Washington State season review

December, 19, 2008
12/19/08
4:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington State will take one uplifting thing away from the 2008 season: At least the Cougars aren't Washington.

The comeback victory in the Apple Cup meant there was at least one more miserable team in the nation than the Cougars, and it certainly felt good to make their rivals that team.

Still, coach Paul Wulff's first season was a mostly dismal affair. See: the Cougars' 31-point average margin of defeat.

WSU, which finished 2-11 overall, was the first team to give up 60 or more points four times in one season, and that doesn't count games in which the defense surrendered 58 and 59 points.

Little went well. After losing the top three quarterbacks on the depth chart to injury, Wulff had to hold open trying outs to add warm bodies at the position.

The Cougars, whose other win came against Portland State, a mediocre FCS team, couldn't score. They couldn't defend. And it didn't help matters that their 38 turnovers were the most in the nation.

Turning point: After getting blown out in their first three games, the Cougars crushed Portland State 48-9. Even though it was just a win over an FCS team, it suggested there was hope for the season. The next weekend, however, Oregon crushed those hopes with a 63-14 victory in which the Ducks outgained the Cougs 507 yards to 271, despite completing only nine passes. It became fairly clear at that point WSU wouldn't be doing much winning in 2008.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Brandon Gibson hauled in 57 receptions for 673 yards, both team highs. He completed his career as the Cougars' all-time leader in receiving yards (2,756), and is second on WSU's career receptions list (182).

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Greg Trent, who started 37 consecutive games, recorded a team-high in tackles (88) and tackles for a loss (10.5). He finished his career with 323 career tackles, good for seventh on the school's all-time list.

What's next: Fifteen starters from the final depth chart will be back in 2009, including eight on offense. Nine of those were freshmen or sophomores this year, and 26 different players recorded their first career starts this past season.

So the general feeling is maturity should bring improvement. But how much?

Recruiting seems to be going fairly well. Unless new Washington coach Steve Sarkisian stages a late rally, they Cougars will win the state this winter.

But Wulff didn't inherit much talent. This rebuilding project figures to remain in its early stages next fall.

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