Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Washington State's hope for a miraculous burst of success upon the arrival of new coach Paul Wulff was quashed by a 39-13 defeat to a middling Oklahoma State team in Seattle's Qwest Field last weekend.
The reality is the Cougars are thin, and preseason injuries -- among other issues -- have made them thinner.
"It was rough how it turned out," linebacker Greg Trent said. "It hurts because losing never feels good but we know it's something we can build on and fix. It's not going to keep us under water or nothing."
Trent was one of the bright spots. He led the Cougars with nine tackles and a sack, and the defense as a whole played fairly well despite getting little or no help from special teams or an anemic opening effort from the new non-huddle, spread offense.
"I think our defense played pretty good," Wulff said. "They were put in some terrible situations throughout the ball game and they responded."
News today wasn't great for the D, though. Defensive tackle A'i Ahmu, the Cougars best interior lineman, turned himself in to the WSU Police Department on Wednesday after a warrant for his arrest was issued because he missed a court date on a minor-in-possession of alcohol charge, according to the Seattle Times.
Wulff told the newspaper that he wasn't sure yet whether Ahmu's issue would keep him out of the game Saturday against California in Martin Stadium.
If Ahmu can't go, his replacement is senior walk-on Adam Hainline.
Cal's offense figures to offer an even stiffer test than the Cowboys. It rolled up 467 yards against Michigan State, including 203 yards on the ground. The Bears offensive line is physical, and tailbacks Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen are as speedy a combination as any in the conference.
"They've got powerful, strong, explosive offense," Trent said. "Cal is a pretty good team."
How is WSU going to stop them? "Nothing that I can say -- don't want to give away the game plan," Trent said.
In the preseason, even though eight starters were back on defense, most thought the offense would lead the way for Washington State. The Cougars ranked last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense a year ago (32.4 ppg), while the offense looked fairly skilled, even if it was breaking in a new QB to a new scheme.
That feeling is now mostly reversed. At least until Wulff's plan starts to click with QB Gary Rogers.
"There a lot of optimism," Wulff said. "And it starts with our defense. They are going to keep us in ball games."
How many of those games will the Cougars end up winning, though? They were almost universally picked to finish last in the conference during the preseason, and their performance in game one did little to alter that perception.
"We don't pay much attention to that -- they always pick the Cougs to finish last but we always end up shocking some people," Trent said.