Mitz feels like he has plenty to prove in '11

WASHINGTON STATE RUNNING BACK Logwone Mitz will always have that 2008 Apple Cup TD run to look back on and cherish. But he wants more -- much more -- in 2011. Mitz also features one of the program's more interesting athletic lineages. He shared his thoughts on those subjects and others in a wide-ranging interview with CF.C.

The Apple Cup occasionally has made legends out of previous crimson-and-gray afterthoughts. There was Hank Grenda, a backup quarterback, who ran for a touchdown and threw for two more to lead Washington State to a 24-0 win against the Huskies in 1968.

Or wide receiver Trandon Harvey, who fumbled a punt earlier in the game at Husky Stadium, before he caught a bubble screen from Alex Brink and ran untouched down the left sideline to guide the Cougars to a 26-22 victory in 2005.

But when fans reflect on the '08 Apple Cup, the defining moment becomes varied. Perhaps it was the 48-yard pass from Kevin Lopina to Jared Karstetter that set up a 28-yard field goal by Nico Grasu to send the game into overtime. Or maybe it was Grasu's 38-yard field goal in double overtime that gave WSU a 16-13 win.

None of it would have been possible without Logwone Mitz, though.

A redshirt freshman, Mitz had just a half-dozen carries -- and none since the first half -- when he was inserted to replace starter Dwight Tardy on first down. Mitz quickly found a seam and used a block by fullback Marcus Richmond to go 57 yards before he was brought down in the end zone on a horse-collar tackle by Johri Fogerson.

Mitz, now a senior who entered fall camp as the Cougars' No. 1 running back, described the moment as the most exciting of his life. That partially can be attributed to how difficult the run was, even with strong blocking. Because he was on the sideline so long in cool temperatures -- Mitz's touchdown came with 2 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter -- he said he came "off the sideline as tight as could be." Mitz said he began to cramp up around the 20-yard line on the touchdown run, but persevered.

"Champions don't need to be reminded," said Mitz, reiterating a phrase he frequently shares with younger teammates. "You can't do anything halfway."

Mitz's Apple Cup moment is the most memorable of his collegiate career, but unlike Grenda and Harvey, he does not want it to define him. That is because Mitz feels like he has plenty to prove in his final season at WSU. After rushing for 441 yards in 2008, he has 423 the last two years -- combined. He has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry during that span, which is more than a yard-and-a-half less than his redshirt freshman season.

"We've been striving for progress and consistency," said WSU coach Paul Wulff, adding that Mitz has done that throughout fall camp. "When Logwone runs like a man possessed, he can be a dominant football player."

WHILE THOSE STATISTICS are unimpressive, they are not as dismal as the rushing totals produced last season by the Cougars. WSU ranked 117th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 91 rushing yards per game in 2010. But the Cougars' 2.62 yards per carry was only better than Bowling Green (2.09).

Despite that, Mitz sees reason for optimism. After having one of the country's worst passing offenses in 2009, WSU improved to 42nd nationally with 239.2 yards per contest last year. Much of that was attributed to a full season of starting experience for quarterback Jeff Tuel and upgraded talent at wide receiver -- true freshman Marquess Wilson, in particular.

Mitz feels there are some parallels to the running game. Last season, the Cougars were forced to start a pair of incoming junior-college transfers -- David Gonzales and Wade Jacobson -- and true freshman John Fullington on the offensive line. This season's line could feature as many as four senior starters.

In addition, redshirt freshman running back Rickey Galvin returns after his 2010 season ended on his first collegiate carry when he suffered a fractured right forearm. Galvin could be WSU's most explosive back since Jerome Harrison set a school record with 1,900 rushing yards in 2005.

While Mitz does not feature breakaway speed, he feels his "power," combined with Galvin's elusiveness, could create a formidable thunder-and-lightning rushing game.

"We have the talent and tools in the backfield to do whatever we want," Mitz said. "Our offense is so dynamic now."

THAT ALSO MIGHT be an apt description of Mitz's genes. When it comes to Washington football families, the conversation often begins with Ts -- Thompson and Tuiasosopo. But both of Mitz's parents were star athletes. His father, Alonzo, was a defensive end at the University of Florida who played six seasons in the NFL with Seattle and Cincinnati.

Mitz's mother, Quenna Beasley, was a standout three-sport athlete at Pasco High School, who won the Class AAA state championship with a throw of 149 feet, 6 inches in the discus in 1980. According to the Tri-City Herald, that remains a Mid-Columbia record as of 2008. Beasley then attended Oregon, where she set school records in the discus and shot put.

While Mitz was raised by his mother -- his parents never married -- he wants to address any misperceptions about his father, who lives in Renton. He said the elder Mitz was involved and coached him in football, while his mother did the same for track.

"My dad was always there," he said.

Mitz said both expected him to maintain at least a 3.0 grade-point average at Redmond High School and be completely committed to any athletic endeavor he pursued.

If he needed any reminder about the importance of performing well at both, his older half-brother served as a reminder. A.J. Mitz was a highly touted defensive end who signed in 2001 with Oregon.

But Mitz never played a down for the Ducks because he could not achieve a qualifying SAT score. Wulff signed him the following year at Eastern Washington, but said "it just didn't work out."

Six years later, the younger Mitz went through the recruiting process with much less fanfare. He initially liked Oregon because of his family connections, but the Ducks' coaching staff viewed Mitz, who was listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds as a senior at Redmond, as a linebacker. Mitz said they felt he lacked the speed to play that position.

He was limited to seven regular-season games as a senior because of various leg injuries, but finished third in 4A KingCo with 731 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 121 carries. Mitz said he knew WSU planned to only take one running back in its '07 recruiting class and committed on Nov. 10, 2006.

Beasley joked at the time that she would be "the crazy mother wearing half green and yellow and half crimson and gray" when the Ducks played the Cougars. Mitz laughingly said that has not changed much. He said his mother dons his WSU jersey -- and green and gold Mardi Gras beads.

STATISTICALLY, IT IS impressive that Beasley will have an opportunity to watch her son this fall. Coach Bill Doba signed 24 players in February 2007, which was his last full recruiting class. In addition to Mitz, only offensive linemen B.J. Guerra and Andrew Roxas, cornerback Aire Justin (who was suspended for his final collegiate season for violating the NCAA's banned-substance policy) and quarterback Marshall Lobbestael remain. Three others, wide receiver Daniel Blackledge, linebacker Hallston Higgins and defensive back Chima Nwachukwu, completed their eligibility last season.

"It's a blessing," said Mitz, referring to having a scholarship. "You have to take advantage of the opportunity."

Mitz said that was reinforced when defensive lineman Cory Mackay, who grew up in Redmond and played at rival Eastlake High, was paralyzed in a 2009 automobile accident near Washtucna. Mitz, who normally wears No. 34, hopes to don No. 6 as a tribute to Mackay in the Sept. 3 season-opener against Idaho State.

It also marks the first opportunity for Mitz, who is interested in a business-related career after graduation, to make an impression on professional scouts.

"It all comes down to this year," he said. "Eleven-hundred yards is the goal. I want to turn some heads."

And not just in the Apple Cup.

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