Seen & Heard 9/24

BEFORE I GET into the factoids and fascinations surrounding Saturday's televised showdown between WSU and Oregon, I'm compelled one more time to talk about yellow hankies. The good news is that Oregon State is now the national leader in penalty yardage, at 435. The bad news? The Cougars, who broke the 100-yard mark last Saturday for the third straight week, are just three-feet behind.

The Houston Cougars retain their national lead this week over the Palouse variety in total flags, with 47 to WSU's 45.

Head coach Bill Doba has been pulling his hair out over the Cougars' penchant for infractions since the miscues derailed what was --- and what should have concluded as --- a rout of Notre Dame. Practices again this week will emphasize the virtues of staying mentally and emotionally focused --- an especially tall order in light of the noise at Autzen Stadium that could foul the lines of on-field communication.

Still, Doba noted this week that the celebration penalties his troops have been flagged for this season, including two against New Mexico, seem a bit much. "We're supposed to have fun out there," he said.

SPEAKING OF FUN, this weekend's game between the No. 21 Cougars and No. 15 Ducks figures to be a donnybrook if the last three match ups between them is any kind of guide. The Cougars, on the strength of Jermaine Green's 180 yards and Will Derting's 13 tackles, won last year's tilt 32-21, but the outcome wasn't sealed until late in the fourth quarter. The year before that, the game ended in nailbiting fashion inside the Oregon five when the Cougars ran out of downs, losing 24-17. And the year before that, the Ducks prevailed in overtime, 27-24.

Indeed, the series between these two teams is about as close as they get. They've met 80 times, the Ducks winning 37 and the Cougars 36, with seven ties.

ABC would have been nuts not to pick up this one. The game will be broadcast regionally, with kickoff set for 12:30 PT. Oddsmakers have installed the Ducks as four point favorites.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Oregon QB Kellen Clemens has thrown 85 passes this season and nary a one has been picked off. That, coupled with seven TD tosses and a completion rate of nearly 60 percent, ranks him first in the Pac-10 and No. 10 in the land in passing efficiency with a 158.0 rating. WSU's Matt Kegel is no slouch, either, with a solid 131.6 rating that ranks him No. 48 nationally.

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT you, but the thing that struck me most about WSU's win over New Mexico wasn't the lopsided time of possession or the three red zone meltdowns, but the way backup linebacker Scott Davis flew to the ball. The second-year freshman had six tackles on the day, tying him for the team lead with fellow Kennewick product Al Genatone. Davis' nose for the ball and speed from sideline-to-sideline brought back pleasant flashbacks of yet another head-cracker from Kennewick: legendary Palouse Posse linebacker Ron Childs.

Drew Dunning, the Pac-10 special teams player of the week for the second time this season, is the top-scoring kicker in the nation right now with 47 points. That leaves just 62 points away from breaking Jason Hanson's WSU career scoring record. Another great leg on the Cougar team belongs to punter Kyle Basler, whose 44.83-yard average per boot ranks him No. 13 in the nation.

With backup DT Steve Cook sidelined with a broken foot, Josh Shavies should see more playing time this week. Word out of Pullman is that sophomore DE Adam Braidwood could also get some time on the interior as a result. Cook is out four to six weeks.

SEEN AT THE Pullman Denny's after the New Mexico game were three of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet: D.D. Acholonu, Sammy Moore and Jeremey Williams. All gladly took time out from their post-game dinner to sign the jersey of a a starry-eyed youngster.

FAIR WARNING that the following information may make you sick to your stomach. Aside from their season opener in Columbus, do you realize Washington has one of the great cupcake schedules of the first half of the season? It's true. After getting thumped by Ohio State, the Dawgs have taken on Indiana and Idaho, two of the worst teams in all of Division I, and now they gear up for Stanford, the odds-on-favorite along with Arizona for the Pac-10 cellar, before hosting Nevada. That's four weeks of smooth sailing before heading down to Corvallis and then coming home to play USC.


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