Thumbs up or thumbs down?

THE BIG RIGHT TACKLE for the Cougs, <b>Sam Lightbody</b>, walked off the practice field on Tuesday holding his hand and collective hearts skipped a beat. Coach <b>Bill Doba</b> gives an injury update on the senior captain and answers the question on everyone's mind in the Cougar Nation: Will Lightbody play against USC? The complete injury report plus news and notes on <b>Norvell Holmes</b>, <b>Josh Swogger</b> and more as Washington State gets ready to square off against Southern Cal.

Sam Lightbody had just begun practice on Tuesday when on a average, everyday play he injured his thumb. When Lightbody came off the field holding his hand, it didn't bode well for the Cougs' chances this week against USC. Specifically, Lightbody has a sprained thumb, tearing some ligaments. If the phrase "torn ligaments" just deflated your balloon, allow us to re-inflate it. Lightbody will be put in a cast and get after it against the Trojans this Saturday.

"He's okay," said coach Bill Doba, explaining they will be able to put a cast on Lightbody's thumb and the injury will not force the senior captain to the sidelines. "It's not very painful for him...He'll be ready to go."

Had Lightbody not been able to play against 'SC, Charles Harris was ready to step in. The injury is to Lightbody's left thumb, the same one he injured his freshman year. In the 2000 fall camp, Lightbody tore the ligaments in that same thumb, missing the entire year on a redshirt. Although he tore the ligaments again, and although coach Doba said it's not overly painful for him, the following must be said of one of the true leaders on this team: Lightbody is one tough, hard nosed football player.

ELSEWHERE ON THE INJURY FRONT, Allen Thompson is questionable and looks to be a game time decision. "I think Thompson will be back, he practiced and he's going to try and give it a go," said Doba. Chris Bruhn (knee) is out.

Troy Bienemann left practice early on Wednesday, the deep shin bruise suffered against Arizona simply hasn't responded to treatment as the trainers have hoped. One step forward, two steps back seems a fitting phrase. The tight end should be able to handle long snaps okay but how much he plays at tight end probably won't be known until game time. The injury prevents Bienemann from getting up on his toe and pushing off, making it very difficult to run.

There are deep bruise injuries that sometimes do take this long to heal, Doba said, and it may just turn out that's the case. The medical staff will continue to re-examine Bienemann to see if they can determine anything that can be done to speed up the healing process. They've X-Rayed it at least twice over the past few weeks to rule out any break, the X-Rays have come back negative.

Greg Prator is doubtful after an Oregon State player landed on the back of his ankle on Prator's touchdown catch last week.

Trandon Harvey is questionable, although he did practice yesterday. The wide receiver is coming back from a slight concussion. "We're really getting thin at that receiving corps," said Doba.

All three snappers are nursing injuries. Along with Bienemann, Adam West and Riley Fitt-Chappell are both nursing leg injuries -- a high ankle sprain for West and a lingering strained arch for Fitt-Chappell. For the second year in a row, the Cougs have some snapping issues as they head into USC.

The good news is last year's problems were with Bienemann out, and that's the one place he's likely to be the least affected by his shin injury. Fitt-Chappell should also be able to perform his short snapping duties on field goals, his injury is no worse than it was last week.

"I'll tell you what, men, I've never been through anything like this," said Doba. "In one game you get both starting defensive tackles hurt. In the next game you lose both starting tight ends at Arizona. And then you lose two running backs in the next game. Lose the (starting) quarterback in the next one -- it's been a nightmare, it's like a MASH unit down there."

DOBA DIDN'T SEE many weaknesses on this USC team after watching the Trojans on videotape.

"Honestly, I don't see any weaknesses. They're stronger in some areas than others. You've got to see them in person but on's hard to find anything that you'd call a weakness. Their defensive front is their strength on defense. And the guy that (also) worries me is LenDale White. He's a big 6-2 230-pound fullback that can run. He doesn't get as much press because of (Reggie) Bush and (Matt) Leinart, but he's a load going up through there."

"And Bush is really a one-man band, he's a threat. He really has my respect."

At the same time, Doba doesn't want to overstate the task ahead for the Cougs on Saturday.

"We can't make them bigger than life. They're not the New England Patriots, they're college kids just like our guys are college kids and granted, they're a good college team, they're big, fast strong college kids -- but we're not ham and eggs either...Its going to a great effort on our kids part and its going to take some luck. I don't care how you cut it, you need a little bit of luck in every game."

Aside from a little luck, Doba thinks the Cougs are ready to accept the challenge.

"I think the morale has been really good. As I told them, if you win this game, it'll be something you remember for the rest of your life."

Josh Swogger attended practice earlier this week. The foot is still very tender coming off surgery to repair the broken acicular bone but when he's able to get around a little better on the crutches, he'll be attending team meetings and attend practice as a matter of course. "He's one of our captains and if we have room we may travel him, probably not for UCLA as we have a pretty full plane for that one, but maybe for Arizona State," said Doba. "He'll still be around the team and he'll be a positive influence."

Norvell Holmes gets the start at right guard again this week. Holmes won the job in fall camp before his back forced him to the sidelines. With that back feeling better of late, Holmes has regained that No. 1 spot with Patrick Afif backing him up. "As long as his back is healthy and doesn't stiffen up, he does a pretty good job," said Doba.

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