Apple Cup key for Cougs: Plug the middle

WITH BOTH TEAMS about to finish under .500 and staying home for the holidays, it's not going to salvage the season for either the Cougars or Huskies if they win the Apple Cup. But each school desperately wants to win this game, both for any momentum it will provide for 2006 and as a fond sendoff for the seniors.

Bill Doba said the first step in stopping the Huskies is containing their fleet-footed quarterback and plugging the middle.

"We've competed well each week but we haven't won, and that's the key, that's what you have to do," said Doba. "A win this week would really help propel our program into the offseason. And I really want to win for those seniors."

Wide receiver Brandon Gibson will practice today and test his injured hip. Senior middle linebacker Will Derting will also practice today but swelling in the knee after Saturday probably means it will be a game time decision as to how much Derting will play.

WR Jason Hill should be good to go, although he may practice sparingly this week depending on how fast his injured finger heals.

DOBA EXPECTS THE Huskies, like previous opponents, to attack the Cougar middle Saturday with true freshmen at middle linebacker and defensive tackle. While Fevaea'i Ahmu and Bryan Olson have played well at times, not having a healthy Ropati Pitoitua next to Aaron Johnson all year hurt the Cougs this season, he said.

"You've got to remember they're both sophomores, they're both kids," said Doba. "I think their best football is still ahead of them."

Middle 'backer Greg Trent had his best game of the season Saturday, making a number of standout plays.

HE DIDN'T WANT to give away the game plan of course, but Doba said stopping the Huskies begins with quarterback Isaiah Stanback, a player Doba tried to recruit to Washington State before settling for Carl Bonnell. The Husky defensive line fired off the ball well against Arizona and the UW look like they were playing with more confidence according to Doba.

"You start to change the defense for one person and you end up having guys run free all over the place," said Doba. "If you look at the stats, Isaiah has (2283 yards) of total offense and the next closest guy has (445 yards, James Sims), so I think that kind of tells you where our emphasis should be defensively. He runs the quarterback draw, they sprint him out, they run a quarterback sweep and he throws the ball at times really, really well. He's an excellent quarterback."

With no bowl game, the Cougs miss out on the month's worth of practices that come with a postseason birth. Many of those sessions are spent on the youth in the program until they get closer to the game. Doba said the spring practices will be a bit longer as a result to try and make up for the missed time.

"Your football team is really made in the offseason and the summer, when they come together as team" said Doba.

Washington State will have a walk through practice and meal in Pullman before leaving for Seattle early Friday evening. After the game, Washington State is on Thanksgiving break. Some members of the coaching staff will stay in Seattle Saturday night and fly out Sunday morning to hit the recruiting trail.

NOTES:

Adam West takes over for the Cougs on long snaps with Troy Bienemann (knee) out. Riley Fitt-Chappell remains the short snapper and will back up West on put snaps.

Doba said he plans on taking virtually every senior and a bus will also trip more of the walk-ons and players who want to be on the sideline.

Cougar and Husky fans raised over $164,293 part of the "Tackling Hurricane Relief" program. WSU fans raised $97,947 while the UW raised $66,346. In the daily contest, Cougar fans raised more money that their in-state neighbors 10 days while the Huskies won the daily battle twice. For raising the most money, Washington State will have its school colors, logo and a message of encouragement painted on top of the Space Needle through the Apple Cup weekend.


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