Pac-12: Jim Sterk
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go.
- Arizona State has a lot of guys back, but there are questions this spring.
- California has big questions at quarterback, and this breaks them down.
- A preview of Oregon's rebuilding offensive line. Ducks fans probably feel pretty good about things at quarterback.
- More on Oregon State's coaching changes. And here too -- and Cliff has fancied up his blog. Good information here on the departure of linebackers coach Greg Newhouse.
- This look at holes for BCS championship contenders includes Oregon and Stanford.
- Previewing UCLA's tight ends.
- Ten questions for USC as it heads into spring practices. There are questions with the new specialists.
- Previewing Washington's defensive line, which might be sneaky-good. Or even just good.
- Jim Sterk, Washington State's former athletic director, is having a good year.
- How does your quarterback rate on Pro Football Reference's/Neil Payne's "Ultimate Adjusted Yards Per Attempt" (uAYA) measure?
- Is the Pac-12 going to strike it rich -- as in best of all BCS conferences rich -- when it signs a new TV deal? Maybe.
- Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh chat it up!
Andrew from Syracuse writes: Regarding your Oregon strong and weak article, I agree that the defensive line is the obvious weakness of team but I noticed that you didn't mention incoming freshman Ricky Heimuli. I was wondering what kind of impact you think he'll have next year. I know that it's tough for true freshman to make the transition to D1 football but with the state of the D line it seems that he has the size and strength to contribute right away. At least I'm hoping he does because the line (minus Rowe) was awful against Ohio State and needs big bodies.
Ted Miller: I mostly don't include freshmen who arrive in the fall when assessing the strength of a position for spring practices -- unless the frosh is a spectacular talent at a skill position, where it's easier to contribute early. Line positions are much different animals. When you see true freshmen starting on either line, more often than not it's about a gaping talent void rather than a player beating out veterans.
My guess is Oregon would prefer to redshirt Heimuli but odds are fairly good he'll play because of depth issues and his obvious talent and advanced physical development. Further complicating things, however, is his stated desire to go on a LDS mission after his freshman year (see UCLA offensive tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who started at left tackle as a true freshman last fall but opted to go on a mission).
As for the D-line in the Rose Bowl: I disagree.
Ohio State got a career-best performance from quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the Rose Bowl, while Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli reverted to his Boise State passing form -- 9-of-20 for 81 yards with a pick. Quarterback play was the difference in the game, particularly on third down.
Ohio State didn't run the ball well against Oregon, other than Pryor's scrambles. Buckeye backs combined for 87 yards on 28 carries (3.1 yards per carry) with a long run of 11 yards.
The Ducks didn't dominate up front, but they certainly weren't pushed around.
Kevin from Scottsdale writes: I'm a fan of Keaton Kristick's (Oregon State) and I can't figure out why his performance at the combine isn't getting any attention? He finished in the top 10 in 5 out of 6 "field" categories against 36 of the best college LB's in the country? Yet, most of what has been written about him says he's not athletic, too small (since when was 6'3" 234lbs too small?), and CBS Sports went so far as to say his best chance may be the CFL? Here's what what I saw on the NFL combine website shortly after Monday's session. He tied for 4th among LB's in the 40 (4.64), finished 3rd in the BJ (10'), 6th in the 20S (4.21), 3rd in the 60S (11.33) and 9th in the 3 cone (6.96). Find another player at any position that can say that? I'm guessing not very many.
Ted Miller: I was surprised how well Kristicks's measurables came out -- even his size. I'd have pegged him at about 6-foot-2, 225 when I chatted with him at Pac-10 media day last July.
What stood out to me about Kristick is he tested well in the drills that measure quickness and change of direction. Help me out here: Are those good skills for a LB to have?
I have read the same things you have. Little has been written that indicates Kristick will get drafted anywhere before the late rounds.
One thing to keep in mind is much of what is written around draft time is just blather. There's so much misdirection and overanalysis it's hard to measure what's accurate.
My guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that Kristicks's performances, combined with lots of impressive game tape, as well as a good Beavers legacy at the position, will get him drafted.
I expect him to stick on a team. He may not become star or even a starter, but guys like Kristick seem to find their way to solid NFL careers.
Andrew from Seattle writes: Is there any actual truth to the discussion of kicking WSU out of the Pac 10 or are the local sports talk stations trying to fill a really slow period in local sports? It seems to me that while there are negatives WSU brings to the table there are some positives and reasonable recent success Rose bowl 03 Sweet 16 in 06. All the Internet folks are bringing up comments from Sterk from last April. That too seems a bit far fetched for me.
Ted Miller: At the risk of sounding wishy-washy: No.
There's no chance of kicking Washington State out of the Pac-10.
Jeremy from Tempe writes: Why all the Arizona stories? Who cares? Isn't this the Pac-10 blog, not the Arizona blog?
Ted Miller: Three reasons for the glut of Arizona stories.
1. Arizona started spring practices last Friday.
2. I was in Tucson that day.
3. Only Arizona and Stanford are practicing right now.
JT from New York City writes: Ted, I got two weird questions for you. How tall are you and how much do you weigh? It helps give perspective on the dudes you interview.
Ted Miller: I'm 6-foot-10, 280 pounds.
Plus or minus.
No, I'm 5-11, 210. OK, 215. But I'm shooting to drop to two bills by the preseason.
Speaking of which...
Andrew from Berkeley, Calif., writes: I'm headed to Eugene for a non-football related sporting event, I was wondering if you had any suggestions for good food? I noticed you liked Le Cheval in Oakland so I can trust your taste.
Ted Miller: Mmmm. Le Cheval. Made the mistake of pulling up the menu. When's lunch?
Most folks in Eugene would start with Beppe & Gianni's. You'll probably run into Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti there. Beppe is a great guy and he's particularly skilled at hiring hostesses.
I've had a handful of good meals at Adam's Place, home of the Eugene Martini Association, but some folks accused me of being hoity-toity when I touted the place two years ago.
Fact is, I've always thought there were plenty of good meals to be had in Eugene.
And this inquiry is a good time for a heads up: I'm going to put together a list of Pac-10 restaurants for you road trippers this year and, obviously, we need our loyal readers to participate.
So feel free to send in suggestions.
Bill Moos, the highly respected former athletic director at Oregon, will become the Cougars new athletic director, replacing Jim Sterk, the Spokesman-Review reported.
A news conference is expected Wednesday to officially announce Moos' arrival.
Moos is a former All-Pac-8 offensive lineman for the Cougars and he owns a ranch an hour north of Pullman.
A recipient of the WSU Alumni Achievement Award, Moos oversaw Oregon's development from a Pac-10 afterthought into a Pac-10 power while he led the Ducks athletic department from 1995-2007.
During his tenure, the UO athletic budget grew from $18 million to $41 million and the Ducks won 13 Pac-10 championships. Moos oversaw the renovation and expansion of Autzen Stadium and the Casanova Center, as well as the construction of the Moshofsky Sports Center.
One of the complications for hiring Moos was a non-compete agreement he signed with Oregon after he was forced out of the job -- issues with Ducks sugar daddy Phil Knight -- which promised him $2 million over the next 10 years as long as he didn't work for a BCS school west of the Mississippi.
The news conference Wednesday might offer some insight as to how Moos and Oregon worked things out.
Good hire for Washington State, which has a lot of issues -- financial and competitive -- it must deal with in the short term.
As for football coach Paul Wulff, who's gone 3-22 his first two seasons, his coaching hot seat is only slightly warmer with Moos than with Sterk. These two aren't strangers; Moos was part of the group that backed the hiring of Wulff. And Moos isn't the sort to go off half-cocked and dispatch someone just so he can hire "his guy."
Of course, the Cougars need to take a considerable step forward in 2010 or Wulff likely will be in trouble even if the AD is an ally.
Sometimes your words just hypnotize me
And I just love your flashy ways
Guess that's why they broke, and you're so paid (uh)
- Bob Gregory talks about leaving California for Boise State, and some of his comments seem to tweak Bears coach Jeff Tedford.
- Now-former Oregon -- and USC -- receiver Jamere Holland needs to grow up.
- Oregon State is still focused on recruiting. Video here.
- Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh wants his favorite band to reunite and play at a Cardinal game this fall.
- All USC can do now is wait on the NCAA to make its ultimate ruling.
- A couple of Washington notes.
- Now former AD Jim Sterk says goodbye to Washington State.
Moos was the captain of the 1972 Cougars and earned first-team All-Pac-8 honors as an offensive lineman.
“In recent days I have received a number of messages from Cougar supporters indicating an interest in Bill Moos as a candidate for the athletic director position,” school president Elson S. Floyd said in a statement. “In light of that sentiment, I believe it is important to bring Bill to campus to allow him to meet with members of the campus community to determine the mutual level of interest going forward.”
After meeting with upper campus and athletic administrators, Moos will take part in a public forum with members of the university community.
Beginning in 1982, Moos directed WSU Athletic Development for five and a half years and was associate athletic director for nearly two years. WSU Athletics generated its first $1 million year in annual giving in 1984 and improved each succeeding year.
A recipient of the WSU Alumni Achievement Award, Moos served as athletic director of the University of Oregon from 1995 to 2007. During his tenure, the UO athletic budget grew from $18 million to $41 million and the Ducks won 13 Pac-10 championships. Moos oversaw the renovation and expansion of Autzen Stadium and the Casanova Center, as well as the construction of the Moshofsky Sports Center.
While Cougars fans have been -- understandably -- frustrated with a pair of 11-loss seasons in the first two years of Wulff's tenure, Sterk has consistently stood by the man he hired to replace Bill Doba, who left a gaping talent void behind.
The general feeling was that if the Cougars took another step forward competitively in 2010 -- even if that only produced three or four wins -- that Wulff would have a decent shot to coach into his fourth season.
Now, it's hard to say.
New athletic directors often want their "own guy" as their head football coach. A new person might feel the athletic department, which is struggling financially, might benefit from a boost of energy that a new coach might bring.
It might help Wulff's cause if WSU decides to promote John Johnson from associate athletic director. Johnson was recently a finalist for the UNLV AD vacancy, and he's a Spokane native who was part of the group the interviewed and then hired Wulff. He also was athletic director from 1993-97 at Eastern Washington, where Wulff coached before he took over his alma mater, though Wulff was an assistant -- not the head coach -- during Johnson's tenure.
Still, Sterk was the person mostly likely to give Wulff the benefit of the doubt (not to mention that Sterk would note the expense of hiring and firing another coach).
Now he's gone.
After the Apple Cup, a humiliating 30-zip lost to rival Washington, Wulff said the Cougars have "a chance to make a huge step as a team next year. The pieces are there to make a big, big step."
Considering how deep the Pac-10 looks to be in 2010 -- the Cougars will be a consensus pick to finish 10th again -- not to mention a nonconference schedule that includes visits to Oklahoma State and rising SMU, it's hard to predict at this point whether that "big step" could be much better than, say, 3-9.
It would have been hard for Sterk to keep a coach whose three-year mark was 6-31. But he might have tried.
A new athletic director probably won't.
Moreover, the Pac-10 blog believes in the wisdom of WSU athletic director Jim Sterk: It was a good decision to give coach Paul Wulff at least one more season to turn the program around.
Wulff inherited a sinking ship. Maybe a coaching genius would have righted the thing in two seasons and then motored off to a tropical bowl game. But the Pac-10 blog doubts that.
There is hope in the Cougars youth this season. There is hope in savvy recruiting. And there is hope because hope is sometimes all you have.
The program has risen from the ashes before.
But what follows is basically a catalogue of numbers that quantify an uncomfortable present reality: Washington State is the worst BCS conference team over the past two seasons by a wide margin.
And, playing in a conference that may be the nation's best this year and, perhaps, next year, Washington State clearly ranks among the worst in all of FBS football.
The Cougars are now 3-22 overall and 1-17 in the Pac-10 over the last two seasons.
For most Cougars fans, that is enough. But we have more. Lots more.
Last year, the Cougars ranked last in the Pac-10 five of eight major statistical categories (pass, run, total and scoring offense and defense).
This year, the Cougars rank last in all eight.
Last year, the Cougars ranked 118th in the nation -- second to last -- in scoring offense and defense.
This year, the Cougars ranked 119th in scoring offense -- second to last again -- and 118th in scoring defense.
Last year, the Cougars ranked 74th in the nation in attendance (30,718)
This year, the Cougars rank 85th (22,509), worst among BCS conference teams.
How about this: Using a complicated metric, Football Outsiders calculated that five of the 10 worst performances this year in games between BCS teams were recorded by Washington State.
Want more? No?
Sorry. We have more.
ESPN.com's crack crew in Stats & Information looked behind the numbers to see where the Cougars stood. It ain't pretty.
By the way, some of this will interest -- and perhaps surprise -- fans of other teams. Michigan, UCLA and Arizona State -- even Virginia Tech -- might find some insights into shortcomings below.
Yards per rush, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 804 attempts, 2084 yards, 2.59 average
2. Duke: 758, 2036, 2.69
3. San Jose St.: 701, 1933, 2.76
4. Fla Int'l: 802, 2245, 2.80
Lowest percentage of offensive plays gaining 5-plus yards, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 33.8
2. Central Florida: 34.4
3. New Mexico State: 35.6
4. San Jose State: 35.8
Most negative plays, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 251
2. Virginia Tech: 221
3. Michigan: 215
4. Wake Forest: 212
Highest percentage of negative plays, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 16.3
2. San Jose State: 13.8
3. Michigan: 13.3
Fewest TD drives of 60-plus yards, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 20
2. Army: 23
3. UCLA: 24
Highest percentage of 3-and-outs, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 31.0
2. San Jose State: 29.4
3. New Mexico State: 28.3
4. Virginia: 27.8
Most 3-and-outs, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 104
2. Boston College: 99
3. Michigan: 93
4. Vanderbilt: 91
Worst 3rd down conversion percentage, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 25.4
2. Arizona St: 30.1
3. Syracuse: 30.3
4. San Jose St: 30.6
Worst 3rd and long conversion percentage (3rd and 7-plus), last two seasons
1. Washington State: 11.5
2. Army: 15.7
3. Syracuse: 16.4
4. Arizona St: 18.5
Fewest percentage of 3-and-outs forced, last two seasons
1. Idaho: 11.7
2. Washington: 12.5
3. Washington St.: 13.8
4. Tulane: 13.8
Percentage of plays allowed for 10-plus yards, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 24.5
2. Idaho: 23.1
3. North Texas: 23.0
4. Rice: 22.4
Most plays of 10-plus yards allowed, last two seasons
1. Washington State: 432
2. Rice: 412
3. UTEP: 395
4. Texas A&M: 391
Highest Average Yards Allowed per Kickoff Return, Last Two Seasons
1. Idaho: 27.0
2. North Texas: 26.2
3. Washington St: 26.1
- Arizona's injuries at tailback means an opportunity for a player buried on the depth chart. Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles was almost a Sun Devil.
- Arizona-Arizona State is lacking some buzz this season. Nothing official, but it looks like Samson Szakacsy will start at quarterback.
- California stayed positive and the season then made a similar turn.
- Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti deserves some credit for the Ducks' success this year, but he may want to make some changes in the marketing department, which has failed to embrace the best marketing effort for the program in years.
- Oregon State is treating last year's Civil War blowout loss as a distant memory.
- Jim Harbaugh says he plans to stay at Stanford but he doesn't want to talk about it. It's likely Stanford won't have to travel far for its bowl game.
- UCLA has an edge over USC with special teams. Rick Neuheisel knows the rivalry as well as anyone.
- Where have all of USC's playmakers gone? Has USC-UCLA lost its juice?
- Washington running back Chris Polk is on a record-setting pace. It doesn't appear John McGrath is goosed for the Apple Cup.
- Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk continues to back coach Paul Wulff. Checking in with the Cougs: Kevin Lopina will start at QB and other notes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Back in 2000, the weekly Pac-10 coaches conference call took on an amusing sameness when Washington State coach Mike Price's turn came up.
Remember that scene in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when the teacher -- "Anyone? Anyone? ... the Great Depression, passed the ... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill?" -- was desperate to get a student to participate in his class?
That was conference call moderator Jim Muldoon, the Pac-10's associate commissioner, trying to get reporters to ask Price a question.
|Stephen Dunn/Getty Images|
|Paul Wulff and the Cougars have won just one Pac-10 game in their last 13 tries.|
Price was a good quote and one of the nicest guys in coaching, but his team was in the midst of winning just three conference in the three seasons since it had played in the 1998 Rose Bowl. His Cougs weren't terribly relevant.
"Anyone with a question for Coach Price?" Muldoon would plead.
"There are no questions in the cue," the operator would reply.
What then happened most weeks was Bob Condotta, now with the Seattle Times but then with the Tacoma News Tribune, then would hit the "*1" to ask a question. Condotta covered Washington, but he was a Washington State graduate and he felt bad for Price, he'd later explain to me.
Over the next three seasons, though, Washington State won 30 games and finished ranked in the top 10 each year. Price and then Bill Doba got a lot more questions because they were relevant.
This is a long-winded way to make a simple point: There isn't much to say about Washington State right now. The Cougars aren't good and odds are decent they won't win a game in perhaps the deepest conference in college football.
And when a program in a BCS conference is looking at the possibility of winning only three games over a two-year span, it lands that program's head coach on a perceived hot seat, no matter what circumstances he inherited. Perhaps that's why Paul Wulff gets plenty of questions on the conference call.
So it's not completely unfair to call Wulff "embattled" or whatever. The debate over Wulff's two years on the main WSU blogs -- here , here and here -- has been fairly animated, though the always positive Lew Wright has tried to keep the Coug nation bucked up.
Two points, though.
First, the Cougars have been pretty awful for stretches throughout their history. And they have always bounced back.
Second, the Cougars, despite epidemic injuries for a second consecutive year, are better and playing harder than a year ago.
Now, be forewarned that what follows won't be much consolation to Washington State fans. But it's something to think about during the bye week.
In its four Pac-10 games thus far, the Cougars have dramatically reduced their margin of defeat from last year.
Stanford beat the Cougs by 58 in 2008 but by 26 in 2009; USC won by 69 in 2008, 21 in 2009; Oregon, 49 in 2008 and 46 in 2009. A bad Arizona State team beat the Cougs by 31 last year but a decent one only eclipsed them by 13 last week.
Hey, it's tangible progress.
What's a great measure of a team just slopping around? Turnover margin. Last year, the Cougars finished ranked 119th -- last in the nation -- in turnover margin. They forced only 13 and gave away 38.
So far this year, the Cougs aren't even last in the Pac-10 (OK, they're ninth, but still). They've forced 18 and given away 20, which ranks 76th in the country, ahead of plenty of quality teams.
Of course, it's easy to find bad news. They are at or near the bottom of the Pac-10 in every major offensive and defensive statistically category.
With a makeshift O-line missing three starters, they gave 12 sacks last week at home against Arizona State.
"We're playing some guys in there right now who physically, it's tough for them," Wulff said. "They are not ready to play every down in the Pac-10."
Wulff also didn't hide from an obvious area where he, with some validity, could be criticized: Behind that overmatched line, he again started a true freshman quarterback, Jeff Tuel, whom Wulff had planned to redshirt.
Yes, Wulff, said he was concerned that his young quarterback might lose his confidence under such an assault.
“That’s the thing we have to be real careful with,” he said. “We’re trying to grow up some young guys who have got enough potential to be awfully good. But in the process of growing up, we don’t ruin or do any sort of psychological damage, and or physical damage to our players.”
When Tuel, understandably, got out of sync, Wulff sat him down for a bit and inserted former starter Marshall Lobbestael, who's only a sophomore himself. When Tuel came back in the second half, Wulff felt he played much better.
Tuel finished the day completing 11 of 22 passes for 175 yards with two picks and two TDs, one of which went for 99 yards to receiver Johnny Forzani.
The beat up offensive line might get both starting guards -- B.J. Guerra (knee) and Zach Williams (ankle) -- back for the visit to California on Oct. 24. That should help, though there are now some questions at left tackle where Tyson Pencer (ankle, illness) and Steven Ayers (ankle) have been alternating injuries.
The athletic department is cash strapped and attendance at Martin Stadium is down.
There are no significant signs that athletic director Jim Sterk is going to suddenly lose one of his good qualities -- patience -- but who knows.
These are rough times in Pullman, and they may inspire hasty, drastic measures.
But if Coug fans look close enough they might see reasons for hope.
Anyone? Anyone? Reasons for hope? Anyone?
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Washington State's Athletic Foundation is looking for a few more good Cougars.
Though the football team is struggling and attendance is on the wane inside Martin Stadium, the foundation announced an initiative Saturday -- named "10/10/10" -- to increase its membership to 10,000 over the next year.
The school is in the midst of a stadium renovation project, but the new initiative is specifically about an urgent lack of money to pay for scholarships.
The scholarship cost for the last fiscal year was more than $6 million, offset by donations of almost $3 million, resulting in a $3 million gap, the school reported in the news release. That gap will be covered by athletic department operating expenses that would otherwise be directed toward sport program improvements. With tuition increasing by 14 percent in each of the next two fiscal years, due to university budget shortfalls, the initiative's purpose will be to narrow the scholarship gap between costs and donations.
“The athletic foundation has a number of major projects on the table, with none bigger than the Martin Stadium Phase III renovation,” athletics director Jim Sterk said in a statement. “But this initiative is vital, because our annual giving to scholarships has not kept pace with our scholarship bill. When we can’t cover scholarship costs with annual donations, it puts us behind our Pac-10 competitors in a significant way."
The school reported that there are presently 6,000 foundation members, which requires a minimum annual gift of $100. Membership has fluctuated from the mid-5,000 to low-6,000 range over the last five years.
So boosting membership to 10,000 in one year may be a considerable challenge.
“This undertaking is extremely aggressive, but I believe we must set aggressive goals at this time,” said Dan Meyer, assistant athletics director overseeing the annual scholarship fund. “The financial challenges we face require an infusion of new donors to the program. We will continue to push our current donors to raise their commitment to the Cougs on an annual basis, but I want to invite new Cougs to step up and join us in this initiative."
It's clear this initiative arises from an urgent need.
“This is as clear as we can be to Cougar Nation: We need your support now, even if it is not possible to reach every Coug with a face-to-face appeal," Meyer said. "If you have never contributed to Cougar Athletics before, become an Athletic Foundation member with a gift of at least $100 to student-athlete scholarships. And if you are a current donor, we thank you, and ask you to consider raising the bar this year, if possible.”
For more information, click here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
First in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting at the bottom and working up from my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.
Up first: Washington State
It wasn't long ago that losing by 10 points at home to Stanford would have been a terrible outcome for Washington State, but a 30-20 opening defeat to the fast-rising, experienced Cardinal provided grounds for Cougars optimism as the 2009 season began.
For one, Stanford beat the Cougars 58-0 a year ago.
Second, the game was in doubt until the fourth quarter, when a surprisingly stout WSU defense finally let Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart find some cracks.
That optimism was further validated when the Cougars improved to 2-1 with victories over Hawaii and SMU. Andy Mattingly and Louis Bland led a rejuvenated pass rush, and four interceptions, two from safety Xavier Hicks, stymied a pair of pass-happy offenses.
Decisive losses at USC and Oregon reminded the Cougars that there was still a gap between them and the top of the conference, but an upset of Arizona State evened the record at 3-3. Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael shocked a tough Sun Devils defense with a pair of touchdown passes, while running backs James Montgomery and Dwight Tardy combined for 195 yards rushing, 50 more than Georgia had in its surprisingly tight win over ASU a few weeks before.
The Cougars couldn't keep up with Jahvid Best in Berkeley, but the Paul Wulff Era took a decisive uptick with a nationally televised upset of No. 15 Notre Dame in San Antonio. Cougars fans painted the Riverwalk crimson while pointing out they'd won the game and the party.
A late touchdown left the Cougars frustrated at Arizona, and bowl hopes were doused by consecutive home defeats to UCLA and Oregon State.
The Cougars then traveled across the state to Seattle, with the 5-6 Huskies knowing a single win would transform their program from 0-12 in '08 to bowl eligible a season later.
But a 45-yard field goal from Nico Grasu in the waning moments gave the Cougars their fifth Apple Cup victory in six seasons.
"We are not satisfied with 5-7 by any stretch," Wulff said. "But we can build on this."
It wasn't just the score. Opening with a 38-3 home loss to Stanford was significantly closer -- at least mathematically -- than the 58-0 blanking Washington State suffered on the Farm a year before.
No, it was 254 yards rushing from Toby Gerhart, a total that eclipsed the Cougars entire offensive output. A year after owning the nation's worst run defense, it appeared that little had improved and that the Cougars weren't physically ready for Pac-10 play.
Or WAC or Conference USA play either after Hawaii and SMU ran the Cougars ragged. The specter of a winless season begins to hover over the program, and athletic director Jim Sterk is forced to give coach Paul Wulff a dreaded "vote of confidence."
It becomes clear as the losses pile up that things are going to have to get worse in Pullman before they begin to get better. A handful of injuries make things even harder for a young team that is thin at just about every position.
The Cougars play better in November, almost upsetting UCLA at home and playing a competitive game for a half with Oregon State.
But they are winless heading into the Apple Cup to face a Husky program that is hungry for revenge and that also is showing signs of life under first-year coach Steve Sarkisian, particularly on the recruiting trail.
So a 42-17 loss is particularly galling. Not only does it leave the Cougars winless, but it also sends the Huskies to their first bowl game since 2002 and inspires Jake Heaps to switch his commitment from BYU to Washington.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Fifteenth in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles.
Don't be surprised if ... Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk, no matter what happens this season, remains optimistic that coach Paul Wulff is going to turn things around.
You review the depth chart. You look at the newcomers. And it's hard to project much success for Washington State's season.
In fact, it's likely the Cougars will be the unanimous pick to finished last in the conference at Pac-10 media day.
So let's say the Cougars win one, two or three games and end up in the conference basement. Does that mean fans should start calling for Wulff's head?
It's impossible to judge a coach on two seasons. And Sterk, who strikes me as a measured decision-maker, knows that and isn't going to panic.
Wulff inherited a program that had lost its direction. Or, to be more direct: He inherited a program devoid of talent and leadership.
That was fairly obvious last year when the Cougars lost games 66-3, 63-14, 66-13, 69-0 and 58-0. It was so bad a 31-0 defeat didn't make the list.
But you know what? Washington was a lot more talented than WSU last year, yet the Cougars showed more character in a comeback, overtime victory in the Apple Cup.
The team didn't quit. There was a glimmer of hope at season's end and recruiting went fairly well.
It's going to take a while for Wulff to get his players into school and establish his culture and schemes.
If Coug fans need something more than that: Recall the charmed 1997 Rose Bowl season.
What happened next?
WSU won three conference games over the next three seasons. The Cougs lost eight in a row in 1998. They lost to Utah and Idaho -- Idaho! -- at home in 1999. They lost again to Idaho -- Idaho! -- in 2000 and dropped the Apple Cup 51-3.
51-3! (I was at that game. One word: Cold).
Lots of folks were thinking it was time to kick Mike Price to the curb.
What happened next?
Three consecutive 10-win seasons that ended with top-10 rankings happened next.
Part of the present malaise is due to the program becoming drunk with that success. Former coach Bill Doba admitted as much. After beating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl, he decide to up the ante in recruiting and go after bigger names.
Didn't work. And those scrappy diamonds in the rough that built those 10-win team went elsewhere (Oregon State perhaps).
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say recruiting just fell apart.
Wulff is a Coug through-and-through. He knows the program. He knows Pullman. While he's had more than his share of muddles during the early-going, the guess here is he's going to figure things out.
It ain't going to happen in 2009, though WSU fans have a right to expect more competitive games.
And it probably ain't going to happen in 2010, though WSU fans have a right to expect an obvious uptick.
But by year four it will be on Wulff.
It will take patience to get there. My guess is Sterk owns that quality.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Eighth in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles.
Don't be surprised if ... No coach loses his job after the 2009 season.
That's a big deal. It's happened just once -- 2005 -- over the past eight seasons. [Editor's note: There were no Pac-10 coaching changes heading into the 2000 and 2006 seasons, but to keep things consistent with the above assertion, as a reader noted below, we changed 2006 to 2005 here].
The life expectancy of a head coach in the Pac-10 isn't long. Washington has had four different coaches since 1999. Heck, Stanford, a school that prizes stability, has had four since 2001.
Only California, Oregon, Oregon State and USC have changed coaches just once since 1999.
Every Pac-10 media day, associate commissioner Jim Muldoon introduces the conference's "Dean of Coaches." Used to be Washington State's Mike Price (14 seasons until he bolted for Alabama -- whoops! -- after the 2002 season). Then the title went to Mike Bellotti (14 seasons at Oregon until he became athletic director this year).
Guess who's the new dean? Pete Carroll, who heads into his ninth season this fall. (Oregon State's Mike Riley also could lay claim to the title because 2009 will be his ninth leading the Beavers, but his tenure is divided by a foray into the NFL from 1999-2001).
Last fall, Arizona's Mike Stoops and Washington's Tyrone Willingham were on very hot seats.
Stoops led the Wildcats to their first bowl game in a decade -- an impressive Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU -- and earned a contract extension that probably means he's safe this season, barring a complete collapse, which is unlikely.
Willingham? Well, everyone knows how that one ended.
But heading into 2009, Pac-10 coaches are either too new to fairly judge or too established to get the hook if things get ugly.
Sure, some Washington State fans might get antsy with another terrible season under second-year coach Paul Wulff, but Wulff inherited a major rebuilding project and AD Jim Sterk is not the sort to make a rash decision based on a few grumbling boosters.
Of course, sometimes coaches leave for other reasons than being fired.
Lots of folks might be interested in how things pan out for USC with the NCAA, and whether that might cause Carroll's eye to wander back to the NFL (the odds on that are probably lower than most folks think, by the way).
Or maybe a guy like up-and-comer Jim Harbaugh gets an offer he can't refuse.
Still, the feeling here is the Pac-10 will get something at the end of the season that is always good for a conference: Coaching continuity.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel.
- Michigan transfer Steven Threet, at worst, means Arizona State might be the nation's tallest team at quarterback.
- Oregon's defensive line has looked good this spring, but part of that is injuries to the Ducks' offensive line. Behind them, the Ducks also feel good where they are at linebacker.
- More on Oregon State's rebuilding offensive line. Beavers cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward has his hands full this spring, with two of his former corners off to the NFL.
- A good but not great baseball season suggests Stanford will get tailback Toby Gerhart back in 2009.
- UCLA's depth charts: offense and defense. An uneven performance this spring by the receivers.
- USC linebacker Chris Galippo is glad to be back, and glad his back is feeling good. Three Trojans opted to stay instead of enter the NFL draft. Two concerns heading into the fall.
- Chris Defresne considers the rites and wrongs of spring.
- John McGrath likes all the fulminating and thinks the Apple Cup should be played, like, right now! Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk responds to Washington AD Scott Woodward's chiding.
- Former Washington receiver Brandon Gibson, a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, doesn't regret returning for his senior season.
- Considering the top Pac-10 tight ends.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
No time to dilly-dally.
To your letters!
Arno from Berkeley writes: As a lifelong college football (and more specifically, Cal) fan, I still can't understand the decision-making process that a lot of top prospects use to pick their school(s). USC has cleaned up in terms of recruiting the past 5+ years, but they have also left dozens of star-caliber players toiling on the bench throughout their collegiate careers. Which begs the question- Why go to 'SC when you have a legitimately better chance playing somewhere else?
Ted Miller: I get this question a lot. And the internal logic is sound.
But that same logic often isn't found inside elite athletes -- in fact, one of the reasons an athlete becomes elite is he doesn't think like that.
An elite athlete believes he will prevail. He craves competition. And he wants to beat out the best and then play on the biggest stage.
That's the appeal of USC during its present dynastic run.
And if I were recruiting against USC, I would recognize that fact and be very careful and strategic in how I counter it.
I've talked to recruits who were shown USC's depth chart by other schools -- an obvious effort to show how hard it will be to get playing time. And some take it as an insult, that said school is telling them they're not as good as the guys on that depth chart.
Patrick from Seattle writes: I absolutely hate the idea of moving the Apple Cup to Qwest Field. As a WSU alum, three of my favorite memories as a student (yeah it took me an extra semester to graduate) were the Apple Cups in Pullman. And admittedly, 2 other favorite college memories were tailgating with friends in the Husky Stadium parking lot. I sent a letter to each school's Athletic Director and President, but I'm just counting the minutes until I receive my automated response. I can already see the response: "In these hard economic times, any extra income for the schools is necessary", aka selling out. It pains me to know that kids will go through their entire education in Pullman and never experience an Apple Cup in Martin Stadium. Another situation hurting the student is that ticket prices will skyrocket (WSU students pay $75 for any game, any sport, all year) and the students will be hurt even more. As a former Economics student, I completely understand it from a business perspective, but I was hoping this would be an untouchable tradition. Hail the almighty dollar.
Guessing it will be a good night at The Coug.
Bret from Washington D.C. writes: A lot is being made of efforts to rebuild the once feared Washington Huskies and the mascot/fight song stealing UCLA bruins. Given that Cal has made one of the most complete turnarounds I know of in college football what would you say went in to that? Besides, obviously, hiring Jeff Tedford. Coaches are important but it takes an Athletic Department to build a program. And do you see UW and UCLA following some of Cal's moves?
Ted Miller: The reason for Cal's renaissance is the hiring of Jeff Tedford. Besides that, the hiring of Jeff Tedford had a profound effect.
If I were going to add one more reason, often ignored, it would be the hiring of Jeff Tedford.
What else went into Cal's resurgence? The promise of facilities upgrades? Nah.
I'm not sure what UW or UCLA could do to emulate Cal's moves, other than hiring Jeff Tedford, which neither can afford to do. The Huskies and Bruins are very different rebuilding projects.
On the plus side for them, UCLA and UW have superior facilities and football tradition -- at least in the modern era.
Washington is banking on Steve Sarkisian's youthful energy, while UCLA is expecting that Rick Neuheisel will to stand nose-to-nose with Pete Carroll.
As for what Tedford has done at Cal: It's special and he deserves almost all the credit.
Michael from Oregon writes: So if Toby Gerhart comes back and Harbaugh's new recruiting class comes through (and hopefully Andrew Luck gets to start0, where do you see Stanford ending up this season?
Ted Miller: I'm not ready to pick the conference yet, but I'd be surprised if Stanford doesn't go to its first bowl game since since 2001. The Cardinal has a favorable schedule and a good mix of experience and young talent.
Denny from Los Angeles writes: Seeing as it is now officially NFL Draft week, what ever happened to Fili Moala? At one point last year, McShay had him billed as a #1 overall pick. Now, he's nowhere to be seen. Kiper doesn't have Moala in his top 5 DTs. What happened? Bad workouts? Injury I don't know about? And how bad does it look for him?
Ted Miller: My guess is Moala will be picked on the first day of the draft and become a good but not great DT in the NFL. Once the earnest evaluation wheels got rolling, a fuller picture of Moala appeared and his rating dropped.
Michael from Los Angeles writes: Ted, What else is there to look forward to besides the blogs? Spring camp is over. The draft lasts only 2 days. Besides work and other productive activities, what can I do so that college football begins asap?
Ted Miller: Despaireth not! The Pac-10 blog, other than a long weekend here and there and a stretch in May-June, will be here, updating you during the offseason.
Because there is no offseason, as you well know, Michael.
Nick from the Bay Area writes: Jahvid, if you're reading this. don't forget to try John's pizza in times square when you go to New York in December
Ted Miller: I have no answer for this -- and have not had pizza from John's -- but Nick's note amused me.