20 WSU observations headed into Eastern game

XAVIER COOPER

YES, WASHINGTON STATE struggled mightily in their season debut. On the other hand, it was just one game. The first game of a 12-game season. Maybe, just maybe, the first game of a 13-game season that includes a bowl. Here's 20 positives gleaned from Thursday night's loss in looking ahead to WSU's home opener Saturday against Eastern Washington.

1. An all-new coaching staff was able to watch players in live action for the first time. Practices reveal only so much.

2. Glitches are to be expected in any season opener, but particularly one in which a new offense and defense has been installed.

3. BYU was a quality opponent, playing at home with 29 seniors and 14 starters off a 2011 team that went 10-3 and came in 32nd in voting for the current Top 25 poll of The Associated Press.

4. Eight Cougars made their first starts at the four-year college level, including six on defense.

5. WSU gave up just 132 yards and seven first downs in the second half after yielding 294 yards and 17 first downs before halftime. It took BYU 41 touches to gain 123 yards on the ground -- an average of 3 ypc.

6. Xavier Cooper, arguably WSU's best defensive lineman, is making enough progress from his foot injury that he dressed and warmed up (though he did not play).

7. Quarterback Jeff Tuel, who played only one full game last year due to injuries, might not have played his best game but he displayed all the elusiveness and gutsy scrambling ability of two years ago.

8. Rickey Galvin, only recently moved to receiver after leading the team in rushing last year, led the team with a career-high six catches.

9. Preseason All-American Marquess Wilson continued his assault on the WSU record books, and his stats (four receptions for 61 yards) would have been much glossier if penalties had not wiped out two big catches – one for a touchdown.

10. BYU senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree was impressed with the Cougars' potential: "I still expect them to have one of the top offenses in the country."

11. Travis Long, moved to BUCK linebacker after three strong seasons as a defensive end, tied his career high with nine tackles.

12. WIL Chester Sua was the only starting linebacker who came into the game with any college starts at linebacker (four as a true freshman last year), but Sua, Long, Darryl Monroe (MIK) and Eric Oertel (SAM) demonstrated considerable athleticism and speed.

13. Another true freshman, blurry-fast running back and kick returner Teondray Caldwell, had a dazzling 63-yard kickoff return.

14. Four other true freshmen saw action, including linebacker Jeremiah Allison, who played just one week after his mother passed away.

15. Scrappy Jared Byers, the former walk-on from Pullman who has bounced from linebacker to fullback to H-back and back to linebacker, had a career-high nine tackles in a reserve role.

16. Free safety Taylor Taliulu, one of two true freshmen who started (wideout Gabe Marks was the other), also had nine tackles and flew all over the field.

17. Andrew Furney extended his string of consecutive field goals made from 40 yards and beyond to eight by banging home both his attempts.

18. Big nose tackle Ioane Gauta, a junior college transfer, showed signs he may be the run stopper in the middle that WSU desperately needs on defense with four solo tackles (1 TFL). Toni Pole also posted four stops (3 solo, 1.5 TFL).

19. Players can't help but benefit from playing in a big-time atmosphere on national television before a huge crowd on the road.

20. As Galvin said, "We're going to go back to practice and get better. We have a lot of room to grow."

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