Disappointed, but unbowed

AN OPPORTUNITY exists this week, according to coach <b>Bill Doba</b>. A heavy underdog to the Trojans of Southern Cal, there are a number of things in need of a fix if Washington State is going to shake off the doldrums when the No. 1 team in the nation comes to town on Saturday. The complete injury report, which players have earned more playing time and what Doba told the troops on Sunday.

Coach Bill Doba told the team Sunday the loss at Oregon State isn't just something that should be chalked up as one of those things that happens in college football. That doesn't fly with the coach.

"Well, you can't have a bad day. At this level, in this league, to reach your goals, you just can't have a bad day."

Doba let his players know they have "a great opportunity" this week with the No. 1 team in the nation in Southern Cal coming to town. And he told the team they must grow up and grow up in a hurry, they don't have time to wait till next year. They have to get it done this week.

Doba understandably wanted to keep the details of what he told his team immediately after the game on Saturday between him and the players.

"I was upset, obviously. I just told them we had to get better..."

ONE AREA needing immediate improvement is the receiver play. Three of the sacks on Alex Brink were coverage sacks.

"I think our receivers have to help", said Doba. "We've got to run better routes and we have to get open. I was pleased with the way (Brink) played, I thought he played well for his first start."

The Cougs converted but one third down on the day. But their defensive counterpart struggled in that area as well, the Beavers moving the chains 40 percent of the time on the Cougs when faced with a third down. Doba wants to see that number in the 20s or lower. Contributing to the conversions, the Cougs simply missed too many tackles, allowing too many long runs, including the 79-yard touchdown run, that Doba said should have been shut down for a short gain.

THE DEFENSE has lost a little confidence in themselves according to Doba, but the feeling is not mutual. He did cite for the second straight week a need for the stop corps to concentrate on making plays and not focus on preventing the big play. Doba also said the players worked too hard this summer not to finish the year strong.

"I have confidence in these guys," said Doba. "There's a lot at stake (the final four games) and they paid a big price this summer."

While some fans are wondering about Will Derting this year, Doba isn't one who is questioning his performance.

"He's playing well," Doba emphasized. "He's got two freshman tackles there in front of him (most of the year) and that makes it tough, but he's doing a nice job. He overran a few things, I think he was just trying to make some plays and he's just getting back with that wrist healing up."

Derting has been unable to to do any weightlifting with that arm, having worn a cast most of the season as the dislocation healed. He has only recently been able to return to the weight room and get in his normal workout.

THE BRIGHT SPOTS are few and far between in a game where the Cougs just got flat out beaten, but Doba and the staff managed to find a few after looking at the videotape. A trio of young defensive backs played well -- Omowale Dada, Eric Frampton and Tyron Brackenridge were each singled out by Doba for their performance against the Beavers.

Dada is an overachiever, a player that really works hard. He's also the best player on the team at stripping the ball away during practice drills, something the Cougs could use more of to get the defense firing on all cylinders again. Doba said after the game that Brackenridge had shown him something with that kickoff return, both in terms of skill and courage and he made some good plays at corner to boot. Frampton is really starting to pick up the defense, making a number of solid plays on Saturday.

Those three have earned more turns in the weeks to come. The defensive backfield starters remain unchanged but the young players are starting to make plays -- to the point they'll be seeing more time, whether in the nickel and dime and/or for spelling the starters.

Make no mistake, any increased playing time they see is not to help the Cougs next season, its solely because they've earned it with their play, the goal being wins this year. Doba said Husain Abdullah, who made a number of plays the first third of the season, also had a nice effort against Oregon State.

OTHERS EARNING HIGH MARKS included Sam Lightbody, the big right tackle had his best game of the season, grading out at 93 percent by the coaching staff. Adam Braidwood also came alive with three sacks. Jerome Harrison had 76 plays and gained 98 yards on the ground. And Scott Davis continues to impress.

"Scott Davis just continues to play well...He's just good," said Doba.

Davis has made big-league plays all season long, fighting off the block of the tackle to drop the Oregon State ball carrier for a two-yard loss being the latest example.

Norvell Holmes has taken back the right guard spot he won in Fall camp from Patrick Afif. A bad back had forced Holmes to the sideline but as it's improved, so has his play, to the point he played most of the game last week and got the start against the Beavers. Afif has filled in ably at that guard spot this year, having an especially good outing against Arizona.

THIS WEEK, the Cougs need to regain whatever confidence they've lost over the last three games, especially on defense. Doba said if the staff were to go in there now and just focus on all the things the players are doing wrong, that won't solve the problems.

"We're going to continue to work hard. We'll continue to accentuate the positives."

Although they had a terrible start, Doba said there was good hustle all the way through that ballgame, no one quit -- the team just didn't make the plays needed to win that game. A number of early missed opportunities might be frustrating for all, but it doesn't do a whole lot of good to beat it to death.

"They feel bad enough," said Doba of the players. "Nobody missed a tackle on purpose, nobody dropped an interception on purpose, nobody didn't cover well on purpose."

He also spoke to how the team feels about being 3-4 at this point of the season, saying they take the losses as hard as anyone.

"There wasn't anybody playing cards or goofing around on the plane on the way home," said Doba. "They want to win just as much as our alums and coaches want to win."

Injury Update
RB Chris Bruhn(knee) is most likely out
WR Greg Prator is doubtful for USC (ankle)
CB Alex Teems is questionable (slight concussion)
RB Allen Thompson (shoulder) might be healed up enough to play against the Trojans, Doba saying there's "a chance". Kevin McCall is the No. 2 back if AT can't go with Harrison getting the start.

There are a variety of other bumps and bruises but all other players on that list are considered probable for Saturday's tilt.

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