Woeful WSU football team seeks to improve

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Paul Wulff's first season as football coach at Washington State could charitably be called a disaster.

Whether the Cougars can recover from a 2-11 campaign that was among the worst seasons in the program's 100-year history is up for debate. But not with Wulff.

"Without question we will be a much improved football team," Wulff said. "We will be a lot more exciting to watch."

Watching the Cougars give up 570 points while scoring only 165 was anything but exciting. Most games were over well before halftime.

The Cougars beat only Portland State and winless archrival Washington last season. In their 11 losses, they were outscored by an average of 53-9, one of the most lopsided performances in major college football history. The Cougars were outrushed 247 yards to 95 yards per game, and passed for only six touchdowns.

Wulff said the players will be more familiar with his system this year. They've spent more time in the weight room to correct what he called glaring strength deficiencies. And some newly eligible players should bring improvements.

While the defense was last in the Pac-10 last year, Wulff said all the blame cannot be placed on that unit.

The WSU offense led the nation in turnovers (21 interceptions, 17 fumbles lost) and produced so few first downs the defense was constantly on the field, Wulff said.

"There was so much pressure and stress on the defense," Wulff said. "Getting over our offensive woes will allow the defense to be a lot better."

The quarterback position, which saw the top three starters all knocked out by injuries last year, is wide open. Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael share the top of the depth chart, with J.T. Levenseller also in the running to start. All three were hampered by injuries during a season when five different players took snaps.

"We'll see how those guys continue to compete and develop," Wulff said. "Now they've all played some college football. A year ago they had never taken a snap."

Lopina threw for 841 yards with no touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season. Lobbestael threw for 571 yards and four touchdowns, but was lost for the season with injuries in the fifth game.

Top receiver Brandon Gibson graduated, but Kevin Norrell (11 catches), Jeshua Anderson (33 catches, 305 yards) and Jared Karstetter (six catches, 90 yards) showed good signs last year.

The Cougars are deepest at running back, where top rushers Dwight Tardy (481 yards), Logwone Mitz (441 yards), are back, along with transfer James Montgomery from California. A veteran offensive line is anchored by Kenny Alfred, Micah Hannam, B.J. Guerra and Andrew Rojas.

The defense lost veteran defensive back Romeo Pellum to disciplinary problems. Safety Xavier Hicks is back, as are linebackers Louis Bland and Andy Mattingly.

Mattingly can be a big producer if he stays healthy, while Bland started nine games last year as a freshman.

The defensive line has veterans Kevin Kooyman, Jesse Feagin and Toby Turpin back, plus a mix of new players and transfers.

New defensive contributors should include 321-pound Josh Luapo on the defensive line, plus Brandon Jones and Daniel Simmons at cornerback, Wulff said.

The Cougars open the season at home against Stanford on Sept. 5.

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