O/NSO - Washington State preview edition

Whenever the No.2/3-ranked USC Trojans (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) bid bon voyage to Los Angeles for their bi-yearly expedition into the Palouse Country of the Great Northwest, you never quite know what to expect from both the weather and the host Washington State Cougars (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10).

The Obvious – Whenever the No.2/3-ranked USC Trojans (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) bid bon voyage to Los Angeles for their bi-yearly expedition into the Palouse Country of the Great Northwest, you never quite know what to expect from both the weather and the host Washington State Cougars (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10). Having spilt their last two games in Pullman's Martin Stadium, Saturday's 4:00 p.m. (PDT) nationally televised kickoff (TBS) retains an air of mystery, a whodunit the Trojans hope to solve without the services of super sleuth, All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett.

The Not So Obvious – What isn't a Trojan mystery after three undefeated games is a Pac-10 record 24 consecutive victorious conference games, 17 straight road triumphs, and victors in 48 of their past 50 games. Even college basketball's Dick Vitale screams, "Are you kidding me?" Right now, however, the Trojans are more like a veteran Muhammad Ali than Sherlock Holmes in searching for answers. The Men of Troy have gone from gone from a lightening offense of "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" to "rope-a-dope." The bottom line, of course, is knocking out your opponent and the Trojans are doing it in violent defensive fashion, as opposed to the weekly Fourth of July offensive fireworks.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 141/2-point favorites to defeat the Cougars in Pullman.

The Not So Obvious – To this point, WSU has played just one team with legitimate bowl aspirations, and that team, Auburn, put a 40-14 hurting on the Cougars in the season opener. However, it should be noted that Auburn's first four scoring opportunities came by way of field goals (30, 31,44, 52), and the halftime score was a respectable 19-7. Yes, the Cougars did hang in there for while in Auburn, Alabama. Now with three consecutive wins and playing at home before a sold out audience, it figures the Cougars will come out ready to play and the home folks will make plenty of noise, at least early.

The Obvious – In this week's Seattle PI, columnist Jim Moore asked what kind of chance Washington State has of upsetting the Trojans on Saturday afternoon.

The Not So Obvious – Moore wrote "Lofa Tatupu, Seahawks linebacker and USC alum who is laughing so hard at the question that he had a hard time composing himself: "If (the Trojans) get food poisoning from the pregame meal and the Cougars win by forfeit."

The Obvious – Pullman is located in an area know as the Palouse ("pah-loose").

The Not So Obvious – Okay, you know this is not so obvious, so let's get this one over with. The Palouse is an area between the "moist forests of the Rocky Mountains and the dry scablands of Washington." For those Trojan fans making the trip to the "Palouse," you'll notice rolling hills, which were "formed by erosion of thick basalts, followed by a deposition of a loess soil, which with excellent water-holding ability, is fertile basis for the rich agricultural production of the area." Now, you got all that?

The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday afternoon in Pullman calls for sunny skies with a high of 75 and a low of 47.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report questions weather the Trojan offense will come alive against the feisty Cougs. Will sophomore receiver Patrick Turner take advantage of his playing time in place of Dwayne Jarrett? Can the Cougs run on a Trojan defense that is starting to remind many of the 2004 Carroll collection? The weather appears to favor the Trojans, who probably wish all their games in Pullman were at the end of September. WSU has been stingy with touchdown passes this season and let's find out if Trojan quarterback John David Booty takes advantage of his second and third options. Of course, nothing will be more fascinating to see than whether the Trojan offense changes significantly with the fullback situation so fluid. Least we forget, the game will be played on FieldTurf, a surface that has caused the Trojans problems before.

The Obvious – Saturday afternoon's game is being nationally televised on TBS (4:00 PDT) and the broadcast team will include Ron Thulin, Charles Davis, and Craig Sager.

The Not So Obvious – While many Trojan fans will be listening on 710 ESPN with Pete Arbogast, Paul McDonald, and John Jackson, the Cougar faithful will be treated to the 40th year of golden throat Bob Robertson on the 26-station Cougar network. Roberston told the Seattle PI, "USC has a pretty young club. If somebody like Washington State gets ahead of them, do they rise to the occasion or do they get a little scattery and not know how to deal with it? It would be nice to find out. There are going to be two to three to four upsets around the country. Why not Saturday in Pullman?"

The Obvious – The closest Pete Carroll comes to having his own television show is Tuesday night's Pete Carroll Press Conference on FSN Prime Ticket.

The Not So Obvious – WSU coach Bill Doba has good exposure on Saturdays with KSLY's "Cougar Football Saturday" at noon, which leads into ABC's Pac-10 Game of the Week.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense is averaging 32.6 points per game and 417.3 yards in total offense, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars' defense is allowing 18.8 points per game and allowing 307 yards in total defense, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – There is little question that much of the success of the Trojans' offensive attack will rally around coach Pat Ruel's offensive line and All-Pac-10 center Ryan Kalil.

The Not So Obvious – Sporting a new Ivy League haircut, Ryan spent some time after practice this week with the O/NSO to discuss the Cougars and his offensive line. Kalil said, " They (WSU) have a good defensive front. I thought Arizona was also a good defensive front. I think we're going to see another one this week. The defensive end (Mkristo Bruce) is a pretty solid guy, but for us, you know we never really worry who we are going to play. We have to work on the little techniques like the kick-step, communication, and getting the plays in and out of the huddle, and we'll be fine. There is a lot of great things we're doing with our offensive line. Our timing isn't there and sometimes we're just right there, a little inch here and a little inch there from hitting those big plays we're used to seeing. We've done some great things and we watch on film to see that; there are so many things we can improve on that it's really comforting to know. We just need to get back to work and work on the basics and we'll be fine."

The Obvious – On paper, the evolving Trojan offense is running into a Washington State defense that is on a roll.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougar defense has had its way the last two weeks, allowing only two touchdowns, 441 yards total offense, and just 18 yards rushing. Yes, yes, last week was pathetic Stanford, but they all count in the standings.

The Obvious – The Trojans will start junior John David Booty at quarterback, and J.D. will look to improve on his touchdown production through the air, which currently stands at seven along with a 66% completion average.

The Not So Obvious – Just a little food for thought: If J.D. leads the Trojans to victory No. 4, it would be something that neither Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart did in their first year at the QB helm. With the loss of Dwayne Jarrett at wide receiver, John David may be surprisingly challenged by a Cougar defense that gave up 27 touchdown passes last year but have allowed just three in four games this season.

The Obvious – The best match-ups of the day will probably belong to the Trojan All-Pac-10 junior left tackle Sam Baker and senior right tackle Kyle Williams, both of whom will go up against the Cougars All-Pac-10 second-teamer, Mkristo Bruce (6-7, 249), this week's Defensive Pac-10 Player of the Week.

The Not So Obvious – Coach Bill Doba says, "If Mkristo Bruce gets five sacks against these guys (USC), I think he's a pretty good defensive end." Pronounced "M-Kristo," this former Washington prep all-league linebacker and quarterback out of Renton Liberty High is a monster coming off the edge. We saw him up close and personal at Pac-10 Media Day and this stud is what we like to call a "physical specimen." Bruce, who has a one-year-old son, Mkristo Jr., leads the nation in sacks with seven. Folks, this fella is a man, as his 20 tackles would indicate. Did we mention that eight of those tackles were for losses?

The Obvious – The Trojans were scheduled to leave Los Angeles on a Friday Delta charter at 1:30 p.m., bound for Lewiston, Idaho.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans will stay at the University Inn in Moscow, Idaho. According to University Inn information, "The Best Western University Inn offers 173 rooms and suites convenient to the campus at the University of Idaho, 8 minutes from Washington State University, and adjacent to the Palouse Mall and Theater Complex. Guests may select from king, queen or double-double guest room types, many overlooking the center courtyard."

The Obvious – Many locals will tell you that outside of Pac-10 athletics, there really isn't much to do in Pullman.

The Not So Obvious – However, Pullman is home to the National Lentil Festival each August, which excites its 27,000 population. For you mapmakers, Pullman is about eight miles west of Moscow, Idaho; about 80 miles south of Spokane and around 30 miles north of Lewiston, Idaho. The O/NSO talked with a member of the WSU Sports Information Department about things to do in Pullman and the WSU official sarcastically replied, " Have you ever been to Pullman?" Okay, we get the picture.

The Obvious – It will be a homecoming of sorts for Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel, who spent some of his career as a Cougar assistant under Jim Walden back in 1978-81.

The Not So Obvious –Pat was offensive coordinator for the Cougs his final two years in Pullman. The O/NSO talked with Ruel after practice this week about his stint as Cougars' offensive coordinator in 1981. Ruel said, "I remember we played the Trojans in the Coliseum and the game was still for the Rose Bowl. They had guys like Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen. They had a heckeva defense. We did score something like 17 points against them, more than most people that year." The Obvious – Despite a banged up offensive line, all five WSU expected starters on offense have been redshirted at some point.

The Not So Obvious – With the exception of center Ryan Kalil, the four other Trojan offensive line starters, Sam Baker, Kyle Williams, Drew Radovich, and Chilo Rachal, are redshirts.

The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging 238.7 yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars pass defense is allowing 208.5 yards per game, eighth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Cougars will start junior Alex Brink (6-3, 211) at quarterback.

The Not So Obvious – The kid from Eugene Shelden High has gotten off to a nice start this season by completing 62% of his passes and six touchdowns. He will be severely challenged with the onslaught of Trojan defenders, but thus far, Alex, who was on his high school academic honor roll, has thrown just two picks and shown the mental aptitude of a veteran.

The Obvious – You can bet this will be the week that Trojan free safety Taylor Mays is challenged, so help me Bill Doba.

The Not So Obvious – Doba won't wait around with an experienced quarterback and two excellent receivers in 6-1 senior Jason Hill (14.4 ypc, 3 TDs) and 5-11 junior Michael Bumpus (8.9 ypc.,1 TD). Hill is just four career touchdowns receptions behind the Trojans' Dwayne Jarrett. The O/NSO respects the Cougar receivers, but we'll see how Hill and Bumpus react to the potential physical hazards of underneath routes, the Bermuda Triangle of the Trojan defense.

The Obvious – Naturally, with the Trojans coming to town, Cougar fan publications are foreshadowing a potential upset.

The Not So Obvious – Our Scout.com sister site, CougarFan.com, screams the headline "WSU Gears for Mother of All Upsets." Hey, it's one of them whacko, homer fan sites, so what the heck did you expect? (lol)

The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 178.7 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars' rush defense is allowing 98.5 yards per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – It figures that freshman tailback Emmanuel Moody will again get the start against WSU.

The Not So Obvious – If Moody (7.0 ypc., 1 TD) can continue avoiding the turnover and learn when to "spin," he does have the spark the offense needs, no doubt about it. However, don't be lulled to sleep with junior Chauncey Washington. Once that hamstring is good enough to stride out, those who doubt CW's ability will be more than mildly surprised. Trust the old O/NSO on this one, folks.

The Obvious – Senior Mike Brittingham will start at fullback and it figures his backup will be junior Jody Adewale (6-0, 230), who knows this is his opportunity due to the unfortunate broken fibula of freshman Stanley Havili.

The Not So Obvious – After practice on Wednesday, Jody gave the O/NSO his thoughts on Saturday's prospects. The former Roosevelt star said, "It's like a big thing for me. I know that at any moment, somebody can go down and then it's your time like going from fourth string to starting. It's business; it's your time to show what you've got and be a Trojan. Washington State looks like a strong defense. They play a lot of odd fronts. I always take notes but now I really have to study. They're a good defense, but we have to play like Trojans and play as hard as you can. We have to execute, play fast, and don't turn over the ball. The night before the game, I will feel the same as I always do before any other game because even in games where a guy isn't supposed to go down, you always have to be prepared. I would love to say blocking is my strength, but that's not it. It's catching out of the backfield and stuff. I do work as hard as I can to fix my blocking skills, but the best thing I do is pass receiving."

The Obvious – A new book, Washington State Cougars, Great Moments in Team History by Bud Withers, a college football reporter for the Seattle Times, is now in bookstores.

The Not So Obvious - The 155-page paperback (Morris Book Publishing, $11.95) is part of the "Stadium Stories" series of books on college teams. The cover is sure to warm the hearts of Cougars fans as it shows Drew Bledsoe throwing in the 1992 "Snow Bowl" victory over Washington.

The Obvious Pete Carroll is in his sixth year as Trojan head coach and he currently has two former Trojan players, Rocky Seto and Sam Anno, among his assistants.

The Not So ObviousBill Doba is in his fourth years as Cougar head coach and his staff includes five former Cougar players including Ken Greene, Timm Rosenbach, George Yarno, Mike Levenseller, and Mike Walker.

The Obvious – The Trojans have scored 20 points or more an NCAA record 55 games, but last week at Arizona was the fewest points in the past 52 games.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougs have a streak of their own. WSU has had a TD drive of 80 or more yards in 18 straight games. Last time the Cougars did not have a drive of 80 yards or longer was against the Trojans during a 42-12 loss on Oct. 10, 2004.

The Obvious – Needless to say, ESPN's GameDay crew will not be in Pullman for Saturday's Pac-10 game between the Trojans and the Cougars.

The Not So Obvious – However there is a GameDay connection to Saturday's game. WSU coach Bill Doba was once an assistant to Lee "I look like Mel Brooks wearing a Trojan helmet" Corso at Indiana.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 60.7 yards rushing per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars' rushing game is averaging 189.8 yards per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – There was concern here and in other quarters over the 3-technique spot manned by junior Chris Barrett.

The Not So Obvious – Speaking of no doubt about it, Barrett, so far, has shown solid performances and has avoided those nagging injuries that were part of his resume. If there is one area where the Trojans could use a bigger push, it would be a pass rush, which may come back to bite the Cardinal and Gold down the line. With an injured WSU offensive line, this may not be the week that the Trojans' front four is stopped in searching for Cougar quarterback meat. Pete Carroll knows that getting Sedrick Ellis back will increase the intensity of his defensive front's pass rush.

The Obvious – Nose tackle Fili Moala has done a workmanlike job in filling in for All-Pac-10 candidate Sedrick Ellis.

The Not So Obvious – Sir Sed gave the O/NSO an update on this condition this week and his evaluation of his young apprentice nose tackle, Fili Moala. Sedrick said, "I hope to play next week against Washington. I think my injury came from past wear and tear, and things like this just happen in this game. Fili is really doing well. He has stood his ground and I have tried to help him with his reps." What we got from our discussion with Sedrick was this injury was just waiting to happen and he may have been fortunate more damage wasn't created if it had happened in a game.

The Obvious – There were many in the conference who felt that WSU couldn't replace All-Pac-10 running back Jerome Harrison, who had a big 147-yard rushing day last year against the Trojans in Los Angeles.

The Not So Obvious – Coach Bill Doba thinks he has another good back in sophomore De'Maundry Woolridge (5-8, 234), who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Woolridge and Emmanuel Moody have a little something in common; they're both Texans. Moody is from Coppell while Woolridge hails from Keller.

The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 156.7 yards per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The WSU pass offense is averaging 239 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – There are many across the country who are starting to believe that Nick Holt's defense many be the best in the land.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' secondary has yet to be truly tested in our opinion, but that's not to take away from the play of secondary members Terrell Thomas, Cary Harris, Kevin Ellison, and Taylor Mays. It's just that we have not yet seen a skilled attack go after these four with Pac-10 determination and schemes. We may have to wait untill November when the acknowledged Pac-10 contenders arrive with balanced offenses, but so far so good.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened their home portion of the season against Nebraska with a 92,000 sellout at the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars opened their home portion of the season against Idaho with 29,431 fans in Martin Stadium, which has a capacity of 35,117. FYI, Martin Stadium is named after Clarence D. Martin, Governor of Washington from 1933-40.

The Obvious – The O/NSO always enjoys hearing the words of wisdom from WSU coach Bill Doba, who does really tell it like it is.

The Not So Obvious – Of the Trojans embarrassment of recruiting riches, Doba said this week, "I think they've had the top recruiting class or the top one or two in the nation for the last four or five years but they are very well coached." What we like about this quote is that he appreciates there is a little coaching going on with all those five-star Trojan nuggets.

The ObviousThe Daily Trojan is the campus newspaper for the University of Southern California.

The Not So ObviousThe Daily Evergreen, the WSU student newspaper, left a blank space on a sports page Monday to protest coach Bill Doba's policy of not talking to the press on Sundays this season. The Daily Evergreen doesn't staff all road games and relied on the Sunday sessions for fresh quotes and information.

The Obvious – Freshman Allen Bradford has returned to defense after a stint at running back.

The Not So Obvious – It was a quite a buzz for spectators at practice this week when they noticed No. 21. attired in red, back at safety. The requested move by Bradford was understandable but telling. The kid simply saw that his playing time was reduced to zilch with the emergence of Emmanuel Moody, the steady play of C.J. Gable, and more importantly the return to health of Chauncey Washington. Is this a good move in the big picture? Probably not and there is every reason to believe if Washington goes down, who else comes close to filling that big back role but Bradford? The return of Allen to the secondary is curious. The Trojans already have the likes of Taylor Mays and Antoine Perez, both of whom have exceptional skills. So what becomes of Bradford, who also played linebacker at Colton High? Well, if Bradford had given his blessing to move to fullback, it would have been the obvious spot to get on the field quickly. Trojan history is well defined with fullback-tailback interchangeable parts. The Ricky Bell, Marcus Allen, and Lynn Cain stories are well documented. Here's hoping that at some point that Bradford returns to running back and fulfills his natural talent of totting the pigskin.

The Obvious – Freshman running back Stafon Johnson is off the scout team and now working with the regulars.

The Not So Obvious – The big winner of the Bradford move is Stafon Johnson. Whether that translates into playing time is really up in the air. It simply is addition by subtraction for Stafon. However, with junior Desmond Reed back in the groove and the other freshmen tailbacks having proven their worth, Johnson will have to continue to show a great deal of maturity to wait his turn. Hey, since Johnson (6-1, 210) was also a hard-hitting safety, maybe he would like to give the fullback position a shot.

The Obvious – The Trojans lead the series with the Cougars 53-8-4.

The Not So Obvious – The first meeting between the Trojans and the Cougars was 1921, and the Trojans won 28-7 in Tournament Park in Pasadena.

The Obvious – The Cougars offense is averaging 30.8 points per game and 428.8 yards in total offense, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 9.0 points per game and allowing 217.3 yards per game in total defense, first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans feature an outstanding field goal kicker in junior Mario Danelo, who connected on 5-of-6 field goals so far.

The Not So Obvious – Danelo's father, Joe, played his college ball at Washington State.

The Obvious - Trojan sophomore punter Greg Woidneck is averaging 40.3, seventh in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Cougar redshirt sophomore punter Darryl Blunt, is averaging 39.6, seventh in the Pac-10. Blunt, a graduate of Bellflower St. John Bosco, began his college career at Portland State.

The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 39.7 penalty yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats are averaging 47 penalty yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – This will be just the sixth time that both Washington schools will play the Trojans in consecutive weeks.

The Not So Obvious – In somewhat of a surprise, the Trojan Ticket Department announced there are a limit number of tickets that have been released and are now for sale. For small piece of change like $40, you can sit in Section 2H, Row 90.

The Obvious – The Trojans aren't the only Pac-10 teams on the tube on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Your prelim begins at 12:30 p.m. on ABC when the "Can't wait for another replay" Oregon Ducks travel to "Dirk on the hot seat" Arizona State. After the Trojans' television exposure at 4:00 p.m. on TBS, it's the "abyss" Stanford Cardinal and their pillow fight with "Is it basketball season yet?" UCLA on FSN at 7:15 p.m. All games are Pacific Daylight Time.

The Obvious And finally, the O/NSO "On The Road" series continues with our WSU excursion the Great Northwest, beginning on Friday with an early morning flight into Spokane by way of Phoenix.

The Not So Obvious – How fortunate it is for the Trojans go be heading to the Palouse Country before the rain, sleet, and snow kicks in. Of course last time the three climate controls came together in 2003, the Men of Troy turned it into a winter wonderland of points, drubbing the Cougs to the tune of 43-16. This is probably one of the few times that WSU is actually happy that the weather is expected to be a beautiful Southern California day. For Pete Carroll and Trojan fans everywhere, they hope to turn Saturday's game in Pullman into a beautiful University of Southern California day. Now where's my WeAreSC jacket?


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