Making the big plays

THE THIRD STRAIGHT road victory over Stanford was certainly a difficult one. But when it comes right down to it, the Cougs made the big plays when they had to -- So says the head man at Washington State. And as the No. 6 Cougars prepare for the first of five big games, there's quite a number of things to feel good about..

The offense, thanks in part to a gutty effort by quarterback Matt Kegel, stepped up when it counted most in Saturday's 24-14 win at Stanford.  "When people make plays when they have to - that's the sign of a winner," said coach Bill Doba. 

Doba went on to say that it wasn't as bad on offense as it first appeared after he reviewed game tape.  "We just couldn't put them away," he said.  While there are certainly things for Doba and staff to work on, ultimately, "I was really proud of our kids - that they made the big plays when they had to."

On the other side of the ball, Doba was pleased with yet another standout effort on defense.  middle linebacker Don Jackson had seven hits on Stanford quarterbacks; that's a heck of an accomplishment for a player - and especially for a linebacker. 

Coach Doba also bestowed praise for Saturday's effort on special teams.  The coverage units had their best game of the season; playing a huge part in the field position battle.  And Sammy Moore fought off a painful cramp in his calf long enough to break off a 64-yard punt return.

Both Kyle Basler and Drew Dunning had good days.  Although an extra point was blocked, Doba noted Dunning accomplished what he's done so often before; connecting on a big field goal at a critical juncture.

One thing the coach isn't enamored with; the number of flags being thrown the Cougs way.  "Most disheartening thing for me was the penalties," said Doba.  He also used the word "unacceptable".

Citing four false-starts, as well as some penalties on defense, Doba left no doubt how he felt about the number of procedural penalties called against WSU in Palo Alto, "This late in the season, we can't tolerate that," he said. 

Regarding his quarterback's tolerance for pain, "That was a pretty courageous deal on his part," said the head coach.  In case there was any question on Kegel's (shoulder) status; the senior will be under center when the Cougs take the field Saturday afternoon against Oregon State. 

"He'll play," said Doba. 

In other injury news, Doba said offensive lineman Sam Lightbody (neck stinger) will be evaluated this week to see if he can go on Saturday.  Also suffering a stinger was tight end Jesse Taylor.  Neither injury looks to be as severe as the stinger incurred by center Mike Shelford but both are probably doubtful at this point.  Stay tuned.

Shelford for his part, is "feeling a little bit better," said Doba, but its still uncertain when he will return.  Jermaine Green (ribs) also felt better on Sunday but is "probably doubtful" for Saturday's tilt with Oregon State.

Winning the Cougar Claw award this week was Jonathan Smith.  Smith (ankle) was sore on Sunday, but should be good to go when the Beavers visit Martin Stadium. 

Turning to Oregon State, Doba said the Cougs' goals include stopping the run and moving the ball better on offense. "They've got a good defense," said Doba of the Beavers, pointing out the challenge awaiting the Washington State offense this Saturday. 

Still, he mentioned the Cougs do rate No. 1 or No. 2 in the Pac-10 in ten of 14 major offensive categories they track.  Something to consider..


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