WSU's silver lining: Players fight to the end

FORZANI BATTLES WADE

TUCSON -- Perhaps the only thing more consistent this season than Washington State's first-quarter follies -- the Cougs have been outscored 145-3 in the period -- is the team's utter refusal to quit. No matter the score or setting or hopelessness of the situation, the Cougars keep hittin' and hustlin' to the bitter end.

"They play hard," Arizona offensive tackle Adam Grant (a Puyallup native) said Saturday after the Wildcats drilled WSU 48-7 in Tucson. "They're just not developed yet. They're going to be a good team in a few years."

Arizona coach Mike Stoops, like several other opposing coaches this season, praised the young Cougars for their determined play.

Last season, in his first year on the job, WSU coach Paul Wulff did not hide his disgust at the lack of effort provided by some players. This season, he has repeatedly praised the Cougars for working hard in practice and games.

"I don't have one complaint about attitude," he said last week. "It's been outstanding."

And what did Wulff have to say after Saturday's blowout loss?

"The players' effort is outstanding," Wulff said. "The attitude is good."

Linebacker Andy Mattingly and safety Xavier Hicks, two of WSU's relatively few seniors, flew around the field recklessly from start to finish at Arizona. Of course, that's standard stuff for both players.

"This game is meant to be fun, regardless of the score," said Mattingly, who recorded a season-high 11 tackles. "You've got to keep having fun. As soon as you stop having fun, it can be real difficult to go out and play."

"I don't doubt the effort at all of the players," said Hicks, who led both teams with 11 solo tackles and 12 total tackles. "When they go out there, they're giving it their all."

KARSTETTER SHINES: Jared Karstetter's sixth touchdown catch of the year, a one-handed beauty that went for 64 yards Saturday, leaves him tied for first in the Pac-10 with Oregon State star James Rodgers.

"He's definitely a playmaker," quarterback Marshall Lobbestael said.

"Great catch," Wulff said. "A really great catch. He's doing a good job."

Karstetter, a sophomore from Spokane, leads the Cougars with 420 receiving yards. His 27 catches rank second on the team behind the 30 of true freshman receiver Gino Simone.

The Cougars have shown a knack for pulling off a big play or two, even in the ugliest losses.

"As an offense, we know how much (more) work we have to do," Karstetter said.

Karstetter needs three more touchdown catches to tie six others for eighth in Cougar history with nine in one season.

MIXED EMOTIONS: Like any player, Lobbestael did not come to Washington State to sit on the bench. However, the personable sophomore was genuinely upset that he was forced to play Saturday when starting quarterback Jeff Tuel was lost to a knee injury.

"When you see one of your friends go down, it's a crappy feeling," Lobbestael said. "But at the same time, that's why you try to prepare yourself as the No. 2 guy."

Lobbestael, who threw a great ball to Karstetter for the touchdown, said he's improved his agility by adding flexibility and balance drills. Lobbestael underwent knee reconstruction after being blasted last October at Oregon State.

"It was good getting in there and competing," Lobbestael said Saturday, "but I'm hoping Jeff is all right."

WOBBLY LINE: Opponents continue to dominate the Cougars on the line of scrimmage. WSU is losing the quarterback sacks battle 45-9, and Arizona's quarterbacks faced little pressure.

"We just need to drink more milk at dinner, I guess," the colorful Mattingly said.

By the way, did you know that Mattingly -- an outstanding high school baseball player at Mead in Spokane -- is a distant cousin of former New York Yankees star Don Mattingly? Just checking.

RECORD WATCH: The Cougars must win one of their three remaining games to avoid tying the year-old school record for losses and breaking the Pac-10 record for losses in back-to-back seasons.

The Cougars (1-8 overall, 0-6 Pac-10) play home games the next two weeks against UCLA (4-5, 1-5) and Oregon State (6-3, 4-2), then go to Washington (3-6, 2-4) on Nov. 28.

WSU finished 2-11 last season. The Pac-10 record of 21 losses in back-to-back seasons was tied most recently by Washington last year.

TARDY CLIMBS: Dwight Tardy, continuing his bid to become the first known Cougar to lead the team in rushing four straight years, needs just 4 more yards to move past Michael Black into seventh in WSU history.

Tardy, who has pulled off one long run and led the Cougars in rushing both games since being held out of the starting lineup at California, jumped ahead of Ken Grandberry on Saturday. Tardy has 2,126 career yards, and his 490 carries rank sixth in school history.

Junior punter Reid Forrest moved into fifth place in Cougar history Saturday with 7,873 career punting yards. He's sixth in career punts with 188.

ENVY PREVAILS: A married couple, graduates of Arizona, just donated $10 million toward the Arizona Stadium expansion project.

That sigh you just heard came from the Washington Athletic Department, since WSU's athletic donations for the past fiscal year totaled less than $7 million -- by far the least in the Pac-10.

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