A clash of backfield superstars on Saturday

WASHINGTON STATE WILL take on two leading Heisman Trophy contenders this Saturday in the form of USC quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush. But the most dangerous player coming out of a backfield during the regionally televised contest just may be the Cougars' own Jerome Harrison. USC calls Bush and Lendale White "thunder and lightening," but Harrison is nothing less than electric when you consider the way he's become the nation's second-leading rusher.

He has six carries this season of 30 yards or more, including jaunts of 69, 57 and 42 over the last three weeks. His longest was an 80 yarder against Idaho in his first carry of the season.

And while the Cougars generally may not be finishers, Harrison definitely is --- he has a Pac-10-leading 11 rushing TDs this season.

Cougars (3-4) vs. Trojans (7-0)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PT

WHERE:
Los Angeles Coliseum (grass)

TELEVISION:
Live regional broadcast on ABC with Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts on the call

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

THE LINE:
USC by 30

THE SERIES:
The Trojans have won two consecutive following WSU's 30-27 win in 2002.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Trojans 56, Cougars 24


He's also versatile. In addition to his 1,162 rushing yards, he's grabbed 11 passes for 109 hashes. Harrison's 181.1 all-purpose yards per game ranks No. 6 in the nation.

Bush, of course, leads the nation in the all-purpose category. He's been running, catching and returning an average of 203 yards per game, putting him on a collision course with Leinart for the Heisman Trophy.

While most of the West Coast-directed Heisman chatter has been about those two, plus UCLA's Maurice Drew, the discussion is also finally starting to include Harrison. On Monday, the first paragraph of SI.com's Heisman Watch column was devoted to Harrison, though they still didn't see fit to include him on the top 10 list of contenders. In addition, one of the nation's most prominent handicappers, Larry Ness, last week put Harrison on his list of the top dozen contenders, while at the same time dropping Lendale White off.

HARRISON WILL PASS BY some impressive names in WSU's record book this weekend if he extends his streak of 100-plus-yard rushing games to 11. If hits the century mark right on the nose Saturday, he'll move by Ken Grandberry (1971-73) and Michael Black (1996-97) into No. 6 on the career rushing list, and he'll eclipse Black (1997), Bernard Jackson (1971), Rueben Mayes (1985) and Steve Broussard (1989) on WSU's single-season rushing list.

That would leave only Broussard's 1988 campaign, Shaumbe Wright-Fair's 1992 season and Mayes' standard-setting 1984 performance ahead of Harrison on the single-season list. Harrison is on track for more than 1,800 yards this season, which would beat Mayes' record by about 200 yards.


Senior Nick Mihlhauser

BEYOND PURE TALENT AND GRIT, one BIG reason for Harrison's success has been the work of his offensive linemen. And their success, no doubt has been aided by the fact it's the same guys in the trenches week after week. The Cougars have started the same front six in every single game this season: tackles Bobby Byrd and Charles Harris, guards Sean O'Connor and Norvell Holmes, center Nick Mihlhauser and tight end Troy Bienemann.

That stretch of consistency, by the way, also applies to WSU's defensive line. The Cougars have started the same four guys every game: Mkristo Bruce and Adam Braidwood on the ends, Fevaea'i Ahmu and Aaron Johnson at the tackles. Bruce is No. 1 in the Pac-10 in sacks with eight.

USC'S PLACEKICKER HAS a name very familiar to Cougar fans. Sophomore Mario Danelo is the son of Joe Danelo, a star kicker for the Cougars from 1972-74. Joe, the pride of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep, went on to a long career with the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills before becoming a longshoreman in San Pedro, Calif. Mario walked on at USC a year ago and earned the starting role this season.

As a sophomore at WSU, Joe was the Cougars' lone highlight when they lost 44-3 to mighty USC in Seattle at Husky Stadium. He kicked a field goal (the first 50-yarder in WSU history) to put the Cougs up 3-0 and then made a stunning, TD-saving tackle of all-world Anthony Davis on the ensuring kickoff. In an interview with CF.C a few years back, Joe said his tenure in Pullman was "pure enjoyment --- the four greatest years of my life --- a great university, a great atmosphere."

NOTABLE: Receiver Kipp Curtis, a second-year walk-on from Pendleton, Ore., was WSU's offensive scout team player of the week for his work leading up to the Cal game, and second-year freshman tackle Matt Eichelberger of Bellingham was the defensive scout team POY.

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