Cougars look reborn

PULLMAN — There's nothing quite like looking defeat in the face and then living to tell about it. Washington State's come-from-behind win at New Mexico has given this team a caffeine jolt. Tuesday's practice was a stark reversal of the lackluster workouts leading up to Albuquerque. The energy is palpable, the focus laser sharp.

Quarterbacks threw tight spirals with plenty of zip. Receivers made precision cuts and got their hands on nearly every ball.

The defensive backs were lightning quick and junior corner Alex Teems, the big hero at New Mexico, looks like the second-coming of Erik Coleman with the confidence he brought home from his first-ever collegiate start.

Secondary coach Ken Greene said Teems has showed toughness and determination in winning the starting spot in a heated battle with Don Turner, Tyron Brackenridge and Wally Dada. Greene said the depth at corner is considerable and the competition there is nothing short of fierce.

Asked if Teems could take on a leadership role, Greene said the fourth-year junior from San Pedro High isn't particularly vocal but can lead by example with his aggressive, physical brand of play.

Offensive tackle Calvin Armstrong did not practice Tuesday and had a brace on his left ankle. Tyron Brackenridge left practice early.

Travis Elisara, son of early 1980s Cougar standout tackle Matt Elisara, made his Cougar debut on the scout team after being invited to walk on last week following Mike Reilly's departure. Elisara starred at Spokane's Ferris High in 2002 and was a walk on at New Mexico last season. He enrolled at WSU this year planning to focus on academics.

Junior punter Kyle Basler, the pride of Elma, Wash., was voted Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week for his work at New Mexico. Basler punted seven times for a 47-yard average and had an outstanding net average of 44 yards. He had a long boot of 59 yards.

WSU, ranked in the top 10 each of the last three seasons, is rated No. 34 this week by ESPN.

Saturday's game in Seattle will be televised by ABC and aired in about 35 percent of the nation. The Cougs and Buffs have met five times over the years, with the Buffs leading the series 3-2. Four of the previous games have been at Boulder with the only game in the state of Washington at Spokane in 1982, with Colorado winning 12-0.

Last year in Boulder the Cougars used big plays and a 24-point third quarter explosion to roll to a 47-26 win. WSU scored on pass plays covering 74 yards (Sammy Moore) and 77 yards (Scott Lunde), and also registered a 97-yard kickoff return (Moore) and a 41-yard interception return (Jason David) to put the "big" in big play. The Cougars forced five Buff turnovers.

A crowd approaching 60,000 is expected for Saturday's game at Qwest Field. Kickoff is at 12:35. For tickets, call 1-800-GOCOUGS.

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