Thursday, November 01, 2007

Daily Evergreen: Cougars Prepare for Cal

Head coach Bill Doba knew his WSU football team needed a win last Saturday against Pac-10 leading UCLA.  The Cougars fought, found chemistry on both ends of the ball and ultimately beat the Bruins 27-7.  Fans rushed the field and Doba walked off it with a feeling he hasn’t had for awhile.  “The way things were going,” Doba said. “I was coming off the field as happy and excited as I was after the Holiday Bowl when we beat Texas. It was that kind of a feeling.” Once Doba had reached his car, he saw five text messages and eight missed calls from friends and family congratulating him on the win. He even got a couple text messages from his drywaller, telling the head coach to run a play-action pass with running back Dwight Tardy and to throw it over the middle to tight end Jed Collins.  Once Doba got home, he had some Winger’s chicken wings, filled out his top-25 poll and went to bed before midnight. Just another night.

His message was simple.  In a must-win situation, the Cougars beat UCLA. However, the 3-5 WSU football team can’t spend the week celebrating its win.  “It’s been four weeks since a win and this certainly makes things a little bit brighter in the locker room,” WSU quarterback Alex Brink said. “It’s one of those things that gives us a little bit of momentum, picks the guys up a bit but this certainly isn’t the end-all. We won a game and that’s awesome but we need to focus on what’s ahead of us.” What lies ahead is a pivotal – yet doable – stretch of games, starting this Saturday with the struggling California Golden Bears.  Three weekends ago, Cal was coming off a big win against Oregon in Eugene. They were sitting pretty at 5-0 and were ranked at No. 2 in nation. But then they lost at home to Oregon State. And then on the road to UCLA. And then on the road to Arizona State. And now they will play a hungry host for the Cougars on Saturday. “They can either really get upset and turn it around,” Doba said. “Or they can start bickering … You just don’t know. It could help and it could hurt.” The three-game losing streak isn’t saying anything about the quality of a team that Cal puts on the gridiron. The Golden Bears have had some bad breaks and even worse injuries.  Starting quarterback Nate Longshore has been shaken up and his backup made a brain fart that cost them the game against Oregon State. Starting running back Justin Forsett has been hobbling through games.  “If Longshore’s hurt, if Forsett’s hurt …” Doba said. “Just like when UCLA lost their big play guys, that hurts you.” After Cal, the Cougars return home to host Oregon State and Stanford and then it’s on to the Apple Cup.  Only three wins away from bowl-game eligibility, the Cougars remain optimistic about their chances, especially if they play like they did last Saturday.  “When the run game goes it helps the pass game and vice versa,” Doba said.

Brink agreed.  “What we did on Saturday was awesome,” Brink said. “I certainly don’t think we need to go out and rush for 270 yards every game to win, but we definitely need to have that balance of being able to run effectively.” The balanced offense that has been a widely discussed topic in the recent weeks called 98 plays – 51 rushing plays for 274 yards and 47 passing plays for 271 yards. Talk about balance.  “Those things really help an offense run into a rhythm,” Brink said. “You don’t have to attempt as many third down conversions because you’re getting more first downs early on.” Notes n Three Cougars are nursing concussions: center Kenny Alfred, safety Alfonso Jackson and running back Chris Ivory. All three did not play last week and have not suited up for practice. In the meantime, Andrew Roxas will fill in at center, Xavier Hicks Jr. at safety and Kevin McCall will assume backup running back duties. Sophomore linebacker Andy Mattingly has been on an absolute tear ever since stepping into the starting lineup. In his past three games, Mattingly has registered 31 tackles, seven sacks, nine tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.  Kickoff for Saturday’s game against Cal at Berkeley is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on FSN

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