It's a three-game season, says Doba

DON'T BLAME THE LINE for WSU's woes on offense Saturday, says coach Bill Doba. Top concern for the Cougar staff looks to be on defense after surrendering record yardage to the No. 1 team in the nation. Improvements will be required if WSU is to win out and go bowling in '05, he adds, also noting that Josh Swogger may be needed in what is now a "three game season." Plus, the head coach says the tunnel incident is being blown out of proportion, and the latest injury news.

Josh Swogger came in for Alex Brink in the fourth quarter of the blowout loss to Southern Cal Saturday. After two series with Swogger at the helm, the Cougs sent in Gary Rogers. Doba said the move was to get Rogers some playing time and didn't want to risk losing a veteran to injury, mentioning the Cougs may need Swogger as they enter the stretch drive.

"We just wanted to get Gary some time where he could throw the football," said Doba. "He's been in there before and has never thrown a dang pass. We got the chance to have him throw four or five. The game was out of reach and there's no sense in putting Josh or anybody else in jeopardy. We may need Josh to start in the next two or three weeks, who knows. He's still a valuable part of our football team."

Washington State also pulled the starting linebackers for the entire fourth quarter, and liberally substituted in the secondary as the game went on.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE played better than the yardage total and scoreboard would indicate, said Doba.

"(Alex) had some bad throws," said Doba. "We had some drops. I think actually the offensive line played pretty darned well, really. I think Charles Harris had an outstanding ball game, even though it was lopsided.

"He went against their No. 1 guy, I think, the defensive end. And (Frostee) Rucker according to the stats didn't have a tackle, didn't have a sack, and might have had one pressure. There were some bright spots. Not very many, but there were a few."

THERE AREN'T ANY easy fixes to the defensive woes, said Doba. The coaching staff has made some changes such as a three man front and playing four linebackers but more changes might be in store this offseason.

"I think we need to grow up a little bit and get a little stronger, " said Doba, pointing to the youth on defense and especially on the defensive line. End Mkristo Bruce was singled out as one who is playing well, Michael Graise and Lance Broadus both have Doba excited for the future at defensive end and Matt Mullenix has also shown significant improvement.

"Courtney Williams, he might be a corner," said Doba. "But those guys, (Williams, Graise and Broadus) have not played at those positions (before)."

The issues on defense are both due to personnel and that offenses have evolved, according to Doba, saying an example would be that the same blitzes that worked against Texas in the Holiday Bowl are not working this year. The prevailing trend in college football has been to go more zone blitz and while Doba said WSU has the zone blitzes in the package, the staff will look in the offseason if they need to be running more of them.

"It's time for them come back and catch up," Doba said of the need for the defense to evolve. "And again, you go back and look at personnel. We had Jason David, who's playing and starting for the Colts. Their scout was in last week and said their first two draft picks were corners, and he beat them both out. Marcus Trufant was there, we had Lamont Thompson, Karl Paymah was drafted and of course you've got Erik Coleman."

Doba also said trying to correct one area affects another.

"We had some pretty good talent in the secondary and that allowed us to do a little bit more with the blitz package, to play some base straight cover 4," said Doba. When you do that you put your corners on an island. If you don't want to put your corners on an island then you've got to run some cover 2. Now you've got to run your linebackers on verticals. That opens up the dinks and the drags that have been hurting us. So one thing complicates another. You can't just fix one thing to get it done."

WSU EMERGED FROM the loss fairly healthy, save for the usual bumps and bruises. Michael Bumpus (ankle) and Lorenzo Bursey (shoulder) missed the USC game and could return next week, as could MLB Will Derting, out since Oregon State with an MCL sprain.

Doba said Derting had some fluid drained from his knee Sunday. The litmus test, as it was for Ropati Pitoitua returning after a long layoff, will be if Derting is able to participate in contact drills Wednesday. "I don't want to play him unless I can hit him in practice," said Doba.

IF THE COUGS can win out, they'll also get the month of practices that go with a bowl game and begin laying the foundation for some of the younger players.

"That's why I think it's so important if we can somehow, by hook or crook, or cheat I don't care, some way win these last three ball games and get that extra month of bowl practice and springboard us."

Doba was chuckling when he said "or cheat, I don't care" but he's serious when he says it would be important to get to a bowl and practice many of the younger players. Not going to a bowl allows for the coaches to spend more time on recruiting, but a bowl game obviously comes with more advantages.

DOBA TOLD THE team after the game and again Sunday during running drills it's now a three game season, and they need to forget what happened before and go get after Arizona State.

"They worked their tails off again, they went out and ran hard," said Doba of the team on Sunday. "It's time to circle the wagons and get going."

Doba said the Cougar fumble on the USC 12 yard line when Jed Collins thigh pad collided the football was a result of Brink going too wide. There was a huge hole for Harrison but the senior never got the ball.

Doba said the tunnel incident was being overblown. Cornerback Omowale Dada said he came to Doba's defense when a number of Trojan players began shoving and taunting the 65-year old head coach of the Cougars. Dada also said some Trojan players were spitting on Cougar players. Doba said he didn't see any of that. "I don't think anything was done intentionally," said Doba. "We got bumped around a little bit."

Talking about the differences between college and the pros, Doba mentioned how Coleman recently dislocated and broke his thumb in a game. Standing on the field, the Jets safety popped it back into place. After the drive ended, and being unable to secure an interception during the series, the staff noticed the thumb, ran him to the locker room for X-rays and a cast. Coleman missed a total of three plays. After the game, he was rushed into surgery, where pins were inserted into this thumb, and played the next week. "Tell me that's not a business," Doba remarked. "But he's doing a great job for the Jets."

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