Running backs coach Kelly Skipper said the Cougars are going to approach this Saturday's Pac-10 showdown with Oregon the same as they have all year. Chris Bruhn will start, Allen Thompson and Jerome Harrison will rotate in.
"They'll all play," Skipper said. "Certain plays, some guys run better."
Yet there are no stats for blocking, especially in the area of pass protection. Bruhn has made himself into a good blocking back during his WSU career. He certainly wasn't poor to begin with, but the improvement he has shown since last season is significant. Bruhn has picked up several would-be sackers in the first four games.
Harrison, for his part, has shown flashes of what he can do with the ball. Cougar fans should be heartened in that the running back feels his best is yet to come.
"I have to take my game up a couple of notches," Harrison said. "I'm better than how I'm playing right now."
The former Pasadena City College product went on to give all the credit of his smooth transition to Div 1A football to coaches both past and present. "I have a real good coach that has prepared me," he said of Skipper.
Harrison is adjusting nicely to the Cougar system according to Skipper and has recently tried his hand in practice at punt returning due to Marty Martin sidelined this week with an injury.
Last week, Ken Greene told CF.C the lack of big plays by his secondary concerned him. The defensive backfield responded Monday with two interceptions, both off of freshman quarterback Gary Rogers.
The first was a dart that Hamza Abdullah smartly anticipated, stepping in front of the receiver. Most importantly, the play showed Abdullah is able to use both hands to make plays, having had the cast removed and replaced with a smaller splint to protect the injured thumb.
The second pick was a tipped ball which Alex Teems made an athletic adjustment in order to haul in.
Coach Doba said his team needed the bye week for two reasons, academics and injuries. With mid-term exams and papers due last week now out of the way, the Cougs are ready to concentrate on football.
The list of players out injured, and just plain dinged up, following the Arizona game was a lengthy one. "They needed those three days and so did I," said Doba with a laugh. But WSU will get back Steve Cook, who practiced for the first time since an injury during the Colorado game.
Doba said Cook got through practice fine, the big defensive tackle told the coach he felt pretty good following the session, although Doba said he was "a little gimpy." The tackle spot looks to have Cook and Aaron Johnson starting with Odell Howard expected to see plenty of playing time.
Tuesday injury update
Cody Boyd and Marty Martin (separated shoulders) are out.
Ropati Pitoitua (high ankle sprain) is likely to miss the Oregon game. "He tried to run Thursday and he ran a little bit, but he couldn't run Saturday – it was a little too sore," said Doba.
Troy Bienemann appeared more likely to start earlier this week than he did on Tuesday. Doba said of his tight end on Tuesday morning; "If we can get that loosened up, maybe we can get 15-20 plays out of him on Saturday." Bienemann was held out of practice Monday. Stay tuned.
Sean O'Connor will move over and work some at tight end this week, with Jesse Taylor getting the start if Bienemann can't go on Saturday.
In addition to healing, the Cougs also have an extra day of practice to prepare for the home game with the Ducks. "Anytime you play Oregon it's dangerous," Doba said. "Being at home helps."
Doba was pleased to see the student body support displayed when tickets went on sale for the remaining home games on Sunday afternoon. A line was wrapped all the way through Martin Stadium and extended down Stadium Way.