Could Woolridge, Swogs catch ASU napping?

NOW WE KNOW WHY Los Angeles doesn't have a National Football League franchise. They've already got a pro team. It just plays in another league. The USC Trojans, as revealed again Saturday, are in a league by themselves, one that the Cougars aren't up to right now. Still, if you can't win the game you can at least win the fight at halftime.

You read about the fracas in the tunnel, right? If you missed it, some jostling broke out on the way to the Coliseum locker rooms at the half. In the only telling exchange, one USC player, as I understand matters, was less than hospitable to WSU's Omawale Dada.

Some guys will do anything to cut weight.

It doesn't matter much that WSU bombed at SC. Everybody bombs at SC. What hurts is that they can spit better than we can throw.

That wasn't the only curious exchange on Saturday.

After he bull-rushed his way for the Trojans' 35th point, running back LenDale White lobbed the game ball to rap artist Snoop Dogg, AKA Coach Snoop, who was standing behind the end zone in a pack of worker bees mixed with SoCal celebs who probably shouldn't be on the field. Snoop broke into the Heisman pose. It was perfect TV. Before ABC's Keith Jackson could say Whoa Nellie, Snoop was hustling off into the tunnel, showing Reggie Bush breakaway speed, game ball tucked safely away.

In this era of one-upmanship maybe the Cougars' Jerome Harrison can be induced this week to present an official Pac-10 football to a celebrity from Pullman.

I know, there aren't any (unless you count Rueben Mayes or, for we old timers, Keith Lincoln) but that doesn't mean this week's Martin Stadium date with Arizona State can't go off the beaten track a little bit. For one thing, the Cougars can win, which they couldn't last week and everybody knew it. The Cougs couldn't afford to make mistakes. They did. The ball had to bounce their way. It didn't.

Example: down by only a point, WSU's Scott Davis stripped Bush at the goal line. The free ball bounced into the end zone, where an SC tackle flopped on it. The Trojans get a touchdown when it could have been WSU's ball at the 20. That's just not right. It's as though the football gods are lining up from Notre Dame to the L.A. Coliseum, bestowing favors on the mighty Men of Troy, in hopes that LenDale will lob them crumbs of attention, like game balls.

We saw an almost obscene flaunting of football riches at USC. Bush, the best runner in the land, can block. The nation's top passer, Matt Leinart, can run. Of that whole gifted bunch, Randy Moss-like receiver Dewayne Jarrett might just be the best future pro. Traveler wears front wraps. That's the only chink in the offensive lineup I saw. The great white Trojan horse might be a little lame. Too many touchdown gallops maybe.

Comparing programs, WSU to USC, I see one possible if dubious Coug advantage. USC has a bunch of young guys who could leave early for the NFL. That would downgrade the S.C. recruiting harvest of the last two years.

Saturday was a day for weird exchanges.


The first involved Cougar quarterback Alex Brink, who appeared to be saving his best for when the Cougars get to play a real college, not somebody who's better than an NFL expansion team. On fourth-and-one deep in SC ground, the Cougars sent a lead blocker crashing ahead of Harrison. On tape it starts out looking like a great play, until the handoff is muffed and the Cougs end up turning it over.

Brink looked flatter than the road to Ritzville. That negated some nice running by Harrison, a fine homecoming effort by Cougar guard Norvell Holmes, who grew up in Inglewood, an effective, if only for a while, offensive game plan and a couple of monster hits by free safety Eric Frampton.

At the risk of testing positive for crimson and gray, I'll also point out that WSU's punt coverage for much of the day was grade-A. A bunch of Cougs nobody hears much about swarmed the vaunted Bush.

And another thing. For the second time in as many games, TV has pinned failed extra-point kicks on either the snapper or holder. Neither is at fault. After the Cougs pulled to within 7-6, SC's Lawrence Jackson beat Cougar Spencer Hollison with a swim move. Jackson knifed inside for the block. Kyle Basler's hold looks fine on tape. WSU's point-after is anything but automatic, and that has to change, but pin the problem on the right donkey.

As the score mounted an extra point didn't matter much but at least some of the stars and some of the extras did do things well enough to lend credibility to the notion that WSU still has time to go someplace warmer in December. That requires winning these next two at home and beating the Huskies in Seattle. Here are a couple of ifs that would strengthen the odds.


First, if DeMaundray Woolridge is as ready to carry some of the load as he looked Saturday, perhaps it's time to rotate the freshman running back with Harrison, both to keep Harrison fresher and build for next year.

With junior QB Josh Swogger's stated intention to stay at WSU, he deserves some scheduled prime time. A planned, announced change of pace at quarterback -- say a series or two for Swogger in each of the first two quarters -- would keep Arizona State guessing.

If Will Derting can play even a little, the WSU defense would regain at least some of the bite it had in games gone by.

If I go platinum before Saturday, I want what Snoop got in L.A. -- a sideline pass, a game ball and spit-free passage through the tunnel.

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