Bad case of dropsies kills Cougs' chances

One of many missed chances

AT FIRST GLANCE, the passing game looked promising. Junior standout Marquess Wilson racked up 87 yards on four catches before leaving the game in the second quarter. Sophomore Isiah Myers posted career highs of eight receptions and 108 yards in his first 100-yard performance. And freshman Brett Bartolone scored the Cougars' only touchdowns to bring his career total to three.

Also contributing were freshmen Gabe Marks, who caught four passes for 25 yards, and Dominique Williams, who added three for 60 yards.

But upon further examination of the stats from Washington State's 31-17 loss to California, the numbers aren't nearly as good as they look on paper.

"I thought we left way too many opportunities out there," coach Mike Leach said in a postgame radio interview. "We can't be satisfied with this."

The receiving corps' 34 catches for 384 in the Cougars' 31-17 loss are actually somewhat abysmal when you consider that senior Jeff Tuel completed 30 of 53 passes for 320 yards – and there's no way that he dropped 23 balls.

His receivers, on the other hand, dropped more than their fair share, and several of them were in the red zone.

"Offensively, we stayed together as a unit," Tuel said. "We put drives together and went up and down the field. We just shot ourselves in the foot at times."

A PRIME EXAMPLE of just that came in the second quarter. On third-and-goal on the California 6-yard line, Tuel threw a pass intended for Wilson in the end zone. Wilson was illegally hit helmet-to-helmet by defensive back Avery Sebastian, who was penalized for a personal foul. Wilson left the game and did not return.

On the ensuing play, junior Leon Brooks was unable to catch Tuel's pass, and after Carl Winston rushed for a yard to put the Cougars at the theoretically all-but-certain California 2, senior Gino Simone dropped a pass in the end zone.

Andrew Furney's 20-yard field goal got the Cougars on the board, but they squandered four easy points on three easy opportunities.

"I thought there definitely were some good things," Leach said. "We should have had more points for how well we moved the ball.

The Cougars did not score a touchdown until the third quarter, when Tuel connected with Bartolone on an 8-yard pass. It was the Cougars' first touchdown since Tuel connected with Wilson late in the Sept. 29 loss against Oregon.

"When you get down there that close, you've got to taste the end zone," said Bartolone, who also scored on a 6-yard pass from Tuel midway through the fourth quarter.

Still, he said, "Guys need to step up and start making plays."

DOING THAT WOULD have been beneficial late in the third quarter when Brooks rushed for 40 yards to the California 37 on first down. But Tuel threw four straight incompletions, including one on fourth-and-10.

It was a similar story to open the fourth quarter, when Tuel connected with Marks on second-and-3 an 8-yard pass to get the Cougars to the Bears' 13. The next two plays fell incomplete before Tuel was sacked and then penalized for intentional grounding.

Furney's ensuing 43-yard field goal attempt went wide left.

"We slice it so thin," Leach said after the game, "we don't leave ourselves any margin for error."

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Despite leaving the game with a possible concussion late in the first half, Wilson caught four passes for 87 receiving yards, pushing him past 3,000 total for his career at Washington State.

    He is now the 16th player in Pac-12 history to record more than 3,000 career receiving yards.

    "It's tough because he's a big play guy," Tuel said of Wilson's departure. "Dominique Williams did a great job stepping in. He did a lot of great things tonight."

  • Tuel's two touchdown passes moves him into sole possession of seventh place on WSU's career list for touchdown passes, with 30. He entered the game tied with Mark Rypien. He also passed Rypien for seventh all-time on the university's list for passing yards by throwing for 320 yards to bring his career total to 4,753 yards.

    It was Tuel's third career 300-yard performance and first since throwing for 311 yards at UCLA in 2010. His career-high 53 pass attempts matched a career high of 30 completions at BYU.

  • Junior safety Deone Bucannon recorded a season-high 13 tackles, his fourth double-digit tackle performance of the year and ninth of his career.

  • Senior BUCK specialist Travis Long entered the game with 7 ½ sacks, tying him with San Jose State's Travis Johnson for the most in the nation. Against California, Long had three tackles, one solo.

  • The Cougars picked off two passes for the fourth time this year, and now have 11 for the season, tying the 2010 team for the most since the 2007 team had 14 interceptions.

  • Sophomore linebacker Cyrus Coen made his second career interception, while junior cornerback Anthony Carpenter made his first.

  • Junior kicker Michael Bowlin now has 12 touchbacks on kickoffs this season, the most since Washington State had 13 in 2006.
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