Injuries mount as Cougs turn focus to UCLA

PULLMAN –- The injury bug continued to bite the Cougars Tuesday, as two more starters missed practice and another key backup left in the middle of the session. As coach Bill Doba had indicated earlier in the week, the staff is looking into some changes in the WSU practice schedule, plus Lorenzo Bursey and Brandon Gibson turned in the plays of the day.

To the list of already banged-up Cougars—one that includes Will Derting, Jason Hill and Ropati Pitoitua, among others -- you can now add linebacker Steve Dildine, punter Kyle Basler, and tight end Cody Boyd.

Boyd left the session early, returning in street clothes. His injury has not been disclosed by team officials but it appeared precautionary and his foot may have been bothering him. Boyd missed some time with bone cysts earlier this season. With Boyd out, Ben Woodard, the pride of Cheney, took more turns with the first-team offense on Tuesday than usual, splitting time with fellow backup Jesse Taylor. Woodward missed all of last season with a knee injury.

On defense, Dildine was out with what defensive coordinator Robb Akey called a sore leg. Akey said Dildine would play Saturday against UCLA, but that they didn't want to "burn him out" during the week.

Jason Stripling ran with the first string in Dildine's place. Brian Hall also saw some time at linebacker.

Starting receivers Hill (thigh contusion) and Chris Jordan (hip flexor), both of whom couldn't play last week against Stanford, missed practice Tuesday. In their absence, the Cougars used fill-in starters Trandon Harvey and Brandon Gibson.

Greg Prator, who caught a touchdown pass against the Cardinal, is behind Gibson in the rotation. Michael Bumpus was at practice and looked fine, but had his right knee taped up.

The injuries affected special teams, too. Punter Kyle Basler has been in the hospital for the past couple days with a possible bacterial infection, although it's reportedly not serious with Doba saying he expects to have the senior back for Saturday.

DOBA SAID EARLIER the team, especially the defense, looked heavy legged against Stanford and the staff would look at if they were going too hard during the week. Tuesday, the No. 1 offense took the field against the No. 1 defense, Dan Rowlands and Andy Roof took the first few snaps with the first unit, in place of regular starters Norvell Holmes (guard) and Charles Harris (tackle).

Center Nick Mihlhauser and left tackle Bobby Byrd also didn't take a lot of snaps against the No. 1 defense either, being replaced by Josh Duin and Spencer Hollison.

Brandon Gibson made some impressive plays Tuesday. The most notable was during one-on-ones, when he kept his concentration well enough to make a catch on a comeback route despite having Don Turner stuck to him like glue.

The defensive play of the day was turned in by Lorenzo Bursey during one-on-ones. Playing press coverage on Prator, Bursey looked to be burned on a deep post, but showed outstanding recovery speed by making up the gap and batting the ball away.


Kevin McCall continues to look very impressive in practice, but with even No. 2 tailback DeMaundray Woolridge straining to see the daylight of playing time behind Jerome Harrison, when McCall will next get his hands on the ball in a game is anyone's guess.

Dwight Tardy has changed his number again, from No. 31 to No. 21. Tardy came into camp wearing No. 44, which he dropped after about three days.

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