Seen & Heard 9/27

THE COUGARS TRAVEL to Corvallis this week for their Pac-10 opener against Oregon State and it appears that oddsmakers are having as difficult a time getting a true read of WSU as the rest of us. The Cougs come in 3-0 and will be facing a club that has been outscored 105-51 over the last two weeks. But the Vegas types clearly aren't wowed by the Cougars' trio of Ws against second-tier opposition. The early line on Saturday's game was "pick ‘em."

Cougars vs. Beavers
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
1 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
43,000-seat Reser Stadium (FieldTurf)

TELEVISION:
None

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Cougs by 2

THE SERIES:
WSU leads 46-40-3.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 31, Oregon State 24

For ye unwashed, that means flip a coin to predict the winner. The latest line had the Cougs with a 2-point advantage.

One thing is certain, though. Come late Saturday afternoon one of these teams will be well on their way to a bowl game and the other will be searching for some serious answers before getting into the heart of the Pac-10 schedule.

The Beavers are 2-2 after having their proverbial doors blown off the last two weeks by Louisville (63-27) and Arizona State (42-24). Their two victories came against Portland State (41-14) and Boise State (30-27).

The Beavers that dominated the Cougars 38-19 a year ago in Corvallis look to be a distant memory. Two statistics serve as a metaphor on OSU's 2005 season so far: 19 sacks surrendered (most in the Pac-10) and only five collected (last in the conference).

They've struggled with the run game on
offense, averaging 86.5 yards per game. And on
defense, the lack of pressure up front coupled with struggles at cornerback has allowed opposing QBs to riddle them.

One bright spot, however, is the play of all-world receiver Mike Hass. He has 40 catches for 670 yards --- a remarkable 167.5 hashes per game. Running back Yvenson Bernard also has been a playmaker, catching 19 balls for 202 yards and rushing 73 times for 356.

FAMILIAR FACES: The Beaver sideline will include a couple of faces familiar to Cougar partisans. Their defensive line coach is 1970s Cougar standout Robin Ross, in his first year with OSU after several at Oregon. And their top defensive player is linebacker Trent Bray, the former Pullman High star who had committed verbally to play college ball at WSU but switched to OSU when dad Craig Bray, then the Cougars' secondary coach, became Oregon State's defensive coordinator under Dennis Erickson. Craig is now at Colorado.

FORMER COUGAR FOOTBALL players --- as Coach Doba's staff so loudly attests --- have long been mainstays in the college coaching ranks, with the likes of Ross, Greg Burns at USC, Ron Collins at Boise State and Bob Gregory and Jim Michalczik at Cal. But in all my years of Cougar watching I don't remember any Crimson Soldiers drawing Xs and Os in the Ivy League. Until now, that is. Rod Plummer, a Cougar linebacker from 1988-91, is an assistant at Cornell.

Burns, the Trojans' secondary coach, is one of four Cougar defensive backs from the 1990s who are in coaching. Torey Hunter and Bryant Thomas are at Idaho State and John Rushing is in his third season at Utah State.

In case you missed last week's Hot News item on it, look for another notable Cougar player to join the coaching ranks --- though it may still be a few years off. Jason Gesser, in his first season playing quarterback with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, said in a wide-ranging interview on KJR sports radio in Seattle that his career goal is to one day return to WSU as an assistant coach and eventually become head coach.

Down Texas way, Mike Price has loaded up his UTEP staff with one-time Cougar players. Jeff Banks, Mawuli Davis, Aaron Price and Derrick Roche are all with him, as are former WSU assistants Eric Price, Jim Clark and Lawrence Livingston.

Andre Patterson, a Cougar assistant from Price's early days in Pullman, was quoted in the newspaper the other day. Now the defensive line coach for the Denver Broncos, he told the Daily Times-Call in Longmont, Colo., that if you look at the numbers, getting a sack is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. "You pay a guy $17 million to get 12 sacks out of 700 rush attempts. If you were 12 out of 700 in anything else in life, you're looking for a job," he quipped.

SPEAKING OF COACHES, I couldn't help but notice in the Seattle Times a couple of weeks back how well old Cougars were represented on the list of the state of Washington's all-time winningest high school football coaches. Ray Hobbs, a Cougar lineman in the 1950s, is No. 6 with 235 wins --- most of them piled up at Pullman High --- and Mike Lynch, a Cougar center from 1968-70, is No. 16 with 204 victories at Ritzville High.

GET ‘EM WHILE THEY LAST: Less than 2,000 tickets remain for WSU's Oct. 8 home game against Stanford. "Good seats still remain for the Stanford game in most sections, but they are in limited numbers," says WSU's Pete Isakson. Tickets for the Stanford contest, along with all remaining Cougar football games, are available for purchase at the Cougar Ticket Office, by calling 1-800-GO-COUGS, or on-line through www.wsucougars.com.

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