LAST TIME IN HUSKY STADIUM, COUGS WERE ALL SMILES
PAUL WULFF HAS some strong feelings on the annual rivalry game which will be played on Saturday. He also further updates the status of injured quarterback Jeff Tuel, talked about if Kevin Lopina looks to be the starter, ran down the 411 on several other players, shared his thoughts on UW tight end Kavario Middleton's comment about putting 50 on the scoreboard against the Cougs plus much more.
Wulff, when asked if he had heard UW tight end Kavario Middleton's remarks about Saturday's Apple Cup, answered in the affirmative.
"We want to put up 50 points," Middleton told the Seattle Times. "Run the score up. Put on a show. We're just trying to make a statement that we are the real deal."
Wulff said he did not want to share his thoughts on the remark publicly. He said he discourages his players from making disparaging comments about opponents, and said he is "pretty sure" the Cougar players are aware of Middleton's remarks.
"That's obviously bullet-board material that's going to be used," he said.
Wulff said "I'll take 50" points for WSU, but pointed out the Huskies have an advantage with a bye week before the game.
"They've had a week off to prepare as well and we didn't," he said. "We know they have a lot of extra tricks. They have nothing to lose."
UW IS FAVORED to win the Apple Cup by nearly four touchdowns, but Wulff said his team does not lack confidence despite their rough season.
"We're optimistic," he said. "We're not going into this with any doubts. The goal is to come away with a win."
Mike Price and Bill Doba walked along the same sideline at Martin Stadium for 14 years. But as coaches, the fans and media members noticed the differences in their dispositions. That particularly was true when it came to the Apple Cup.
From 1989 to 2002, Price like to read letters from alumnus about the importance of the game and was known for the motivational techniques he used for the Apple Cup and other games. Perhaps the most popular -- or controversial -- one came early in his career when he dressed as "Tommy Trojan" before a game against USC.
Doba generally was more understated when it came to preparation for the game in five years as WSU's coach following Price. But as coach Paul Wulff prepares for his second Apple Cup at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium, he said he is more similar to Price in that regard.
"I'm probably more into reading letters from former players," said Wulff, adding that he and his players watched a video about WSU's football history last year before the game. "I'm big into history and tradition and I think it's important we bring that to our players all the time."
Wulff was an offensive lineman for the Cougars from 1986-89, and said the game is important no matter what the records of the teams are. WSU (1-10 overall, 0-8 conference) and UW (3-7, 2-5) are playing a third consecutive rivalry game without bowl prospects for either team. The last time either team had an opportunity for a bowl berth, the Cougars lost 35-32 in 2006 to finish 6-6.
"I think everyone who has been around it gets wrapped up around the emotion of the game," Wulff said. "Just the intensity, history and tradition of it. I think everyone who goes every year is going to come away with a memory they're never going to forget."
WSU HAS WON two consecutive Apple Cups, including last year's 16-13 double-overtime victory, and four of the last five in the series.
Last year's win helped preserve a streak of eight straight seasons where the Cougars had a better record than UW.
That streak ended this year, but Wulff said a victory still "takes the sting out of the season a little bit when you come out with a win."
"Once the game is over in terms of the players and coaches, you try and finalize your recruiting plans," he said. "It's back to work and doing the underlying things that make our program better."
Wulff said senior Kevin Lopina will start the Apple Cup and sophomore Marshall Lobbestael might play. The prospect of true freshman Jeff Tuel, who suffered a subluxed right kneecap Nov. 7 at Arizona, playing is not promising.
"There's an outside chance that Jeff Tuel may play, but it's very remote," he said, adding that a final decision likely will come Wednesday. "He's making a lot of progress. I don't know if he's going to be in a position where the doctors feel like he won't be at risk of re-injuring it."
LAST YEAR, UW quarterback Jake Locker missed the Apple Cup because of a broken thumb. But Locker, a junior who many analysts predict could be a first-round pick if he bypasses his senior season, has stayed healthy and completed 195 of 344 passes for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Locker also is well regarded for his scrambling ability -- he rushed for 986 yards in 2007 -- but has just 217 yards and four touchdowns on 88 carries this year.
"Obviously we have to prevent any big plays and force them to punt the ball," Wulff said. "Jake Locker spearheads that. It all revolves around him. We're going to need to be sure tacklers in this game.
"I know it hurt them a ton to not have him play last year. He's an impact guy. We know we won't stop him, but we have to do our best to contain him."
He said he does not believe there is a more athletic quarterback in the country than Locker.
"He's the best," Wulff said. "There's not a better athlete. Not a bigger, stronger, faster guy. (Florida's) Tim Tebow is the closest. Whenever you have someone of that magnitude in your program, it gives you an opportunity to win every game."
IN ADDITION TO Locker, Wulff cited redshirt freshman running back Chris Polk and sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Kearse as offensive standouts for the Huskies. Polk has 889 yards and three touchdowns on 179 carries, while Kearse has 625 yards and six touchdowns on 39 receptions. Both players led UW in yards at their respective positions.
"He's a very strong, physical runner," said Wulff, referring to Polk. "Kearse at receiver is a guy who can make big plays. He can make a big spectacular catch."
THAT PRESENTS A challenge for the Cougars, who only suited up 13 scholarship players on defense during Saturday's 42-10 against Oregon State. That number could improve this week if defensive end Jesse Feagin (hand), cornerback Brandon Jones (back), safeties Jay Matthews (shoulder) and Chima Nwachukwu (ankle), and defensive tackles Dan Spitz (concussion) and Bernard Wolfgramm (back) are able to return.
The lack of athletes on that side of the ball has become such an issue that three former offensive players are listed on the defensive depth chart. Former wide receivers Easton Johnson and Colin Huemmer, a pair of walk-ons, have practiced at safety this week. Johnson is expected to start if Nwachukwu cannot play. Offensive line convert Michael Pfeiff, another walk-on, is listed as a second-string defensive tackle.
The amount of injuries makes it difficult for the coaching staff to substitute players.
"The guys we have out there are playing a lot of football," he said. "We're trying to make sure we cushion ourselves with an extra guy at each position."
Similar to most schools, WSU generally only signs one quarterback in each recruiting class. Tuel was the Cougar signee last year, but Wulff also liked what he saw from Redmond quarterback David Gilbertson and asked him to walk-on. David's father, Keith, is a longtime college football coach including a stint as the Huskies head coach in 2003-04.
"I really liked some of the moxie he had," said Wulff. "I thought he would be a great fit in our program. He knows he's got an opportunity to earn (a scholarship). I think he saw the opportunity."
If sophomore B.J. Guerra (concussion) is unable to play against the Huskies, Wulff said junior Joe Eppele will start at right guard.
In the shadow of last week's game against OSU where the students had already left town for the break, Wulff said WSU's administration is working on how to deal with a home game on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Those games traditionally have been among the most poorly attended at Martin Stadium.
"We're trying to adjust our current schedule and we don't know if we will be able to get it done," he said. "It's a very challenging time to play a game here in Pullman that week."
As reported by CF.C yesterday. senior linebacker Jason Stripling remains suspended for the Apple Cup. Stripling started every game before he was arrested by the Pullman Police Department on Nov. 15 and charged with fourth-degree assault and obstructing a public servant, according to the police report.
When asked, Wulff agreed with most of the media draft gurus that it would be risky for Locker to return for his senior year. He cited Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who elected to come back to school as a fourth-year junior. Bradford, who was projected as a first-round pick if he had declared for the draft last year, sustained an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder that required surgery and is out for the season.
"Everyone saw what happened to Sam Bradford with coming back," Wulff said. "He's (Locker) a valuable commodity and he makes everyone look a lot better."
Wulff said the team will have a morning practice on Thanksgiving and then a team meal around lunchtime at Moscow's University Inn.