Cougs looking to finish

PULLMAN - A stern test awaits Saturday. Based on Week One results, it seems that Washington State's greatest weaknesses are Colorado's greatest strengths. Last week the Cougar ground game was nowhere to be found and this week they battle a Buff D that suffocated the run against Colorado State. Last week, the Cougar defense surrendered a mountain of yardage to an honors candidate running back. This week, they face an honors candidate running back who damn near broke 200 yards a week ago.

So what are the Cougs planning to do about this incongruity that would seem to fly in the face of the fact oddsmakers have installed the Cougs 2 1/2 point favorites?

For the answer, we have to go back to Sunday, when film from the Cougar-Lobo game was starting to be analyzed.

When the Cougs looked to the videotape in diagnosing an anemic running attack, a key factor stood out for offensive line coach George Yarno.

Yarno said on Thursday he wants to see the steakeaters finish their blocks better. Too many times against New Mexico, the linemen simply didn't keep on their blocks long enough. That's a bad way to fly. If they continue engaging their man on Saturday, the running game will see immediate improvement.

Yarno isn't going to react in a knee-jerk fashion to a running game that produced 31 net yards. He's also not going to set wildly unrealistic benchmarks for the line, saying he just wants the linemen to get "one week better" after a lethargic showing against the Lobos. He went on to say that mentally, the players are doing well, but physically, they're still working some things out.

With the heavy conditioning done early in the week, these last two days' practices haven't been in full pads. Wednesday's practice was more of a walk-through than anything else as players had on gym shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. The players only form of protection on Thursday was helmets, much like the first few days of camp. Neither session lasted longer than an hour and a half but during that time, there was some intense work done on fundamentals -- on both sides of the ball.

Coach Robb Akey is counting on a better rush defense from his charges this week. Containment of Colorado's running backs is critical as the ground game is primarily how the Buffs are going to attack.

Most of the CU passing game comes on play action, bootlegs, and screen passes. Being aware and able to sniff these plays out will be critical for the Cougs on defense. Senior captain Hamza Abdullah said the players recognize this; mentioning a need to get back to the basics and the fundamentals -- something they got away from in the third quarter of the New Mexico game.

In the fourth quarter, Abdullah and the rest of the D showed they are capable and mature enough to be able to play the staunch defense the Cougar Nation has become accustomed to -- and they didn't do too badly in the first half either, holding the Lobos scoreless.

Most importantly last week, they were able to battle back from adversity -- the one thing defensive coordinator Robb Akey most needed to see to assess a defense that lost nine starters from 2003.

Abdullah said every team from here on out will test the Cougar's run defense after giving up significant yardage to the Lobos' running attack. "If you have success running, why pass?" Abdullah asked rhetorically. "A run is more safe -- and more stern."

A stern presence in the Cougars' defensive backfield, Alex Teems, rung in his starting debut with a breakout performance against New Mexico.

Abdullah noted part of the success the junior corner enjoyed was due to a New Mexico scheme designed to avoid the more proven Karl Paymah. "(Teems) had a great spring and a great fall, and now its (begun) showing up in the games," said Abdullah.

Abdullah is also wary of a Buffaloes team that could have a chip on their shoulders after last year's 47-26 drubbing at Boulder. To that end, Colorado was sailing along at 2-0 with wins over Colorado State and UCLA and ranked No. 17 in the nation. After the Cougars' victory, the Buffs went 3-6 the rest of the way.

If the Cougs are going to derail Colorado again this year, they're going to have to play better against the run, and run better themselves, than they did in their opener. The talent is in place to do both.

Now, its just a matter of finishing.

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