PRACTICE REPORT: Cougs seeing purple

PULLMAN—In case anyone forgot how big the Apple Cup is to the Washington State football team, Tuesday's practice offered a few reminders. Despite sub-40 degree temperatures, WSU practiced with an energy that suggested they were unaware of the conditions. Or despite the fact Saturday's matchup pits a 3-7 WSU team at a 2-8 Washington squad, the Cougars looked as sharp as a bowl-bound team. And the biggest reminder of the importance of the Apple Cup might have been in how the Cougars were dressed.

Forget routine. Not this week. Not with five losses by four or less points and the rival Huskies on tap for Saturday.

In a normal game week, WSU offensive players wear either crimson or white practice jerseys, depending on the game's location -- in the days leading up to last week's home game against Oregon, the offense wore crimson. For road weeks, they wear white. Defensive players wear white for home games, crimson for road games.

This goes for everyone, with the exception of quarterbacks and other players deemed "non-contact" for the day, who wear yellow jerseys.

Tuesday, while the first and second-teamers wore their regular crimson and/or white, each of the WSU scout team members wore purple jerseys.

On top of that, every scout-teamer wore a jersey number corresponding with the Husky who plays their position. Usually, a scout-teamer only switches from his regular number in special cases. For example, when the Cougars prepared to play UCLA, scout-team running back Dwight Tardy wore No. 21 for the week to simulate Bruins star tailback Maurice Drew.

But this week, the WSU scout teams are an exact copy of the Huskies' offense and defense. Tardy wore No. 22 for UW back James Sims; scout-team safety Michael Willis wore No. 8 for UW starting safety Dashon Goldson; scout-team cornerback Courtney Williams wore No. 6 for Huskies' starting corner Matt Fountaine; and both scout-team quarterbacks, Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan, wore No. 4 for UW signal-caller Isaiah Stanback.

ON THE DAY, Alex Brink looked especially sharp and Josh Swogger also had a nice day as well but had a few underthrows whereas Brink was crisp and on target all day long. At receiver, Chris Jordan looked faster than he has all year after fighting through injuries this season.

DeMaundray Woolridge and Brandon Asuega-Stark Brandon Asuega Stark were hitting the hole with purpose as Jerome Harrison sat out the session with a dinged up thumb. Harrison will start Saturday, with the star tailback held out of several practices this season simply for precautionary reasons.

On defense, Omowale Dada, DeWanne Patterson and Steve Dildine all had interceptions off backup Cole Morgan. In contact drills, the Cougs were hitting with decidely more intensity than your normal Tuesday. Scott Davis and Eric Frampton each had a number of shoulder pad popping sticks.

Senior captain Troy Bienemann won't play against Washington after suffering a knee injury against Oregon. With Bienemann and third-string tight end Jesse Taylor (stinger) both injured, backup Cody Boyd takes over the starter's role. Fourth-string redshirt freshman Ben Woodard and converted fullback Jed Collins round out the tight end unit.

Defensive stars Will Derting and Mkristo Bruce began the day in pads, but Bruce (leg) left midway through the session and returned in street clothes, and Derting eventually ditched the helmet-and-shoulder pads for a winter coat. He will likely be a game time decision as to how much playing time he gets. Bruce will probably get light work this week to rest an injured knee but appears set to start Saturday. Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua, backup cornerback Don Turner and backup defensive end Mike Graise also missed practice.

Returning to the field was freshman receiver Brandon Gibson, who missed last week's game with a hip injury. Gibson didn't do much Tuesday, and was running cautiously. More will be known on his availability for Saturday's season final later in the week.

21 Cougar senior will say farewell to college football Saturday at Washington: Bienemann, Derting, Harrison, West, Brandon Asuega-Stark, Kyle Basler, Adam Braidwood, Carlton Coard, Cory Conklin, Wale Dada, Riley Fitt-Chappell, Trandon Harvey, Norvell Holmes, Marty Martin, Mark Matthey, Nick Mihlhauser, Bryan Olson, Tom Ostrander, Greg Prator, Graham Siderius and Alex Teems.

Jerome Harrison, who last week set a school record for most yards in a season (1,693) and broke the Pac-10 mark for most consecutive games of 100+ yards rushing, has climbed into the No. 5 spot in ESPN's weekly Heisman Trophy poll of 15 college football experts. Vince Young of Texas is No. 1, followed by USC's Matt Leinart, USC's Reggie Bush and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn.

Mkristo Bruce, who had two sacks against Oregon last week, is now sixth on WSU's Top 10 career sack list with 18.5. Just ahead of the junior from Renton is Scott Pelluer (1977-80) with 19 and Keith Millard (1979-83) with 21.5...Bruce is second in the Pac-10 this season with 10 sacks while the Cougar defense leads the conference with 32 sacks.

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