Seen & Heard 9/6

ASIDE FROM KENNY IRONS, a few things struck me about the Cougars' opener at Auburn. For one, ESPN2 color commentator Ed Cunningham needs to do his homework. Second, the Cougs turned the ball over just once -– a big achievement for an opener on the road against one of the nation's best. And third, in the most pleasantly shocking development of all, the Cougs were flagged for just two penalties.

The Cougars? Two penalties?

True fact.

And one of those hankies was for an alleged chop block by guard Sean O'Connor that proved on replay to be highly questionable.

Since the days of Dennis Erickson and right on through Mike Price, Cougar football has sported three primary colors: crimson, gray – and yellow. The trend continued into Bill Doba's first year, when the Cougars were cited an average of 10.46 times per outing.

There's been a big drop in the last two seasons – 5.9 per game in 2004 and 6.7 in 2005 – but the Cougs aren't exactly Mr. Clean poster children. Last year they were flagged nine times in the season opener, against Idaho, and had another five games with at least eight penalties. The year before, they were whistled for at least eight infractions in five games.

Which is why Saturday's total is so head-turning. Granted, two penalties in a game isn't unheard of for the Cougs -– they did it last year against Cal, and in 2004 vs. Idaho they were nailed just once.

But to do it in the season opener, in front 87,000 hostile fans in the hot and humid deep south, against the No. 4 team in the land, is downright impressive.

It tells me that offensive line coach George Yarno's troops are mastering his unique schemes and that the defensive backs are making the right reads and are in position.

Coupled with the fact the Cougs had but one turnover against the Tigers -– a second-half Alex Brink interception -– I think this bodes very well for the Cougs' 2006 bowl chances.

SPEAKING OF OFFENSIVE LINEMEN who don't commit penalties, one of the cleanest -- and most impressive -- hosses ever to knock heads on the Palouse was Dan Lynch, a first-team AP All-American in 1984. This Friday evening he'll be one of 10 WSU greats inducted into the Cougar athletic hall of fame. Others include basketballers James Donaldson and the late Steve Puidokas, and former athletic director Sam Jankovich. Lynch, the pride of Spokane's Lewis & Clark High, should also get the award for best effort making it to the dinner. He lives in Prague, Czechoslovakia – an 18-hour flight each way.

NOW BACK TO MR. CUNNINGHAM up in the ESPN2 broadcast booth. I have some nits to pick. He committed enough errors during Saturday's broadcast to make Chuck Knoblauch look like a Golden Glove winner. And since he's an old Husky, I have no choice but to call him out in public. First, Dennis Erickson started coaching the Cougars in 1987, not 1983. Second, Timm Rosenbach is the quarterbacks coach, not the offensive coordinator. Third, Jerome Harrison plays for the Cleveland Browns, not the Minnesota Vikings. Fourth, the Cougars' defensive line coach is Mike Walker. And fifth, Matt Eichelberger played in the first half, despite his repeated assertions the Cougs had not substituted at tackle all game. Other than those miscues, I have to admit he did a very nice job.

FOR A MOMENT, ALBEIT a very brief moment on Saturday, my mind flashed to Ty Paine and Bernard Jackson, Ed Blount and Kerry Porter. Why? Because the Cougars rolled left for an option play. They made a living off the veer way back when under Jim Sweeney and Jim Walden. But Saturday's misadventure was a mild disaster: the ball was briefly on the ground and DeMaundray Woolridge ended up getting injured after no gain.

BAD NEWS ON THE OL' NFL transaction wire for old Cougars. Offensive lineman Calvin Armstrong has been cut by the Philadelpia Eagles and punter Kyle Basler by the Cleveland Browns. In addition, CougGreat running back Jonathon Smith, now called McKenzi Smith, was released Saturday by Kansas City. J-smooth had a solid camp, though, and seeing as he's been on the Chiefs practice squad for two seasons, there's a chance he'll wind up back there.

FORMER COUGAR BASKETBALL standout Carlos Daniel has been named an assistant coach in his home state -- at the University of Northern Colorado. He starred at WSU from 1995-98 and finished his career No. 2 on WSU's career blocked shots list (136). He also finished in WSU's career top 10 in rebounds (sixth), field goal percentage (seventh), minutes played (eighth), points (ninth) and field goals (ninth). As a senior he was named first-team All-Pac-10 and to the All-Academic team. He played professionally in the CBA and overseas.

NOTABLE NOTE:
A page-turner about the life and times of Lone Star Dietz is hot off the presses. The author, Tom Benjey, will be holding a series of talks about the legendary Cougar coach throughout the state of Washington from Sept. 5-11. The book is called Keep A Goin'.

The updated schedule is as follows:
10 a.m. - September 5, WSU Spokane's Bookie
7 p.m. - September 7, Book and Game, 38 E Main, Walla Walla
3 p.m. - September 8, The Bookie, Too!, in Pullman
10 a.m. - September 9, The Bookie in Pullman
4 p.m. - September 10, Elliott Bay Book Company, Pioneer Square, Seattle

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