Team preview: Washington State

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(All information as of June 20, 2008)


It won't show up on their transcripts, but Washington State players are going to receive a lesson in Perseverance 101 this season. First-year head coach Paul Wulff, the instructor preparing the course syllabus, happens to be a leading authority on the subject. His inspirational story of tragedy and triumph should motivate the Cougars to overcome their own challenges, both on and off the field.

The team hardships include the loss of eight scholarships because of poor academic progress, a handful of arrests and suspensions, and a roster that is short on playmakers and long on inexperience. The Cougars won three of their last five games in 2007, but also lost to the Oregon schools by a combined score of 105-24 and allowed 40 or more points five times.

Washington State ranked last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, eighth in pass defense and eighth in total defense in 2007. The Cougars also tied for eighth in sacks and finished last in red-zone defense and opponents' third-down conversions. Offensively, they were eighth in the conference and 73rd nationally in scoring.

The Cougars (5-7) failed to earn a bowl bid for the fourth straight season and head coach Bill Doba resigned in November after compiling a 30-29 five-year record (17-25 Pac-10).
Wulff, 41, became the 31st head coach in school history and the first Washington State football letter-winner and graduate to lead the Cougars since Phil Sarboe (1945-49). Wulff may not have been the most high-profile candidate, but he has a proven track record as a winner at Eastern Washington and a passion to turn his alma mater around.

He started at center for the Cougars for four seasons (1986-89) under three head coaches: Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price. He became a part of WSU lore as a senior by playing in the Apple Cup against rival Washington less than three weeks after having his appendix removed.