PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) -Washington State football has been sinking toward the bottom of the Pac-10 for several seasons. This year, the Cougars might just be as bad as they've ever been.
The Cougars (1-4) rank near the bottom nationally in nearly every offensive and defensive category heading into Saturday night's road game against UCLA.
They've been noncompetitive in their four games against major college opponents. Their only victory came against Portland State, an FCS school.
One play in last week's 63-14 loss to Oregon offered an illustration of how bad it has been: On fourth-and-6 from the Washington State 33, the Ducks decided the Cougars' defense was so porous there was no need to try a long field goal. They went for it and scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass.
``When things start going bad, it becomes more of a landslide for us right now,'' said Cougar coach Paul Wulff, who was hired in December to rebuild his alma mater.
cruiting had fallen off. Wulff inherited a bare cupboard. Then a thin roster was depleted even more by injuries.
The Cougars rank 96th in total offense and 106th in total defense. They are 117th in points allowed (44 per game) and 103rd in points scored (19 ppg). They are second to last in stopping the run, allowing 269 yards per game.
They're pretty good on kickoff returns, averaging 24 yards. They've gotten a lot of work with their opponents scoring so often.
However you slice the numbers, they are awful.
Wulff said rebuilding in the Pac-10 will take time.
``The tough part is dealing with where we are at,'' Wulff said. ``Who likes to watch that? As a coach I don't either.''
The Cougars opened the season with a 39-13 loss to Oklahoma State, then lost 66-3 at home to California for the worst margin of defeat in team history. They followed that with a 45-17 loss at Baylor.
Their sole victory was 48-9 against an overmatched Portland State.
But their luck is so bad that even in that rout they lost starting quarterback Kevin Lopina to a broken bone in his back and former starter Gary Rogers to a broken neck bone that likely ended his football career.
The injuries have left Wulff opening up campus-wide tryouts to find a scout-team quarterback.
Take away the 48 points and 638 yards of offense they produced against Portland State, and the Cougars are averaging less than 12 points and 250 yards per game, while giving up 53 points and nearly 500 yards.
While freshman quarterback Marshall Lobbestael played credibly in his first start last weekend, the Cougars looked virtually helpless against Oregon.
The Ducks led 14-0 less than 4 minutes into the game, and gained 346 yards on the ground and 507 overall.
Washington state's remaining schedule includes UCLA, Oregon State, Southern Cal, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and Hawaii.
The three poorest teams of the modern history of Washington State football are probably the 1955 squad that finished 1-7-2 and was shut out four times; the 1969 team that finished 1-9; and the 1970 team that finished 1-10, beating only Idaho.
A major problem this year is the size of the offensive and defensive lines, Wulff said. Opposing lines are knocking big holes in the defense, while the defense has managed just six sacks. Washington State quarterbacks have been sacked 15 times and the Cougars have fumbled 14 times.
``We lack calorie intake,'' Wulff said of his team. ``We lack strength right now.''
Doba inherited a strong program from Mike Price, who led the Cougars to two Rose Bowls.
In 2003, Doba's first season, the Cougars capped a third consecutive 10-win season with a victory over Texas in the Holiday Bowl. They haven't had a winning record since. Last year's team finished 5-7.
Through five games this season, the Cougars have had 22 players, including three quarterbacks, make the first start of their careers this season.
Because of the inexperience, Wulff has abandoned his no-huddle offense.
``We are going to get it all corrected,'' safety Xavier Hicks said. ``We are going to keep playing hard and we are going to keep the season going.''
Wulff warned from the beginning that the Cougars would be a project this year.
``It's proven that you can win here and we'll do it again,'' Wulff said.

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