Though Holiday Bowl practices began about two weeks ago, Saturday marked the first time the Cougars focused specifically on the tactics and strategies they'll need to blunt the No. 5 Longhorns' offense, which averaged more than 42 points a game this season -- fourth best in the nation.
The centerpiece of it all is hard-nosed running back Cedric Benson and highly elusive freshman quarterback Vince Young. Together they accounted for some 2,220 rushing yards this year.
Not since Week 2 at Notre Dame, with Julius Jones and Carlyle Holiday, have the Cougars faced this particular recipe out of the backfield. There's one bigg difference, though: Young is a helluva lot more talented than Holiday. When he scrambles he either buys himself time to hook up with super dangerous receiver Roy Williams, or finds the seams that allow him to pick up chunks of real estate with his feet.
Young's mobility and strong arm has national pundits looking at Cougar free safety Erik Coleman as the man on the spot. "Coleman makes the calls in Washington State's back end and also is in on a large number of tackles. His challenge against Texas will be tough, however, beginning with how to read unpredictable QB Vince Young. Young averages 86.2 yards rushing, but also can burn teams with the deep pass. Coleman must read those throws and also get Washington State in the right coverages," writes CBSsportsline.com.
On defense, the Horns are solid, with cat-quick linebacker Derrick Johnson leading the way. He finished third in balloting for the Butkus Award.
After today's workouts are complete, the Cougars will retreat to Couer d' Alene Resort as they did a year ago for two days of relaxation and then fly to San Diego. They'll have short practice after arriving and then resume regular workouts on the 24th, 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th. Most practices will be open for media and fans through the 27th. WSU will be headquartered at the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel and practice at San Diego State University.
TICKET UPDATE: Washington State has sold 11,000 Holiday Bowl tickets, and Texas is at 6,900. Tickets to WSU's pre-game event are on sale through TicketsWest by phone at 1-800-325-7328 or online at www.ticketswest.com. The event will be held at the northeast corner of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m the day of the game.
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