Seen & Heard 10/25

Remember those dark days two years ago when it seemed that <b>Rick Neuheisel</b> had locked up verbal commitments from the state's best prep prospects before the first leaves had fallen from the trees? Today, the chips are fallin' a might different way.

Today, seeing as how Erik Coleman, Calvin Armstrong and Steve Cook managed to slip through his clutches, Rick's early in-state inroads don't seem all that calamitous for we crimson faithful.

But more than anything, have you noticed who has racked up the majority of early in-state verbal commitments so far this season? Mike Price, that's who. The Huskies have two in-state verbals so far – Puyallup DL Dan Milsten and Moses Lake DE Jordan Reffett. With coveted Spokane WR/DB Don Turner casting his lot with WSU this week, the Cougars now have five in-state verbals – and it may be six if unconfirmed reports about Kent DB Wes Rainwater prove true. The others in the fold are Seattle LB/DE DeMar Baisy, Kent QB Carl Bonnell, Twisp LB Matt Molinex, and Walla Walla LB Brian Hall. And the good news continues with word that top-flight TE/DE prospect Cody Boyd of Ferndale has installed the Cougars has he current leader over Oregon.

HEY, DO YOU remember back in the dark days of 1998 when the Cougars were battling Cincinnati's Bearcats for the dubious title of being the most turnover-prone team in all of Division I-A? What a difference three seasons can make. WSU is currently +8 in turnovers after seven games --- 12th best in the nation. That's really something when you consider that only one other team in the Mike Price era – the 1994 Palouse Posse -- finished on the plus side in turnovers.

Ya gotta love the nicknames that start to flow when a team is winning. The best one to come out of WSU's championship team of 1997 was the Fat Five. This year it looks like the catchy new moniker on the block is going to be The Awesome Twosome.

And who can argue with it? Nakoa McElrath and Mike Bush have collectively nabbed 77 passes for 1,394 yards and 16 TDS this season. They're tied with each other for first among Pac-10 receivers in scoring with eight touchdowns each. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the conference in receptions yards, and one (McElrath, 47) and third (Bush, 30) in total receptions.

And speaking of scoring, Cougar kicker Drew Dunning is reaping the rewards of an accurate leg and the prolific way his teammates move the ball. He's currently running away with the Pac-10 kick-scoring title and leads UCLA's DeShaun Foster by a point in overall point production. He has hit 11 of his 14 field goal attempts, with a long of 49 and is 34 of 38 on PATs. In all, he has 67 points, putting him just nine points shy of WSU's single season Top 10 list, and 19 points ahead of the next-best conference kicker (Mike Barth of ASU).

STAT OF THE DAY: If the Cougars win Saturday's 4 pm showdown (ABC-TV) with Oregon, it will tie up the series record between the long-time foes at 36-36-7.

TOUGH SLEDDING:The NCAA this week rated WSU's four-game schedule to close out the regular season as the toughest in the nation. WSU's last four opponents --- Oregon, UCLA, Arizona St. and Washington -- are a combined 21-4.

THE LAMONT WATCH: Senior safety Lamont Thompson has broken the WSU career record for interceptions and last week against MSU upped his lifetime total to 17. But he'll have to make some serious hay the rest of the way if he's going to break the Pac-10 career record of 27 held by former Arizona Wildcat and Green Bay Packer Chuck Cecil.

INJURY UPDATE:
Oregon has a few dings but is expected to be close to 100 percent on Saturday. For the Cougars, DT Nate Mallory (left knee sprain) and LB Alex Nguae (left ankle sprain) fall into the questionable/doubtful category, but it doesn't look good for RB Dave Minnich (right knee), RB Allen Thompson (ankle sprain), LB Serign Marong (groin), or CB Marcus Trufant (broken wrist).


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