Q & A: Cougars under the Microscope

The California Golden Bears begin Pac-10 play this week as they travel to Pullman, Washington to take on the Washington State Cougars. CalSportsDigest.com asked Bud Withers, who covers the Cougars for the Seattle Times, a few questions about the WSU football program…

California is coming off an impressive 38-31 win over Michigan State. The Bears would like to keep their momentum going when they visit Washington State. Cal will try to keep a balanced attack on offense and continue to be aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. The Cougars will try to bounce back from a bad performance against Oklahoma State.

Bud Wither's answers to five pertinent questions…

1. Do you feel that the Oklahoma State defense was dominant or were there a lot of Cougar mistakes that could be attributed to first game jitters and new players at key positions?

It appeared to me Oklahoma State was decent, not exceptional on defense. But WSU is dealing with a lot of newness – a new system for the first time in 21 years, a new quarterback (albeit a fifth-year senior), and a revamped offensive line due to a couple of injuries. And WSU's best receiver, Brandon Gibson, didn't have one of his better games.

2. The Cougars went to the Rose Bowl in 1997 and 2002 is it possible for WSU to get back to that level or has the Pac-10 gotten better as a league since then? Would another run to the Rose Bowl be to tough a task for Washington State now?

As long as Pete Carroll is at USC, I think it's going to be hard for anybody to go to the Rose Bowl (unless it's when USC is in the title game). USC has set the bar higher than it had been since Washington's dominance of 1990-92. The league as a whole is probably tougher than those WSU Rose Bowl years, but USC is setting a ridiculous standard.

3. Where do you think Cal quarterback Kevin Riley ranks in comparison to other quarterbacks like Rudy Carpenter, Willie Tuitama and Jake Locker in the Pac-10?

I'll have a better idea when I see him in person Saturday. I liked what I saw from him a year ago. He seemed to have a lot of fire and leadership, and word is, he played well Saturday against Michigan State.

4. Cal will bring a very balanced offense to this week's game against Washington State. What aspect of the Bear offense do you think Washington State will try and take away?

WSU, as a lot of teams, tries to take away the run first, and I'm sure that won't change. It played pretty well defensively against Oklahoma State (367 yards allowed), although the points don't show it. I know they respect the Cal backs.

5. Over the last few years, the Cougars have had a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, players like Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus, and Jerome Harrison. Has WSU recruited similar players into the program the last couple of years?

Sporadically, yes. Brandon Gibson is a receiver at least on the level of the others, and Jeshua Anderson, the NCAA intermediate hurdles champ as a freshman, is waiting to come back at receiver from a hernia operation. Kenny Alfred is s quality center. Another promising player is junior defensive end Kevin Kooyman. There's some talent, but obviously there's not enough across the board.

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