Mullennix out for season; Bumpus ready for start

PULLMAN—Just when it seemed there was some light at the end of tunnel for the injury woes of Washington State's defensive line comes the worst type of injury news from the Palouse. Defensive end <b>Matt Mullennix</b>, a key reserve for the Cougars' top ranked defense, suffered a season-ending knee injury during practice on Monday.

During a nine on seven drill, the redshirt freshman from Spangle tore both the MCL and ACL in his right knee. It could be a month before his MCL has healed and the swelling has subsided enough to have surgery on the ACL.

"After surgery, it will be five to six months of rehab and therapy, then I'll be back in the saddle," Mullennix told "I might be able to catch the tail end of spring ball, but if not, I'll be back for summer conditioning."

Despite being hampered by a hip flexor, Mullennix was an integral part of the of the Cougars' d-line rotation. In four games, he tallied seven stops (five solo, two assists), with a career best three tackles in the Cougs' last contest, a 20-19 victory over Arizona. The Wazzu defense is currently ranked second in the Pac-10 and sixteenth in the nation.

"Matt is a tough, hard-nosed aggressive son of a gun. His motor is always going. I think he'll be a great help for us this season," WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey told CF.C before the season started. "A lot of guys would not play through what Matt did this summer. He's just plain tough."

This bad news comes right on the heels of some recent good news from the Cougar sickbay. Defensive tackle Steve Cook will be back in action this weekend against Oregon, his first appearance on the gridiron since falling with a grade two MCL tear against Colorado on September 11. In addition, linemate Ropati Pitoitua , out with a high ankle sprain suffered during that same Colorado game, likely will see action next week against Stanford.

With starting slot back Marty Martin out with a shoulder separation, Josh Swogger and company will be looking for Michael Bumpus and Trandon Harvey to step up their play against a down-but-not-out Ducks team this Saturday.

Of this, Bumpus is keenly aware.

Wednesday's practice was over, the players had filed out of Martin Stadium but there was Bumpus, who has been running with the first team all week, and fellow rookie receiver Greg Prator, both hard at work on the details.

The details -- something wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller drills into his charges, day after day, play after play. Get the details down to where they becomes second nature, that's when you're at your best.

"There's always about one or two things coach (Levy) picks on me about each practice," Bumpus said. "(Levy)'s on me a lot more this week because I'm going to get more time."

Sightings such as this are not uncommon on the Palouse, players putting in extra time, working hard to get the chance to prove themselves. Said Bumpus; "I feel like I'm ready to help the team and back up all the hype."

The highly sought after recruit has already nailed down the Cougs' punt returning job as a true freshman. In limited action through the first four games, the 6-0, 190 pound Bumpus has three receptions for 21 yards. That playing time is about to increase. So are the numbers.

Still, although Bumpus will start, expect to see plenty of Harvey in the slot as well. Coach Bill Doba took pains to mention that "it doesn't really matter who starts" at the slot -- nor at running back, for that matter. The reason why is because Doba and Levy will continue to liberally rotate those positions against Oregon, as they have all year.

Chris Bruhn, Allen Thompson and Jerome Harrison will all see action in the backfield on Saturday. The same holds true for both Bumpus and Harvey; each will see considerable playing time against the Ducks.

Harvey's had a few drops this year, but Coug fans would do well to recall last season when so many of his receptions were clutch; several times in '03 on a third-and-critical, Harvey made the grab and moved the chains. Coming up big at crunch time was something the 5-11, 193-pound junior made a habit of last year, and it's likely only a matter of time before he returns to form.

And with Bumpus, it's just a matter of time before he breaks one, be it on a punt return or via the pass. Is the Culver City native ready to get his first collegiate touchdown?

"I've been ready for about four weeks now," Bumpus said.

The Cougars, according to coach Bill Doba, will perhaps be running a more basic offense this week due to the recent pile-up of key injuries. But he also made sure to mention he and the staff have faith in the replacements such as Bumpus, and also in Jesse Taylor and Sean O'Connor at tight end. Cody Boyd is out with a separated shoulder and Troy Bienemann is questionable, and if Bienemann plays, he may only get in for 15-20 plays according to Doba.

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