WSU faces SMU running twist on spread attack

JUNE JONES STILL runs his patent spread offense, as Washington State will see when they take on SMU this Saturday. But in addition to the Southern Methodist coach's typical bevy of talent at quarterback and wide receiver, his 2010 squad also features standout sophomore running back Zach Line.

After averaging a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry a year ago, Line already has 194 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. He will be one of several offensive players the Cougars (1-1) will need to contain when they play at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at SMU (TV: CBS College Sports).

"He's big, physical and runs the ball hard," Washington State coach Paul Wulff said during his Tuesday teleconference. "He's a heck of a threat."

THE MUSTANGS (1-1) also have upgraded their quarterback position from a year ago when Bo Levi Mitchell, who now plays at Eastern Washington, threw four interceptions that helped the Cougars earn a 30-27 overtime win.

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron replaced Mitchell midway through last season. He has completed 39 of 71 passes for 363 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions this year.

"He's stabilized the quarterback position, which is important in that offense," Wulff said.

He said the Mustangs, who won the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl last year, have improved from last year.

"They were a young team a year ago," Wulff said. "You can start to see their recruiting showing up on the field. They have some really quality athletes throughout the team."

THE GAME ALSO will mark a homecoming for WSU seniors Hallston Higgins and safety Chima Nwachukwu. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Higgins might start at middle linebacker again, but Wulff is hopeful that junior Mike Ledgerwood (stinger) will be ready to play.

"Hallston's lost weight," Wulff said. "He's moving as quickly as he ever has."

Wulff said he does not anticipate the game being a distraction for either player as both are mature and the Cougars played Notre Dame last year in San Antonio.

ONE PLAYER WHO probably will not start, Wulff said, is true freshman linebacker C.J. Mizell. Wulff said Mizell, who sat out last season, is getting better and coming along nicely, but he is not consistent enough yet.

Mizell's interception that sealed the game against MSU? He was actually out of position. That one happened to work out nicely for WSU -- not so on some other occasions.

"There were a couple of bootlegs where he completely lost his guy," he said. "One resulted in a touchdown. Those are pretty big mistakes...He's doing well, we just have to keep bringing him along. C.J. will rotate in -- and play more."

Another true freshman who might see playing time this week is wide receiver Kristoff Williams. After battling turf toe since fall camp, Williams was able to practice for the first time Monday. Wulff said if Williams does not aggravate the injury, he could play against the Mustangs.

One of the Cougars' least experienced positions is wide receiver and that inconsistency showed with several drops during their 23-22 come-from-behind win Saturday against Montana State.

WULFF, whose Eastern Washington team was a blocked field goal away from upsetting eventual Fiesta Bowl champion Oregon State in 2000, said he is not surprised that Football Championship Subdivision programs are upsetting larger schools. Wulff also beat Connecticut (2001) and Idaho (2003).

"If you have a mature program," Wulff said. "You're going to be competitive."


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