With just four days and two practices until the 2006 campaign kicks off, the Cougs appeared to be high on energy and long on focus Tuesday.
Leading the charge for the offense was junior quarterback Alex Brink, who continues to look confident and determined.
And well he should. He and understudy Gary Rogers are throwing the ball nicely, but that loaded receiving corps is enough to put a spring in anyone's step. Tuesday's session found the grabmasters as sharp as they have been all season, running clean routes and hanging on to anything close.
|Cougars vs. Auburn |
AT A GLANCE
4:45 pm Pacific Time
"We have too much talent, and have worked too hard not to make it," Thompson said. "All we have to do is stay focused and locked in, because we can't let a team like this, with so much talent across the board, slip away."
Tuesday's practice began on Rogers Field and moved to Martin Stadium late in the session. The first- and second-unit offenses ran drills, covered by the third and fourth string defense.
The starting D stayed behind on Rogers Field, running drills of their own with the third and fourth string offense.
As in Sunday's scrimmage, the first-teamers dominated on both sides of the ball, with Brink and the passing game highlighting the day for the offense, and tackles Ropati Pitoitua and Feveae'i Ahmu stuffing the rookie running game for the D.
The catch of the day belonged to senior Chris Jordan, who leaped high to grab a Brink bullet for a 30-yard gain.
The first-unit defense posted enough sacks, pass-break-ups, open-field tackles and interceptions to fill a month's worth of stat boxes. Pitoitua had possibly the finest show of athleticism and vision on the day, knocking down a pass at the line that got the defense on their feet, shouting praise to their teammate.
ON SPECIAL TEAMS, the battle for starting kicker looks to be as tight as ever, but the Cougs apparently will be going with returning starter Loren Langley over walk on Romeen Abdollmohammadi. Both continue to practice in red travel helmets, but Doba has said he's only bringing one to Auburn. Although Langley looked to have the edge because of his ability on kickoffs and as a back-up punter to Darryl Blunt, Abdollmohammadi practiced kickoffs in both Sunday and Tuesday sessions and looked especially sharp today, sending two impressive kicks into the back of the end-zone.
IN A CONFERENCE CALL with reporters Tuesday, Doba joked that he "praying for snow" this weekend in Auburn, which has had above average heat and humidity all week -- although the forecast is for cooler temperatures by Saturday evening.
To get players ready for the weather after coming from a climate that is dry and cooler, the WSU staff is encouraging players to drink a gallon of fluid each day to stay hydrated. Once the Cougars line up against the Tigers on Saturday night, Doba says the plan will be to substitute liberally to keep his players as fresh as possible for four quarters.
In talking about Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges, who spent many years in the Pac-10 at Oregon, UCLA and Cal, Doba said,"For every running play, there was a reverse off that run, there was a play-action pass off that run, there was a screen off that run. He really made you...your defense had to slow down."
ON THE INJURY FRONT, the Cougs are getting healthier. Senior offensive lineman Justin Luafalemana (thumb), freshman defensive tackle Toby Turpin (hand fracture), and senior linebacker Chris Baltzer (hamstring) returned to the field Tuesday, though Luafalemana was limited in his participation.
The offensive line looks to be adding depth, as senior walk on Tim Freeberg, a defensive lineman, suited up in white for a portion of Tuesday's session. Freeberg spent most of the day working out with the defense, however.
A full injury report was released by WSU on Tuesday:
Out Indefinitely: Zach Enyeart (left knee sprain), Joe Eppele (left shoulder sprain), Scott Friberg (right hip/right knee sprain), Arkelon Hall (left fibula fracture), Grady Maxwell (right knee surgery), Matt Mullennix (torn left ACL), Andy Roof (right thumb surgery), Jason Stripling (right shoulder surgery recovery). No Practice: Keith Rosenberg (right foot strain).
The Cougars open the season by playing in four different stadiums on four successive weeks. WSU kicks things off at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday and then hosts Idaho at Martin Stadium Sept. 9, followed by Baylor Sept. 16 in Seattle at Qwest Field, and then heads down to Stanford Sept. 23 at Stanford Stadium.
The trip to Auburn is expected to earn WSU $850,000. In addition, the Cougars' share from the ESPN2 live broadcast should be in the $250,000-$300,000 range.
The Cougars plan to fly from Pullman to Montgomery on Friday and then bus to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a workout before heading to their hotel in Prattville. The flight east will run 4 1/2-hours unless the plane has to make a fuel stop -- something Doba is hoping won't happen.