Washington State Preview

In another radio-only game, the Sun Devils travel to the Palouse to take on Washington State. Saturday's tilt is an important game for both squads in their respective chances for post-season play. It's a must win game for the Cougars if they want to go to a bowl, while the Sun Devils must win two of their next three games for another bowl appearance. Bill Doba's Cougars are still searching for their first conference win of 2005 after losing several close games.

2005 Record: 3-5 (0-5, Pac-10)
Head Coach: Bill Doba, 3rd year
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Levenseller
Defensive Coordinator: Robb Akey

OFFENSE
*Projected Starters

WR Jason Hill (Jr)
WR Trandon Harvey (Sr)
TE Troy Bienemann (Sr)
LT Bobby Byrd (So)
LG Sean O'Connor (So)
C Nick Mihlhauser (Sr)
RG Norvell Holmes (Sr)
RT Charles Harris (Jr)
QB Alex Brink (So)
RB Jerome Harrison (Sr)
WR Brandon Gibson (Fr)

The Cougars typically like to air it out under Mike Levenseller but have struggled some this year behind sophomore Alex Brink. The signal-caller has shown some flashes but needs to find more consistency in order for this offense to really take off with two of the conference's top skill players. Brink is averaging just over 250 yards in the air and has a 55% completion percentage. The sophomore has thrown for 18 scores and 10 interceptions. Backing Brink up is former starter Josh Swogger. After leading one of the few Cougar scoring drives against USC last week, the junior was benched in favor of freshman Gary Swogger. Both have seen action in 3 games this season. After Brink, it remains a bit foggy as to who Doba would turn to if such a case arises. At any rate, the offensive line, led by center Nick Mihlhauser, has done a solid job of pass protection and only given up 9 sacks all season.

Perhaps the top offensive weapon the Cougars have is running back Jerome Harrison. The senior is second in the nation with a 163 yard average per game. Harrison will attempt to go for his twelfth straight game of 100 yards or more this Saturday against the Devils. He's also accounted for 12 scores in 8 games this season. Freshman DeMaundray Woolridge is the top back-up and has shown a young spark in his first season on the Palouse. Woolridge averages 6.2 yards per carry and has hit pay dirt 2 times this year.

Junior wideout Jason Hill is among the top receivers in the nation and has a dynamic ability to make big catches. Hill ranks second in the nation in receiving yards per game with 125. The junior has 48 grabs this season and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore Michael Bumpus, the team's second leading receiver, appears to be unavailable again this week for the Cougars. Senior Trandon Harvey is a solid receiver who has 11 catches this season. Junior Chris Jordan and freshman Brandon Gibson have combined for 14 catches and 3 touchdowns. Two very serviceable tight ends are also involved in the passing game. Senior Troy Bienemann has caught 21 balls and gone in for 2 scores. Junior Cody Boyd is a safety valve option to move the chains for a first down with 5 catches.

DEFENSE
*Projected Starters

DE Adam Braidwood (Sr)
DT Aaron Johnson (So)
DT A'i Ahmu (Fr)
DE Mkristo Bruce (Jr)
LB Steve Dildine (Jr)
LB Greg Trent (Fr)
LB Scott Davis (Jr)
FS Husain Abdullah (So)
SS Eric Frampton (Jr)
CB Alex Teems (Sr)
CB Wally Dada (Sr)

Junior defensive end Mkristo Bruce leads the pass rush up front for the Cougar defense. Bruce is tied for the conference lead in sacks with 8. At the opposite end looms Adam Braidwood, who is also among the sack leaders in the Pac-10 with 5.5. Both players have combined for 71 tackles. Sophomore Matt Mullenix and freshman Mike Graise have 15 stops and a pair of sacks between them. On the interior of the line, two underclassmen have been trying to make a mark at the tackle spots. Sophomore Aaron Johnson and freshman A'i Ahmu have a combined 39 stops and 1 sack. Sophomore Ropati Pitoitua was slated to be a big contributor this season at tackle but is just recently making his way back from a pre-season injury. In 3 games off the bench, he has 6 tackles. Senior Bryan Olson also has 7 stops coming on in relief.

Ubiquitous linebacker Will Derting's final season has been slowed a bit due to an injury. His return is doubtful this week as he has been unable to practice at full-speed. Stepping up in his place are a pair of juniors on the outside, Steve Dildine and Scott Davis. Dildine has 49 tackles while Davis is just 4 shy of his mark with 45. In the middle, freshman Greg Trent has accrued 49 stops, 3 pass break-ups and 1 sack. Key reserves at linebacker include junior Brian Hall, sophomore Jed Collins, and freshman Courtney Williams. Hall has 10 stops and 1 sack and the other two each have 8 tackles.

The Cougar secondary is giving up an average of 279 yards in the air and is the biggest culprit of the defensive breakdown this year for WSU. Strong safety Eric Frampton is the team leader in tackles with 57. He and free safety Husain Abdullah have a combined 3 interceptions. Seniors Alex Teems and Wally Dada man the two corner spots. Teems has accrued 34 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 pass break-ups. Dada has 44 stops, 2 pass break-ups, and 1 interception. The depth in the secondary is relatively young with 3 freshman and a sophomore. Freshmen Dewayne Patterson and Cory Evans have each recorded a sack and have combined for 41 stops. Junior Don Turner is one of the main reserves at corner with 25 tackles and 1 pick.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P Kyle Basler (Sr)
K Loren Langley (So)
PR / KR Lorenzo Bursey

Kyle Basler is one of the conference's most consistent punters. On 40 punts, he's averaging a little over 41 yards. 8 of those 40 punts have been pinned inside the 20 yard line and his longest of the season went for 55 yards. After some struggles as a freshman, Loren Langley has found some consistency this year in the kicking game. The sophomore is 10 of 11 and converted on his longest attempt, 48 yards, on the year.

The Cougars' most dynamic returner is receiver Michael Bumpus, who is out for a second straight game, so they may have to turn to Lorenzo Bursey. The freshman is one of the primary kick returners but has also fielded a couple of punts. Bursey has a 22 yard average on 12 kick returns. Joining him in kick returning duties has been receiver Brandon Gipson, who averages just under 19 yards per return. Senior Trandon Harvey, also a receiver, can handle punts and has gone for 31 yards on two returns.

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