Are versatile Cougar Bandits on track for 10?

I'M NO BEANO COOK. Beano is the veteran ESPN football analyst on the radio. He's been around so long he even sounds crusty. I'm a little crusty myself but I only read about Jim Thorpe. Beano might have been Jim Thorpe's agent. The great Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield had traded football for Jane Russell before I was old enough to appreciate the charms of both the game and the comely Miss Russell.

I did grow up in the world of limited substitution, though. It was an era in the 1950s and early ‘60s when players had to go two ways. Centers also played linebacker. Quarterbacks had to take a shot at playing safety. Ends were ends on both sides of the ball.

Until Saturday I hadn't thought much about those wonderfully primitive days, when college football allowed subbing only on a grand scale, like once a quarter, when whole teams were replaced by second-stringers with unique names and abilities.

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The Huskies, for example, started with the Purple team and subbed in the less athletic but highly motivated Gold team.

LSU did the Huskies one better. LSU had a third-string that coach Paul Dietzel, a regular Mr. Sensitive, called the Chinese Bandits. Loved that name. Chinese Bandits. Loved the take-no-prisoners attitude that that name conjured up. Don't think Chinese Bandits would make it past an athletic review board today but the hard versatility of the Chinese Bandits came back Saturday, in the middle of the Cougars' 37-15 comeback win at UCLA.

That game brought out the uncommon versatility of the Chinese Bandits. There was Washington State's Michael Bumpus selling out over the middle to flag down a pass for a big first down. There was Bumpus returning punts. And there he was again, punting. He was a genuine triple threat.

It's finally come to our attention that only very good football teams can hang with the unorthodoxy of the Cougs. Wazzu has a defensive end who not only pressures quarterbacks but is willing to charge 40 yards downfield on tiring wheels to make a touchdown-saving tackle. Mkristo Bruce. Mkristo could have been a Chinese Bandit.

Same with Alex Brink. He may be the only quarterback in the country who could double as a strong safety if he didn't have to answer the phone all the time. Coaches keep him on a pretty tight leash. They don't want Alex hurting somebody.

Jed Collins, who plays fullback and H back and tight end, would have been a perfect Chinese Bandit, a little too athletic, maybe, but every bit as hungry.

Eric Frampton is a throwback. His fellow traveler in the Cougar secondary, Tyron Brackenridge, hits harder when he's hurt than most DBs deliver at 100 percent. Frampton and Brackenridge could play two ways, easy.

Same with Bumpus. You know Bumpus is a threat to tuck and run from punt formation. Now there's a wrinkle. Arizona is going to have to throw that one into its preparation this week for Washington State. Wazzu's starting punter Darryl Blunt was carted off to the hospital before Saturday's UCLA game. Unfortunate. Say Darryl's not able to go Saturday when Arizona comes in. If you're Little Stoops, Arizona's coach, how do you contain the replacement?

Bumpus is dangerous. In punt formation Bumpus is a threat to take off. When Blunt fell ill and Loren Langley tweaked a thigh, Bumpus was voted the most likely to get line-drive distance of at least 30 yards. So there he was, back in punt formation.

When it worked out all right, as most WSU coaching moves did this week, Doba positively lit up -- fists up, grin flashing. Otherwise, Bill Doba has done a pretty good job of acting like he's been here before -- probably because he has been here before, staring at an approaching end of a tunnel lit up with the words TEN WINS.

Ten is more than possible, by the way. Sweep the Arizona schools, knock off the Huskies in Martin Stadium and win, say, the Sun Bowl in El Paso. That's it, 10 wins, an informal kind of immortality at Washington State.

Big agenda but the Cougs have beaten better. They've toyed with better. All they have to do the rest of the way is to continue to harness the spirit of the Chinese Bandits.


JASON HILL FOR SIX.

Hey, why not send in a bunch of Chinese Bandits for one series. On offense. Line up Bumpus at tailback in short punt formation. Let Brink do what he really wants to do, play blocking back just once. Bumpus sprints out, sends Collins on a deep drag across the middle, Brink clears out the pass rush with a huge grin on his face while Bumpy goes deep to Hill down the sideline.

Probably not?

With this team, reality is what Bill Doba says it is. Like passing up a five-yard gift penalty and another shot at third down to go for it on fourth down. On the road? Where UCLA had won 10 straight? The Cougs down 6-0?

Unreal. Doba defied conventional wisdom. He could have had the ball third and 12. He opted for fourth and about five. Two downs to make 12 yards or one to pick up five? I'll take the extra down. We can make five, Doba decides. The Cougs convert, when Cody Boyd makes a fine catch of a low pass. Two plays later. Wazzu has its first TD.

The right decision is not always the safe one, not to a Chinese Bandit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Weaver has been following and/or covering the Cougars for the better part of 30 years. For the second straight season, the former Spokesman-Review sports editor and columnist is bringing his unique insights to Cougfan.com readers every week.

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