DALLAS - The only thing piling up faster than losses for Washington State are compliments for Marquess Wilson.
The lanky wide receiver, just a few months removed from high school, added to his growing reputation by catching six passes for 134 yards and a touchdown for WSU in Saturday’s 35-21 loss at Southern Methodist.
“He’s phenomenal,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said.
“It’s absolutely unreal some of the plays he makes,” Cougars defensive end Kevin Kooyman said.
Jeff Tuel threw long passes in Wilson’s direction all game. Wilson scored on a 68-yard catch late after another would-be TD catch was batted away minutes earlier. He also had a spectacular, leaping, 44-yard catch wiped out by a penalty.
“He’s still 17 years old,” coach Paul Wulff said.
“He’s a special player,” Tuel said.
After three games, Wilson leads the Cougars with 13 catches and 282 receiving yards. He’s tied with Jared Karstetter, who scored WSU’s first touchdown Saturday, for the team lead with two TD catches.
The modest Wilson blamed himself for not catching a pass that SMU cornerback Richard Crawford knocked away in the left corner of the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
“It hit my fingers,” Wilson said. “I still count it as a drop.”
Kooyman, the fifth-year senior out of Tahoma High School, was dominant at times.
He matched his career high of two sacks (set in 2007 against San Diego State) and doubled his previous career total of two forced fumbles. Afterward, however, all Kooyman could talk about was how the Cougs failed to record their second victory.
“The ballgame was ours to win,” he said. “We didn’t come out in the second half like we should have. In the locker room, everyone seemed like they were ready to go.”
Kooyman said the heat “kind of caught up to me a little bit” in the second half.
The Cougars appeared to come out of the game healthy. However, senior starters Chima Nwachukwu (neck) and Bernard Wolfgramm (shoulder) were late scratches on defense, and senior running back Chantz Staden was held out with a bruised knee suffered against Montana State.
Wulff said he expects all three to play next Saturday in Pullman in WSU’s Pacific-10 Conference opener against 18th-ranked USC (3-0).
Senior running back James Montgomery, arrested for failing to appear in court on a charge of driving with a suspended license, started for the third straight game after posting $1,000 bail on Thursday.
Montgomery had eight carries for 24 yards, while the Cougars were held to 66 yards rushing.
The Cougars forged a 14-14 tie at the half when Kyle McCartney pounced on a ball in the end zone after Jamal Atofau was shoved into punter Matt Szymanski by SMU’s Robert Mojica and Szymanski fumbled.
“I saw Jamal flying down there like a mad man, hit the guy and the ball go up,” McCartney said. “The rest is history.”