Guerra, surprisingly, will bid fond farewell

GUERRA GETS HUG FROM TUEL

PULLMAN -- The Washington State Cougars celebrate Senior Day this afternoon against Utah, and offensive guard B.J. Guerra is excited about playing his final home game. Mind you, there was a time when Guerra wasn't so sure he wanted to play his first home game -- or any game -- for the Cougars.

Guerra is one of five players left from Bill Doba's final season as coach. All five redshirted as freshmen under the genial Doba, who was replaced after the 2007 season by Paul Wulff, a no-nonsense sort who was taken aback by the lack of discipline and character on the team.

Conversely, Guerra and many of his teammates were shocked by Wulff.

"He definitely was not here to make friends with any of the players," Guerra said. "He was here to do a job. He was here to, I guess you would say, change the culture of the team.

"A lot of guys struggled with that. There were guys that want to be rebellious and guys that don't want change, especially those ones that were recruited by Doba's staff. It was tough."

Guerra immediately clashed with Wulff -- "I definitely considered transferring" -- after being asked to move from the defensive line to the offensive line for spring drills. Guerra, an all-state defensive tackle at Moses Lake High, had never played on the O-line and had no desire to learn a new position.

"I was very bitter with that whole ordeal," Guerra said.

Much to his surprise, Guerra fell in love with his new position that fall and gave up any thoughts of transferring when he started part-time as a redshirt freshman in 2008. The Cougars finished 2-11 that season and often went through the motions while suffering some of the most lopsided defeats in school history.

Guerra fairly shutters at the memory of the worst loss that season. The Cougars lost 69-0 to USC, even though coach Pete Carroll and the Trojans went to great lengths to hold the score down.

"After that game," Guerra recalls, "a couple seniors got up in front of the team and were basically saying -- how should I put this? --‘Forget about the coaches. Play for us, don't play for them,' that type of thing.

"That was hard, because you look up to those guys as a young player, but you definitely knew it was the wrong way to approach it."

Guerra is joined on the offensive line by one other senior starter. Left tackle David Gonzales missed out on the misery of the 2008 and 2009 (1-11) seasons, since he was playing junior college ball back home in Fresno, Calif.

Even though the Cougars finished 2-10 last season, they were far more competitive, partly because of the play of Gonzales and Guerra (an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection). Both players have NFL aspirations, and scouts have them on their radars.

WSU needs to beat Utah today and Washington next Saturday to qualify for a bowl. Like Guerra, Gonzales says he is convinced the Cougars have turned the corner in the rebuilding process, in no small part due to the discipline Wulff and his staff have instilled.

"I love the coaching staff now," Guerra said. "You build a really good friendship with everybody on the team," Gonzales said. "Great camaraderie out here.

"It's been an awesome experience. I'm going to make these last few games count for every second I get out there on the field."

NOTABLES:
The weather forecast calls for possible snow showers and an afternoon high of 29 degrees ... Kickoff is at 2 p.m. and Utah is favored by 3 1/2 points ... The game will broadcast on Fox College Sports, the same channel that aired the WSU-Colorado game in the worst picture quality this side of the Apollo 11 moon landing .... The Cougars will honor 14 seniors ... In addition to Senior Day, it's Armed Forces Day at Martin Stadium. The Cougars donated 100 tickets to U.S. military veterans and active duty soldiers and offered discounts to fans wishing to donate tickets to military personnel.

DAVID GONZALES

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