. “Obviously there were some things we could have done better, but our tackling was pretty good.”
Indeed, while other teams around the country clearly looked rusty when it came to making crisp open-field tackles, the Cougs seemed to be moderately efficient.
“We stressed this from the day I got on campus,” Wulff said. “You can talk about it, but we worked on it. Every day we work on it, even on the days we’re not in pads. I think there’s a lot of progress made.”
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But Wulff was the first to admit that the defense needs to be even better this week, because the California offense is far more talented and explosive than Oklahoma State.
“From a talent standpoint, they’re definitely one of the top teams in the conference,” Wulff said.
It seems that way every season. Bears head coach Jeff Tedford always seems to have talented players waiting to contribute when players like running back Justin Forsett and receiver DeSean Jackson move on.
As a unit the Cal offense rolled up 467 yards of total offense against Michigan State.
“We’re facing two of the fastest running backs without question, so for them to be able to tackle those guys, we’ve got an even tougher challenge on our hands,” Wulff said.
Those two running backs would be sophomore Jahvid Best (111) and freshman Shane Vereen (101), who combined for 212 yards last weekend, becoming the seventh Cal duo to rush for 100 yards in the same game.
While the Cougs figure to have their hands full with the Bears’ rushing attack, they also have to be wary of the passing attack. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns last week against Michigan State.
“He’s a good player,” Wulff said. He’s very efficient. He takes care of the football and he’s not going to force a lot of things with his arm. For a young guy to show that kind of trait this early in his career that’s obviously a very good thing for Cal.”
Members of the 1988 WSU Aloha Bowl team will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game in honor of the 20th anniversary of their 24-22 win over Houston. Wulff along with running backs/special teams coach Steve Broussard were members of that team that ended an 82-year bowl victory drought.
But a guy sporting Cal colors will also be among the honorees. Cal offensive line coach Jim Michalczik also played on that team. Michalczik was a three-year letterman at guard and was a Sporting News honorable mention All-American as a senior.
“Jim and I have a very good relationship,” Wulff said.
Wulff even joked that the reunion was a ploy to distract his former teammate.
“I’ve got some plans for a little bit corruption along the way,” Wulff said. “That’s part of the reason I was pushing to have it this weekend.”
Injury update: Wulff hopes to have offensive lineman Vaughn Lesuma and punter Reid Forrest practicing the whole week. Both players will take it day to day and if all goes well, they will play this weekend. “We’ll see how they practice and go from there,” Wulff said. Lesuma has been battling an aching back for the past few weeks, but his presence on the offensive line would bring back some much needed experience. Redshirt freshman Steven Ayers started in his place last weekend and looked like, well, a redshirt freshman at times. … Forrest, who injured his ankle in the spring, could be even more valuable. Backup Daniel Wagner struggled against Oklahoma State getting much height or hang time on most of his punts. His low line drives never allowed the coverage to get in place and led to some long returns. … Wide receiver Jeshua Anderson (hernia surgery) is also getting closer to returning. Linebacker Jason Stripling is also day to day with a sprained big toe.