Pivotal game for Cougs, says Doba

IN A DEPARTURE OF sorts from the norm, coach Bill Doba said Tuesday that Washington State faces a pivotal point in their season when they take on Cal this week. The head man of the Cougs talked about the amount of playing time star running back Jerome Harrison sees on game days, and the inability to finish in the fourth quarter the last three games. Plus, the speed at which the Cougar offense is most effective and all the injury news.

Doba usually stays away from putting too much emphasis on any one game, often saying every game is a must win. That wasn't the case Tuesday.

"I think this game is huge," said Doba. "It's tough to keep getting kids up week in and week out, and then losing. I think this game is a pivotal game for our season."

Doba said the coaches are telling the players this week they can't fall into a "Here we go again" mentality the first time they hit adversity in the fourth quarter. The offense also runs better at a faster tempo, he said, and the Cougs want to keep playing that way.

"We're talking to them about if you have a lead, you hope the clock runs slower so you can get a bigger lead," said Doba. "Don't hope the clock runs fast so you can get out of here with a win. That's a real concern and I think that's why this game is so important."

Doba said while injuries to key personnel like Ropati Pitoitua and Will Derting have had an impact, he refused to use the injuries as an alibi, saying they're to be expected and other players simply have to step up.

BEFORE PUTTING THE UCLA game to bed, Doba talked about play selection in the fourth quarter and overtime -- where the Cougs ran once, passed twice, in the four three and outs. Doba said the Cougs got stuffed on the runs, with the pass then giving them the better chance to pick up the first down.

Doba also said DeMaundray Woolridge would come in when it made sense to do so, saying he didn't think Harrison was tired and thought he was having a good ball game. He also noted the senior has done a very good job of blocking and blocking the right man. Ultimately, Doba said he wouldn't want to bring in someone just for the sake of bringing someone new in -- it's not the way they do things.

"If we did that, then we'd have played Swogger," said Doba.

DEFENSIVELY, DOBA SAID two starting linebackers, Scott Davis and Steve Dildine, have been trying to help freshman Greg Trent in the middle, which has left the two outside 'backers vulnerable on some plays.

Doba had nothing but praise for his staff Tuesday, saying that second guessing is counterproductive.

"The staff is doing great," said Doba. "I think the game plans have been good. They can sit back and second guess themselves until you're blue in the face -- you can't do that."

Kick returner and backup corner Lorenzo Bursey is out 2-4 weeks with a shoulder sprain (AC joint). Either Benny Ward or Woolridge will take his place next to Brandon Gibson on kickoffs. Linebacker Brian Hall (clavicle) has shown some improvement, and will try and practice today after X-Rays came back negative. Jerome Harrison has a sore shoulder and will likely be held out of contact drills Tuesday but should be fine for Saturday.

The Cougs may take Derting along to provide leadership but the middle linebacker will not play this week. The earliest he would come back would be next week but that looks tenuous at best, with a possible return for ASU more realistic.

Doba also took some time to talk about how Josh Swogger has handled being a backup. "I love Josh," said Doba. "Don't get me wrong -- I love both those guys. And Josh is a phenomenal young man. He's a great team guy. He's not complaining, he's not a locker room lawyer. He's in the office asking what he can do to help us win. He's Alex's biggest fan on the sideline. He's really a unique young man."

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