Cougar D needs that 'next step'

PULLMAN--As per usual on Monday nights, several players were held out of the short practice session. But that didn't stop the Cougar D from starting to put in the game plan for USC. Last year WSU played the Trojans about even on the scoreboard over the final three quarters but the last time the two faced off in Pullman, it was a beat down, and that memory hasn't faded for safety Tyree Toomer.

Among the notables held out of the 55 minute practice session on Monday -- WR Jared Karstetter (precaution), LG Tyson Pencer (groin), CB Anthony Carpenter (knee strain), LB Eric Oertel (hamstring) and CB Aire Justin (hip).

Senior safety Chima Nwachukwu also missed the action, and is waiting on tests results to come back on his neck. For what it's worth, Nwachukwu appeared fine, but clearance to play is a different animal.

With Nwachukwu out, Tyree Toomer and Deone Buchanan continued to take the majority of action running with the 1's. Casey Locker was also involved on several plays.

The ingredient most missing against SMU, and present against Montana State, is what Tyree Toomer and the Cougar D will need against the Trojans, said the safety.

"I wish we could have caused more turnovers," Toomer said of the 35-21 loss to SMU. "We had a couple times where the ball was on the ground and we didn't recover. And a couple of times the ball was in the air and we couldn't get to it."

Another achilles heel for the Cougars in their second defeat of the season was mental mistakes, leading to blown assignments and penalties – a consistent bugaboo the first three weeks. Plenty of focus has been on the first drive of the game when a late flag after a three and out opened the door for SMU to drive down field and QB Kyle Padron to run 13 yards for a score.

"That's just adversity right there," Toomer said. "There's nothing you can do about it (after the play occurs) you a know a ref calls a penalty and you have to play through it. That's just part of the game."

Toomer says the defense continues to make strides but the scoreboard needs to reflect it this coming week.

"We've been improving a lot," Toomer said. "This week we have to take a big step. It's Pac-10 play so the real season begins right here so we need to step it up, turn our level of play up another notch and just bring the wood."

The last time the two teams faced in Martin Stadium, it was a night to forget for WSU – the offense was shut out and the defense trounced in the 69-0 defeat.

"I remember that game and it does (haunt me)," Toomer said. "I played that game and I was just a true freshman at the time, came in about halftime when the game was already out of reach. But that's a score that will never heal..."

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