PULLMAN -- Special teams, anything but on Saturday in the opener, continued as a major area of focus…
Wulff is familiar with run and shoot
Jones learned the offense as a quarterback at Portland State under Mouse Davis, who later coached the World League of America Football's New York/New Jersey Knights in the early 1990s. Wulff was an offensive lineman on that team. "When things are clicking, it can be very scary," he said. Wulff said the offense is simple from a conceptual standpoint, but that doesn't mean it's easy to stop. Hawaii ranked 18th in passing yards (3,518) last season, but was 46th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 7.2 yards per attempt. Hawaii returns senior quarterback Greg Alexander, who guided the Warriors to a 24-10 win against WSU in last year's regular-season finale. Alexander completed 19 of 34 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns in that game. But Wulff said the major complexities with the run-and-shoot begin with the wide receivers rather than the quarterback. "There's a lot of adjustments by their receivers depending on how you play them," he said. "They adjust based on the coverage they see." Stopping the offense isn't as simple as dropping most of the defense back into pass coverage, either. College run-and-shoot teams traditionally don't run the ball often — although Wulff said McMackin runs more than most because of his background as a defensive coordinator in college and the NFL — but there are other ways they can pick up shorter gains. "If you focus on only stopping the pass, they have draws and screens that can hurt you," he said. He also noted Alexander's scrambling ability. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries in the Warriors' 25-20 season-opening win last week against Central Arkansas, a Football Championship Subdivision team (formerly D-IIA). Wulff said he was happy with the amount of pressure his team applied on Alexander last year in the 24-10 Cougar loss, but said the Cougars were hurt by some of his scrambles. He had 43 yards on 14 carries. But he said the main issue during last year's loss was "an offense was not potent enough to keep us in the ball game." NOTABLE NOTES: WSU also faced another run and shoot offense last year -- Portland State's. The Cougs won 48-9. Since he named quarterback Kevin Lopina as the starter for a second straight week Tuesday, Wulff hasn't deviated from how playing time will be divided the senior and sophomore Marshall Lobbestael. He said that will be determined by how Lopina performs early in the game. If he plays well, Lopina might stay in the entire game. Otherwise, they could share time again. Wulff said both Lopina and Lobbestael "seemed reasonably sharp" in practice this week, which he believes is correlated to the game experience they had last week. Lopina completed 10 of 15 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in the opener, while Lobbestael was 8 of 13 for 78 yards. An area of significant emphasis during practice this week was special teams. Wulff said they worked on "clearing some things" up on both the punt and kick teams. In addition to a short missed field goal on the opening drive by junior Nico Grasu, the Cougars allowed Stanford to return a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Wulff said there won't be any "major" personnel changes on special teams. Sophomore Aire Justin, one of the Cougars' two kickoff returners, has a pulled quadriceps muscle and hasn't practice in two days. Wulff hopes he can return to practice today. If not, juniors James Montgomery and Marcus Richmond likely will handle kickoffs. Junior Brandon Jones will return punts. While Justin might not be available against Hawaii, safety Eric Block has been ruled out. The sophomore suffered a concussion and a stinger when he knocked a Stanford player out of the game in the second half. It was reported Wednesday in the Spokesman-Review that no agreement has been reached between WSU athletic director Jim Sterk and First & Goal, the company that runs Qwest Field, to extend the annual non-conference game. The contract runs out after Saturday's game. The Cougars have played annually in Seattle since 2002. "I think it's good for our alumni," Wulff said. "It has a lot of value to it. As long as the support is there from our fans and the intensity is there, it's something we must do." But he also feels the game should be evaluated on an annual basis to make sure it still has support. Wulff said the travel isn't much of an issue this week. The team will split into three buses — one with linemen and the other two with offensive and defensive skill position players — and he will encourage them to sleep as much as possible in preparation for the game. He said the team will do its typical stadium walk-through when it arrives Friday and then head for the hotel. The Cougars play the Warriors at 4 p.m. Saturday at Qwest Field and then return to Martin Stadium to host SMU on Sept. 19.
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