Cougs shuffle up on defense

IN THE WAKE of widespread injuries suddenly plaguing the Cougar defense -- WSU is now without their top three defensive tackles plus the No. 3 defensive end is also sidelined -- coach Bill Doba said Tuesday there will be some experimentation this practice week out in Pullman. Highly touted true freshmen Andy Mattingly and Chris Ivory will both get looks, and not at their usual positions.

Despite the injury situation, and that six wins only means a team is bowl eligible and not guaranteed a spot with the new 12-game schedule, Doba said he fully expects to be someplace warm this winter.

"We're going bowling though, by gosh, we've got to go," said Doba. "Our guys -- that's their goal."

As Washington State prepares for UCLA, the Cougs during the week will take a look at putting linebacker Andy Mattingly's hand down at defensive end, and running back Chris Ivory will switch position meetings and line up at linebacker.

Mattingly has been a special teams star this season for the Cougs, and has seen some late game playing time at linebacker. Ivory, who ripped off a fourth quarter 80-yard scoring run in the blowout win against Idaho, played some linebacker in high school.

Given the attrition, Doba said the Cougs will "probably" play more of the 3-4 front, something the Cougs have been utilizing all season. Walk-on Adam Hineline is the backup to starting DTs Matt Eichelberger and Bryan Tarkington this week.

"He's a great kid," said Doba. "Great motor, and a good person, too...We can't rob anybody off the offensive line, we might put (Toby Turpin) on red alert but I'd say no, I'd hate to take a (red) shirt from a kid at this stage," said Doba.

IF THE COUGS are going to run the table the final four weeks of the regular season, as Jason Hill and Alex Brink have said is the goal, they're going to have to do it without a number of starters.

Doba said Tuesday that d-tackle Ropati Pitoitua is out at least two, maybe three weeks with a strained MCL. Fellow DE starter Aaron Johnson looks to be out for two weeks with a strained elbow. D-end Mike Graise (hamstring), the backup behind starters Mkristo Bruce and Lance Broadus, will miss his second week due to the injury, said Doba.

CB Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring) might be able to get limited playing time this week against UCLA. Brian Williams is the likely starter opposite Don Turner if Brackenridge is unable to play. Doba also said there could be some competition at the spot this week.

"We'll know more after we practice this week, we'll see who stands out," said Doba.

Right guard Andy Roof was injured when pushed from behind, said Doba, and tore some ligaments in his ankle.

"He could be a while, that's a hard one to predict," said Doba, who said it would likely be at least two weeks before the Spokane hoss could return.

Fevaea'i Ahmu 's X-Rays on the partial stress fracture in his foot did not show as much progress as was hoped for by the Medical Staff. The Cougs might get him back for the Apple Cup., with a best case scenario being limited availability against ASU.

Tight end Cody Boyd (high ankle sprain) will travel, and could see some action Saturday, pending how he goes through practice during the week. WR Chris Jordan (knee) probably will not be ready this week but might be able to return against Arizona.

WITH A RASH of medial collateral sprains suffered this year, WSU has listed seven players on the Medical Report with a strained MCL this season, Doba noted Pitoitua's injury came with a brace on designed to protect against just that injury.

"Ropati Pitoitua had knee braces on, the best that money can buy, and they're good for the MCL," said Doba. "It's really kind of controversial -- there are some schools of thought that think they do help on the MCL but other people think it slows you down and are more susceptible to get the ACL (injury), the 'bad one'. Or it can be an ankle sprain because you're stiffening up one joint and something else is going to take that impact.

But I don't think there's any doubt it does help on the MCL and we put them on most of our defensive linemen because of the post and chops, most of them unintentional, that go on.

A post and chop block is when an offensive lineman engages a d-lineman, and another offensive linemen blocks him below the waist. A controversial NCAA rule allows for a block below the waist on a defensive lineman as long as is he is not simultaneously engaged by another o-lineman at the time. Doba said the Cougar linemen have a choice of if they want to wear braces or not.

  • Despite receiving a cut under the chin in the first quarter against Oregon that required stitches, Alex Brink went on to set a school record for accuracy -- 89 percent -- completing 20 of 23 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. "

  • Kicker Loren Langley struggled Saturday, with a low extra point blocked and a field goal miss. Part of the problem was alignment, said Doba, and there was also some carry over from Langley's kickoffs. Doba said Gary Rogers is Langley's preferred holder and that the holds weren't at issue against Oregon. "The thing that he did do well was he kicking the ball into the end zone and through the end zone (on kickoffs) and because he was doing that, he was also having a little lower trajectory on the (other) kicks," said Doba.

  • Doba said the Cougs will continue to use three running backs in Dwight Tardy (starter), Derrell Hutsona and Demaudray Woolrdige. "I know DeMaundray has had some struggles of late...he's a young kid and he's learning and we haven't given up on him by a long shot," said Doba.

  • Doba said the Cougs will probably go helmets-only Wednesday depending on how much they get done during Tuesday afternoon's practice. "Normally during this part of the season we'd have the rookies scrimmage -- but the rookies are playing," said Doba.

  • DT Ropati Pitoitua, LT Bobby Byrd, G Dan Rowlands, TE Jesse Taylor, C Josh Duin, TE Ben Woodard and RB Skylar Jessen have all been slowed by MCL sprains this season.

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