Doba: Expect to win

ALL WEEK before Washington State's 34-23 win over then BCS No. 14 Oregon, the Cougar coaching staff preached to the players over and over again: Expect to win. The words might be different this week but the message has remained the same as a depleted WSU team travels this morning to L.A: Expect to win. Seven WSU coaches are already there ahead of the players, out on the recruiting trail.

NCAA rules allow for seven coaches from a school to be on the road at any one time, and seven was the number of Washington State coaches who flew out last night to California after Thursday's session.

If past years are any indication, the coaches will likely spending the day at area high schools and then catch some Friday Night game action, California style, before returning to the team hotel this evening for position meetings.

During those position meetings, words like "finish" and "Expect to win" might come up. It's not enough to "want", and good teams expect to win -- and they do so in the face of adversity, says Bill Doba.

Prior to Oregon, Doba had a very specific point he had been telling the crimson troops.

"Your underdogs, but expect to win," said Doba. "I think teams like 'SC, they're struggling against Arizona State, and when it comes down to nitty-gritty, they drive the length of the field and never throw the ball -- and they hadn't run it that well the whole ball game...And Notre Dame last week against UCLA, they go 80 yards in less than a minute.

"Winners expect to win. And they make plays when they have to," said Doba.

The Cougs are a year older in some spots than in '05 when they went 4-7, but much of the difference between winning and losing last year had more to do with the mental side of the game, said Doba.

"We'd be ahead, here comes the fourth quarter and 'Oh darn, what's going to happen now,' and to win that game last week was huge I think," said Doba. "The 'comeback' really started at Baylor, I think."

On the surface, some who witnessed the 17-15 Baylor win thought it an ugly game. And in it's wake, talk began about how the Cougs' chances for the rest of the schedule appeared bleak. But perhaps not given enough credence in that win over the Bears was that the Cougs drove the length of the field and they finished.

While it can sometimes take fans a while before all they remember about the a victory like the Baylor one is the final drive and the W, that's what the Cougar players and staff focused on from the start.

Still, confidence is a hard thing to teach, and to sustain. The Cougs were on the cusp of getting that swagger back a few times the last two years when they went 11-13, but they could never quite keep it going. But this year, with bowl eligibility now one win away and the only losses to three teams ranked in the BCS Top 10, appears to be different.

"We'll find out if it's still working, we'll find out this week," said Doba.

Doba also noted it's critical that the WSU staff practices what they preach. Not that the staff isn't human, Doba has mentioned the Cougs may have been too conservative on offense and defense in spots this year. But overall, the staff is walking the talk.

"If we're thinking, 'Oh shoot, here it goes,' the kids feel that, they can sense that and I think we have to think, 'Well heck, we're just going to score, or We're going to come back, or We're going to go ahead by more.' When you get ahead, instead of thinking, 'Come on clock, run,' you think about scoring more points.

"That's the kind of attitude you'd like to have. But common sense-wise, like last week in the fourth quarter when we had the lead, we started using all the clock we could. That's just good game management," said Doba.

A game time decision, CB Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring) will start if he's able to play. The senior isn't expected to play the whole game, though, and Brian Williams, who has two starts under his belt, has looked sharp in practice this week.

TE Cody Boyd will play but not start.

Many eyes will be on the defensive line Saturday, where WSU is without their top three defensive tackles. DTs Bryan Tarkington and Matt Eichelberger, who each had an outstanding game when pressed into duty against Oregon, will again be key. Tarkington has been looking more and more comfortable in practice and has become more vocal this week.

DT Toby Turpin will dress this week and will be on red alert but Doba said burning the promising freshman's redshirt is something he wants to avoid if at all possible. Adam Hineline is the third d-tackle behind Tarkington and Eichelberger.

LB Andy Mattingly is available for defensive end duty this week, while RB Chris Ivory shores up the linebackers.

Two unsung Cougar defenders, particularly when the Cougars are in the 3-4 defense, are MLB Greg Trent and outside linebacker Cory Evans. Trent has been stout in the middle without the second d-tackle in front of him and Evans has flown to the football and had a number of key tackles and pass break ups this month.

The UCLA game features two of the top three sack masters in the nation. Cougar DE Mkristo Bruce enters the game with 10 but has been held sackless the past two games. Bruin Justin Hickman has 10.5 sacks. Western Michigan linebacker Ameer Ismail took the D-IA lead last week from Bruce, he has 11.

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