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Cougs Fail First Big Test Of The Paul Wulff Era

Insider Steve’s WSU Cougars MMQB

I guess the Cougars are exactly who we thought they were.

Funny because coming in to this ball game I told everyone the one thing we did not know about this Cougars team is, how for real is this defense? And what defense would show up against San Diego State? Would we see the ball-hawking, up-tempo defense that shutout UNLV the week before, or would we see the can’t stop anyone if we tried, 5-32 over the last three years defense?

As soon as the final whistle was blown, our questions were answered, and our assumptions were validated.

The reality set in very quickly. As great as the 2-0 start was for the Cougs, we realized that these Cougars are a long ways away from taking that next step out from the ashes and into respectability.

And San Diego state was everything the Cougars needed in a test. A mid-major bowl team with similar talents. Offensive weapons in Ronnie Hillman and Ryan Lindley that will show different looks at different points during the game. And a defense that is very capable of stopping a high powered passing offense like Washington State’s. And San Diego State did exactly what they were supposed to do against a team like WSU. Take advantage of the Cougars inexperience.

Now that I have had time to digest this loss, I will give three good questions surrounding this loss to San Diego State.

Insider Steve's WSU Cougars Monday Morning QB

Question #1; Could the Cougars stop or at least neutralize San Diego State’s two-headed monster of Ryan Lindley and Ronnie Hillman?

Answer; No. Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 32 times for 191 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Ryan Lindley was 21/37 for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. San Diego State’s biggest offensive victory was their 11-19 on 3rd down conversions that allowed them to control the time of possession; 35:43. In crunch time, Lindley was the X-factor for the Aztecs. 8 second-half possessions, and 4 TD passes.
Grade; Fail

Question #2 ; Did Marshall Lobbestael pass the seeing eye test against a bowl caliber defense?

Answer ; Yes and no. For the second consecutive game Lobbestael found a way to mix touches between his three play making receivers in Marquess Wilson, Isiah Barton, and Jared Karstetter, which was good for 346 yards and 3 TD’s. As good as Lobbestael’s stat line was, 20/42, 368 yards, and 3TD’s, the Cougar offense was only 6-14 on 3rd downs, and Lobbestael forced two bad picks in crunch time.
Grade: Push

Question #3 ; Did Paul Wulff hurt or help his offense with his game plan?

Answer ; Neither. Paul Wulff stuck to his game plan. Which was to keep the ball in the hands of his biggest play maker, QB Marshall Lobbestael. And ultimately, that ended up costing the Cougars the game. Once it became clear that San Diego state could stop the Wazzu air attack on third downs, Wulff should’ve started mixing in Ricky Galvin more giving the Aztecs defense something different to look at. Especially during the second half when the Cougars started looking very one dimensional.
Grade: Fail

I thought the Cougars started the game with a sense of urgency I thought they need to have. And let’s be 100% honest. This was a must win for the Paul Wulff led Cougars. A win would’ve allowed the Cougars an easier road to six wins. But ultimately, the played like a team not used to winning.

The Ronnie Hillman/Ryan Lindley combo proved to be too much for this young Cougars defense. And that’s okay because it was expected that the Cougs would struggle at times against good veteran offenses.

The good news for the Cougars is they have a lot of good things they can take from this game. The offense can be an unstoppable force, but their defense must be able to match the same intensity during crucial points in the game. These thing will come for the Cougs because they are a good team that does get after it.

Winning will eventually come easier for the Cougars because they know now what it takes to earn these victories.

Up Next: Bye week

Next Game: Oct 1st @ Colorado


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