Notebook: New starter at RB; stat leaders and more

PULLMAN -- Second-year freshman quarterback <b>Alex Brink</b> won't be the only Cougar making his first collegiate start on Saturday when the underdog Cougars take on Oregon State. Rookie running back <b>Jerome Harrison</b> also will be in the line up on the first snap.

The 5-11, 190-pound JC transfer will be there in place of senior Chris Bruhn, who hurt a knee against Stanford.

Still, the Cougars plan to stick with the committee approach in the backfield. First off the bench will be Allen Thompson, who piled up 76 yards on just nine carries against Stanford. In addition, look for Kevin McCall to get some turns as well.

After a horrible start, WSU's ground game has picked up serious steam over the last two weeks. Harrison says all the credit goes to the offensive line, which is improving each week. Their efforts, which led to 437 total yards against Stanford, were so impressive last week that one of the hosses, senior tackle Calvin Armstrong, was nominated by WSU as its candidate for Pac-10 offensive player of the week. He graded out at 90 percent.

Harrison was an All-State performer at Central High in Kalamazoo, Mich., before slashing and dashing for nearly 2,000 yards over two seasons at Pasadena City College.

He's the Cougars' leading ground gainer this season with 272 yards on 53 carries for a glossy 5.1 hashes per.

He said he's excited about starting, but regrets that it came via injury to a teammate. "I didn't want to get it this way," he said Wednesday. "I wanted to wait until it was my turn to start."

WITH JOSH SWOGGER on the injured list and the 3-3 Cougars coming off two nailbiting losses, oddsmakers have installed 2-4 Oregon State as an eight-point favorite on Saturday. Kickoff is at 1 pm and there will be no live TV coverage. This will be the 89th time the schools have played. WSU leads the series 46-39-3. The Cougars are 19-4-1 vs. the Beavs since 1976. WSU won 36-30 last season.

WSU and Oregon State did not play each other in 1997, 1998 and 2002. As a result, the Cougars have played in Corvallis only once over the past seven years. No member of the Cougar team has played at Reser Stadium.

The Cougars are coming off a 23-17 home loss to Stanford and the Beavers a 29-14 win in Seattle over Washington.

THE COUGS AND BEAVS are two of the Pac-10's best passing teams. OSU ranks first, averaging 299.5 yards per game, while the Cougars are third, averaging 270 yards per game. In total offense, the two teams are even. WSU averages 383.8 yards, the Beavers 372.7.

STAT LEADERS: A pair of Cougars rank first in the Pac-10 Conference. Kyle Basler is averaging a league-leading 45.1 yards per punt, while linebacker Scott Davis has recovered three fumbles and forced three fumbles, both the best in the league. In addition, Michael Bumpus is second in the league in punt returns (11.7 per). He moved into seventh on WSU's single-season punt return list and is the freshman record holder at 270 return yards and counting.

NOTABLE NOTES: WSU's next home game, Oct. 30 against USC, will kickoff at 4 pm and be carried live by ABC-TV. That game is sold out, as is the Apple Cup game.

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