Ground Buffalo

If anyone wants to know if Washington State's rush defense has improved this season, the answer will be known shortly after 1 pm this Saturday.

The Golden Buffaloes of Colorado have made noise about deploying a  more
wide-open and unpredictable offense, but through three games head coach Gary
Barnett is proving that, at age 54, it's tough to teach an old ground dog that
it's better to pass than to run.

Given WSU's performance a year ago in the run stopping category, largely with
the same players who will man the defensive line on Saturday, Barnett's
penchant for keeping it low could add up to a clock-eating afternoon. The
Cougars were ninth in the Pac-10 in rush defense in 2000, yielding 174 yards
per game.

If they can keep the Buffs to a number like, however, they should be in good
shape. Colorado scorched San Jose State 51-15 last week by rushing for 263
yards. The two big guns in the backfield, sophomores Chris Brown and Bobby
Purify, combined for 312 yards the week before in a 41-14 upset win over
Colorado State.

On the season, Purify has 284 rushing yards and Brown 238 yards.

But they aren't the only spine haulers Barnett calls upon. There's also
senior Cortlen Johnson who racked up 43 yards on five carriers against San Jose
State,  and junior Vince Reed, a junior who saw his first action of the year
against the Spartans and piled up 58 yards on 11 carries.

Good news for the Cougars, though, is that the best back in the program, Marcus
Houston, is still out with an injury that has caused a mini-furor in Boulder
because of the way Buff assistant coach Eric Bienemey has childishly ridiculed
the lad's manhood.

The effectiveness of the running game has set up the Buffs' aerial game very
nicely. Sophomore QB Craig Ochs has completed 66 percent of his 91 tosses.

The Buffs, 2-1 on the season, suferred their only loss in the opener against
Fresno State --- a setback that, today, in light of Fresno's fast start,
doesn't seem all that bad.

On defense, the Buffs look to be recovering well from the porous pill that took
in 2000 when they ranked 98th nationally in team D. The secondary, with six
INTs so far, is leading the way so far, giving an inexperience DL time to gel.

The Buffs held Fresno State to its lowest point total --- 22 --- in the
Bulldogs' impressive first three games. The Buffs also limited the Bulldogs to
287 total yards -- a number it basically matched against CSU and San Jose. That
adds up to 295 yards surrendered per game -- down from 422 in Y2K.

Against the Cougars look for Colorado to show a lot of dime packages to take
advantage of team speed against WSU's spread offense.

Cougfan Top Stories