Sunday night report 9/19

The surprise news that <b>Josh Swogger</b> suffered a knee injury reverberated across the Cougar Nation Saturday night. Along with a complete injury update, more is now known about the injury and his status for Arizona. Offense, defense, special teams -- true freshman <b>Jed Collins</b> did it all against Idaho. But what his role could be this season may surprise you. Coach <b>Bill Doba</b> also talks offensive line, and what he told the team Sunday as WSU prepares to delve into Pac-10 play.

Josh Swogger looks to have a partial tear of his posterior cruciate ligament, but Swogger appears to have gone from very doubtful to questionable for Arizona.

"He had his MRI this morning," said coach Bill Doba. "They haven't completely evaluated it yet, but they think it isn't completely torn. They think it might be a partial tear. Josh feels good. There was very little swelling, and that's a good sign. He doesn't have hardly any pain. They're going to put him in a brace for awhile, to make sure that ligament stays quiet and (later in the week) we'll reevaluate."

Any injury is of course a concern, but trauma to the posterior cruciate ligament is usually less debilitating than one to the medial collateral or anterior cruciate ligaments. "Its the one that many people play without," said Doba.

Still, it's far from certain Swogger will line up under center against 'Zona.

"Yes, I think there's still a chance but.. that's up to the medical people," said Doba. "He wants to play -- I know that...He feels good. He doesn't have pain."

If Alex Brink gets the nod, the Cougs won't be looking to change much on offense, nor take anything out of the package. They may add a bit to take advantage of the redshirt freshman's mobility but the offense itself won't be limited or watered-down. Asked about Brink's fumbles, (one against Colorado and one against Idaho) Doba said he wasn't overly concerned.

"Both times he was trying to spin...We're not worried about it. Its his second game and its just something we'll work on, make him aware of it -- protect the ball in a contact area."

IN OTHER INJURY NEWS, walk-on Ryan Kensok broke both the radius and the ulna bones in his arm making a touchdown saving tackle late in the game. Kensok made quite an impression on Doba -- he was more concerned with the injury coming at the very end of the game than with the injury itself.

"Ryan Kensok is a tough (guy). He's never had a sprained ankle or anything and it was just kind of a freak thing....He was on the ground and I went up and asked him, 'Are you in any pain?' and he said, 'No! Jeez, the last play of the game almost!', and he was giving himself all kinds of heck. He's got my vote for toughest player of that game."

Kensok had surgery Saturday night, plates and screws were inserted into the breaks. "But if I know him, he'll be back to play another day," said Doba. "He walked on last spring and has done a great job for us (on the scout team), a really good kid."

Will Derting on the other hand should be just fine for Arizona. A mild stinger sidelined him early in the second half.

"He kinda got a stinger, actually Teems hit him," Doba said. "They hit helmet to helmet...He just had a slight burner. I kidded him about staying down just to make the crowd cheer when he got up...(but) we don't want to lose him - or anybody for that matter."

Doba said Steve Cook and Ropati Pitoitua look to both be out for Arizona.

"I think both of them are probably pretty doubtful. Cook, for sure, is very doubtful. He's still in a brace. Ropati, I believe they're going to take that boot off (this week) and see what he can do...but I wouldn't think (he's going to play.) If you try and rush them back too soon, it becomes a nagging injury for the whole season...Hopefully we can get them back for Oregon."

All other players, (including Aaron Johnson who was injured in the second half) are expected to be ready to go Saturday.

THE PERFORMANCE BY Jed Collins on offense, defense and special teams produced some impressive numbers: Receiving, 1-27 yards; Kickoff return, 37 yards. A fumble recovery. Doba also noted Collins had three tackles and one assist at middle linebacker and on special teams and blocked well for the tailbacks.

But most interesting was how Collins and Brandon Asuega-Stark were utilized on offense against Idaho. Collins isn't ready to start yet, but he's not all that far off either. And it might be on the offensive side of the ball. Where would he play on offense?

"He's still kind of a back-up but he's moving more and more towards that fullback role," said Doba of Collins. "Asuega-Stark did a nice job also. Both those kids fired it in there and did well. Jed is about 30 pounds heavier, he's around 250."

Fullback role. Consider that for a moment.

Late last year and well before LOI day, Cougfan.com asked offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller if there might be some traditional two-back thrown into the Cougs' offensive package. Levy mentioned you'd first need to have that kind of player, that fullback, on your team to go that route. "I don't think we'd go a ton of two back - if we don't have that two back," said Levenseller at the time.

But the Cougs might now have that very kind of player in the form of Collins, and perhaps also in Asuega-Stark. Of course, Doba didn't say they were completely there yet, but if Collins continues to develop as a fullback...

It certainly bears watching over the rest of the season.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE by far had their best outing of the young season, but it remains an area of concern.

"There's still some mistakes there," said Doba. "We're still not real satisfied... And Norvell Holmes is having a little trouble with his back too, in fairness to him. He's pretty stiff." Holmes missed all of last season with a back injury.

At guard, Bobby Byrd and Charles Harris started against Idaho, with Patrick Afif and Holmes each seeing time. Spencer Hollison got some reps with the first team last week, and may do so again this week. That guard position will continue to be evaluated this week -- who starts may hinge on who practices best, but all will likely see time.

"That's probably going to be a week to week thing on how well they practice, and I think thats a good thing. I think Bobby Byrd is closing the gap and getting better each week. But Pat Afif will still play some and so will both of those kids (Harris and Holmes.) And we might take a look at Hollison inside at that guard. He's played out at the tackle position but he's pretty athletic... And Harris played well."

ENTERING PAC-10 PLAY with two starting defensive tackles out, and questions if the starting quarterback will be able to go, is a concern for Doba. But he said the staff has confidence in this team as a whole.

"You've got to have confidence in those guys (given their play)... And if Swogger can't play, Alex Brink has proven he can move the football team. I think we've got a good trio of running backs that can go in and make things happen and take some pressure off the quarterback. I think our receivers are catching the ball better. This was a really good game to help build our confidence."

"I feel good about our football team right now. We still have to be tested and this will probably be one of the tougher teams we play in the early going -- I thought Colorado was a good football team and I'd rate (Arizona) right up there with them."

Doba said AJ, Odell Howard and the defensive tackles did a decent job Saturday but pointed out Idaho ran the ball well between the tackles. He was impressed by Idaho's running backs but the youth up front is a concern going into Arizona, which boasts a veteran offensive line.

"There were a couple of mental errors, especially when we had the 2's in there. We might have to do (some different things scheme-wise on the line) for those two young kids until they get strong enough to go toe-to-toe with a junior or senior. Arizona's line is juniors and seniors, I think their right tackle's a freshman. The rest of those kids have experience, they're good strong people."

HEADING INTO IDAHO, the coaching staff emphasized two things to the players; win the turnover battle and to limit the penalties. The Cougs did both, controlling the game from the outset. Sunday, Doba basically told the players, 'Good job, men.'

"I told them number one, I was really proud of them... We had two penalties (called, one was declined). I was proud of the way our kids behaved themselves and I thought they won with class...and I told them this is a new season. Now we start the Pac-10 season and our goal has always been Pac-10 champs and now is when we've got to get it going."

He was preaching to the choir. Back on Saturday night immediately after the game, the players were already talking themselves about the start of the Pac-10 season...that its time to get after it.

NOTES
The Cougs nominees for Pac-10 player of the week:
Defense - Derting, 8 tackles, 3 assists and a forced fumble in a little over two quarters
Offense - Jason Hill, 3 catches for 106 yards, 3 touchdowns - Graded out at 89 percent by coach Levy
Special teams - Loren Langley, 7-7 on extra points

Sixty-one Cougs took the field against Idaho. That's about 15 more players than normally see action.



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