Washington State Preview

As the Sun Devils get another chance at notching a sixth win that would make them bowl eligible, Washington State is looking to regain some of the mid-season form that helped inch the Cougars to bowl eligibility late last month. Arizona State has won the last two meetings; however, the Cougars have fared well on the road and bring in a 4-game conference road winning streak.

WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
2006 Record: 6-4, 4-3 Pac-10
Head Coach: Bill Doba


Last Week: Wazzu was bounced from the national rankings when visiting Arizona scored an upset in Pullman, 27-17.

OFFENSE
*Projected Starters

WR Chris Jordan (Sr.)
LT Bobby Byrd (Jr.)
LG Sean O'Connor (Sr.)
C Kenny Alfred (Fr.)
RG Dan Rowlands (So.)
RT Charles Harris (Sr.)
TE Cody Boyd (Sr.)
WR Charles Dillon (Jr.)
QB Alex Brink (Jr.)
RB Dwight Tardy (Fr.)
WR Brandon Gibson (So.)

The receiving group for the Cougars is in a bit of a flux this week after injuries have sidelined the top two pass catchers, Jason Hill and Michael Bumpus. WSU skipper Bill Doba wasn't quick in ruling the two out but it's safe to say they are doubtful, at best, for this Saturday's game due to high ankle sprains. Without the dynamic tandem, sophomore Brandon Gibson and banged-up, yet effective, senior Chris Jordan will have to shoulder more of the load. Gibson has caught 36 balls and scored 3 times this season. Despite playing in only 4 games, 3 of Jordan's 10 catches have gone for touchdowns. Charles Dillon will also see some extensive action but only has 5 catches. Sophomores Scott Selby and Benny Ward, as well as junior Finas Rabb III could also see more time off the bench this weekend due to the injury situation.

The maturation of quarterback Alex Brink has been one of several reasons why the Cougars are visibly improved from a year ago. Although the junior still has his moments, he's limited some of the mistakes that have stalled the passing game a bit before. Brink's 242.4 yard total offense average leads the Pac-10. The gunslinger has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions and is averaging 241 passing yards per game. Sophomore Gary Rogers is waiting in the wings and is 17 of 29 for 3 scores and 2 interceptions in limited action this year.

Prior to the season, skeptics noted the departure of Jerome Harrison in the backfield as a major hurdle the Cougars must overcome in order to play in the post season. Despite not having a feature back that gets most of the carries, WSU has quieted most of the critics with a committee of running backs. Freshman Dwight Tardy has run for 541 yards and 3 touchdowns on 115 carries. Sophomore DeMaundray Woolridge has carried the ball 78 times for 330 yards and 2 scores but is bothered by a shoulder injury right now. Juco transfer Derrell Hutsona averages 6.5 yards per carry but may not play due to an ankle injury. Any leftover carries would be given to junior Kevin McCall, who has only seen the field in very limited action this year.

DEFENSE
*Projected Starters

DE Mkristo Bruce (Sr.)
DT Bryan Tarkington (Jr.)
DT Aaron Johnson (Jr.)
DE Lance Broadus (Jr.)
SAM Scott Davis (Sr.)
MIKE Greg Trent (So.)
WILL Steve Dildine (Sr.)
SS Eric Frampton (Sr.)
FS Hussain Abdullah (Jr.)
CB Don Turner (Sr.)
CB Tyron Brackenridge (Sr.)

Arguably the conference's top defensive end, Mkristo Bruce has been a handful for opponents all year long. 13.5 of the Lombardi Award semifinalist's 59 tackles have been for a loss. Bruce has registered 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception this season. The senior is joined by Lance Broadus, a junior, at the other end spot. Broadus' 6.5 sacks make this pair of Cougar defensive ends a tough tandem to contain. A pair of juniors, Aaron Johnson and Bryan Tarkington, have combined for 12 stops at defensive tackle. If junior Ropati Pitoitua is healthy enough to play after making his way back from an MCL sprain, the interior of the line gets a big boost and so does the pass rush.

Senior linebackers Scott Davis and Steve Dildine have quietly put together solid back-to-back campaigns. Both have notched 57 tackles while Davis has put up 4 sacks. Sophomore reserve Cory Evans has been a nice addition with 35 stops, 1 sack, and an interception. After filling in for the oft-injured Will Derting, sophomore Greg Trent has 59 tackles and a sack in his first full-time gig at middle linebacker.

The Cougar defense has recorded an interception in the last nine games, thanks in no small part to an opportunistic secondary. Strong safety Eric Frampton is closing out his WSU career in style. The senior leads the team in tackles with 90 and has also collected 4 interceptions and 7 pass break ups. Hussain Abdullah has 52 stops at the free safety spot. Seniors Tyron Brackenridge and Don Turner have helped restore a little order to the Cougar pass defense this season. Brackenridge, especially, has turned a corner in his final season in the Palouse, adding 3 interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Romeen Abdollmohammadi (Jr.)
P Darryl Blunt (So.)
PR Charles Dillon (Jr.)
KOR Brandon Gibson (So.)



Abdollmohammadi has hit the ground running after taking over for specialist Loren Langley in the UCLA game two weeks ago. The junior has nailed both of his field goal attempts with his longest conversion for 37 yards. Sophomore Darryl Blunt is averaging just under 42 yards per punt this season. 10 of Blunt's 40 punts have been downed inside the 20 yard line.



Although Bumpus has not broken a big return this season, the Cougar return game takes a hit without the home run threat he brings when fielding punts. If Bumpus' injury keeps him out this weekend, receiver Charles Dillon will fill in for the junior. Dillon has only fielded 3 punts this year and his longest return went for 8 yards. The Cougars have a few more options on kickoff returns. Dillon may join receiver Brandon Gibson and running back Dwight Tardy returning kicks. Gibson has the best average of the group with 20.5 yard average on 2 returns.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories