Q & A With the CougCenter

Washington St. quarterack Jeff Tuel scrambles away from Oregon St. defensive tackle Kevin Frahm in last year's meeting between the Cougars and Beavers, a game Tuel led WSU to a 31-14 win in. Tuel and Frahm will renew acquaintances Saturday night at Centurylink Field in Seattle. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

We got together with Kyle Rancourt, one of the writers up at CougCenter.com, Buildingthedam.com's SB Nation
brother blog, to catch up on the state of the Cougars going into the "Struggle in Seattle" Saturday night.

Below are some things we were wondering about, and Kyle's insights. [Warning: Cougar sense of humor evident in some answers!]

* Based on how he played against Stanford, his first game back since breaking his clavicle in the opener, and maybe more importantly in practice, how close is quarterback Jeff Tuel to being back to 100%?

He was cleared medically, but I'm not sure he's 100%. After the first game of the season, is anyone really 100%? I still think he's getting up to speed and getting rid of some of the rust. Hopefully he'll be good to go with a week of practice as the surefire number one guy.

* In reviewing the stats from Washington St.'s recent games, it appears the Cougars' non-qb running game has
not been up to where Coach Paul Wulff probably wants it to be. That can be a product of game situations and
matchups, but how do you feel about the Washington St. running game at this point?

To be honest, the offensive line is to blame for a lot of that. They've had moments where we all were shocked at how much progress they've made. Then, they had moments where we realized just how far ahead the other teams are in terms of talent. We have an influx of young guys, though, so check back with me in a few years.

As for the RBs, Rickey Galvin is great at turning the corner and taking it to the house. He's got top end speed. Logwone Mitz has been a bit of a disappointment, and Carl Winston has been a huge surprise. I feel like if they guys on the ground can keep the defense honest, they've done their jobs. We're a passing first, second, and third type of team.

* Based on the low number of tickets on the various secondary markets, and the remote locations many
Oregon St. fans seem to be hidden away in, it seems that Washington St. must be anticipating making a
pretty strong showing in Seattle, support wise. That hasn't always been the case for some of the
westside "Cougar Classics". Do you think Beaver Nation, which normally travels very well to Seattle,
(it is closer to the Corvallis campus than the Pullman one), will encounter a large and enthusiastic
crowd of Cougars?

I'll be there this weekend with most of the other authors, and yes, I expect a lot of orange in the stands. I've never had a negative experience with OSU fans either, so I look forward to seeing you guys. Orange is certainly better than purple.

* Has the move to play a conference game instead of a non-conference game on the west side been a popular
move? (It did leave you with only 1 game in Pullman in over 2 months, from Sept. 10 to Nov. 12.)

Well, for me personally, it worked out great. I'm not a season ticket holder, and the original game against UNLV was on my fiancee's birthday. We were in Florida, and would have missed out. Now we only missed a Pullman game, and we can go to a Seattle game (since we live about 20 minutes from Seattle).

I understand why some people are upset, though. Ultimately though, the idea is to fill the seats. Who draws better, a Mountain West school, or a Pac 12 foe? Clearly the answer is the MWC, but we'll settle for you guys anyway. (BURN!)

* The focus around the conference has been mostly on the Washington St. offense, especially the passing game.
But how has the Cougar defense looked overall? They don't rate high nationally, but they are considerably
better than they have been. Where has most of the improvement come?

The defense has been good in spurts, but they lack the experience (and depth) to put together four good quarters. As for most improved, it's unquestionably the linebackers. The defensive line has been much improved, but by virtue of being at least somewhat capable, the LBs have been able to fly around and hit people.

The last few years, the DL was so bad (so, so bad) that they weren't even slowing the RB down. Our leading tacklers were our safeties. Our cornerbacks have improved, as well. We're still pretty young.

* The Beavers have transitioned from a team that ran extensively when they had Jacquizz Rodgers, to a
primarily passing game with Sean Mannion at quarterback. Will this shift favor Oregon St., or play into
Washington St.'s paws?

If you guys still had 'Quizz, I'd be really scared we'd give up 200 yards rushing. Our secondary boasts three starting sophomores, and while young, they're all playmakers. I think we are more of a bend-but-don't-break type defense, and with 'Quizz, you could have just pounded the rock inside the 20s. So ... thanks for declaring for the draft, Mr. Rodgers!

* The issue of Coach Wulff's job status doesn't go away, despite Oregon St.'s contribution to his tenure
last year. Just this week, one promminent Cougar said on a major Seattle radio station that a 6-6
regular season is going to be the minimum required for Wulff to survive, and even that might not do it
unless one of those wins is in the Apple Cup.

Another felt that as long as Washington St. is competitive in nearly all of their games (Oregon, for example, has the potential to fly away from almost everyone, even if they play a very good game), because of the progress that is being made, even a 5-7 record that doesn't include an Apple Cup win might not prompt Athletic Director Bill Moos to make a change. What does CougCenter think should be the "minimum standard" Wulff must meet this year? And what do you think will happen?

This topic has never been discussed ever. It's weird that you would bring it up now. No one in our fan base has even mentioned it. [Pause for laughter...] Let me think how to respond ...

Right. To be honest, the people who put minimum win totals as a threshold to whether or not a coach should keep his job make me want to pull my hair out. First, I think a lot of the fans who said 6-6 is the floor are nuts. I think the ceiling is five wins. I'd love to be wrong, though. In terms of Wulff keeping his job, I think as long as we're in every game (no repeats of last week), that's saying a lot.

No one expected us to beat Stanford, so I don't think the shellacking was necessarily a strike against him. However, if we go out and lose by 30+ to Arizona State or UW (good god no), then that's a scenario I could see Moos going in a different direction. People tend to forget that we won two games last year. It's not impossible to make a big leap, but temper your expectations, guys.

The biggest thing, to me, is his players seem to be 100% behind him. I've seen scenarios like Tyrone Willingam over at UW where his team just did not care. If that's the case with Wulff, then I have no problem letting him go. I just don't see that, though. The kids seem to want to run through a wall for him, and if we get rid of him now, the rebuilding process will take even longer. Let's not forget how bare the cupboard was when he got here.

* Both teams are not where they thought they would be, much less hoped to be, at this point. What's the
mindset of Cougar Nation heading into Seattle? Is this a "big" game? A "desparation" game? Or just another
Pac-12 game?

This game is huge. There aren't a lot of winnable games left on the schedule, and outside of Utah at home later in the season, this is the only game we can look at and have at least some reasonable amount of confidence in winning. I mean, we can beat ASU, and we can beat UW, but we'll be the underdog in both of those contests (probably by a lot seeing how well UW is playing lately).

So if we want to hold out hope for those magical three more wins, Oregon State absolutely HAS to be a win. I think if we wind up losing this weekend, you'll see a lot of Cougs diving headfirst off a cliff. With bottles of Jim Beam and Busch Light in their hands.

* Any other keys to the game or interesting tidbits that come to mind without giving away some strategic
advantage?

Marquess Wilson is a terrible receiver so you should probably not even bother covering him. I mean, oh man is he bad. Just leave him alone on the outside. Tuel never throws to him anyways. And you guys are super lucky Tuel is starting instead of Lobbestael. Lobbestael was basically Michael Vick, and Tuel is a statue.

(Ed. note: the last answer is clearly designed to sabotage Coach Wulff's game plan. I think.)

Thanks again to Kyle for chatting. See you in Seattle!

 

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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