SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -The question stumped Arizona State football coach Dennis Erickson for a moment.
After 20 years leading six college programs, had Erickson ever before taken the field against a team coached by one of his former players?
He'll do it Saturday when Paul Wulff leads Washington State against Erickson's Sun Devils.
``I've done most things in this profession, but this is the first time I've coached against somebody who played for me,'' Erickson said Tuesday.
Erickson spent the 1987 and '88 seasons coaching at Washington State, where Wulff was his starting center. Now, Erickson is struggling to get Arizona State (3-6, 2-4 Pac-10) to a bowl game.
Even though the Cougars (1-9, 0-7) are having one of the worst seasons in school history, Erickson believes Wulff, who was hired in December, is the man to turn the program around.
``I've got great respect for Paul,'' Erickson said. ``He's the right guy for that job and will do great there.''
``He's a Cougar and that's very, very important,'' Erickson added.
ayers are college assistant coaches, and he keeps an eye on their progress.
``I'm proud of that,'' Erickson said.
For his part, Wulff said he learned plenty from a coach who went on to win two national titles at Miami and has won nearly 70 percent of his college games.
``There are a lot of things that I would emulate, or do the same kind of things I learned, from coach,'' Wulff said Tuesday. ``If I didn't do that I wouldn't be a very smart person.''
He remembers Erickson as highly competitive and very innovative, especially on offense. That made playing for him fun.
``He was clear on what the goals were, to win,'' Wulff said.
Wulff and Erickson talked after the Cougars were blown out by California earlier this season, with Erickson giving some thoughts on coaching at WSU.
``I hope they have success for all but one week,'' Erickson said.
In 1988, Erickson led Washington State to its first bowl game since 1931, and then left for Miami, where he won national titles in two of the next three seasons. This is his second season at Arizona State.
Wulff had a brief pro career and coached at Eastern Washington University for 15 seasons before taking over at his alma mater.
Arizona State, coming off a win over Washington that broke a five-game losing streak, needs to win its final three games to become bowl eligible.
rst victory over a major college team this season.
They have the worst defense and second-worst offense in the nation, a combination that has led to blowouts in most games.
But last week, they hung tough late into the first half at home against Arizona, losing 59-28 - a season-high for points.
``When they got down, they continued to fight,'' Wulff said.
That has stirred some hopes in Cougar Nation that a victory might be possible. After Arizona State, the Cougars finish with Washington (0-9) and Hawaii (5-5).

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