Seen & Heard 10/30

THE NATIONALLY RANKED COUGARS finally are getting some love from oddsmakers. The early line on the Arizona game is WSU by 14. Last week at UCLA the Cougs were one-point favorites on Monday but one-point underdogs by kickoff time. The big spread this week is understandable. WSU has won the last four in the series, the game's in Pullman, and WSU is averaging 25.8 points per game to Arizona's 12.1.

Arizona, though, looks like it will have starting quarterback Willie Tuitama back in action after missing him the last two games with his second concussion of the season. The Wildcats had a bye last week, lost to Oregon State 17-7 the week prior and beat Stanford 20-7 the week before that. The 'Cats are 3-5 on the year, with victories over BYU, Stephen F. Austin and Stanford.

The Arizona coaching staff includes a face very familiar to Cougar fans. Kasey Dunn, running backs coach and special teams coach at WSU for five seasons under Mike Price, is the RB coach for the 'Cats. He left WSU to join Price at Alabama and then wound up at TCU for a year before coming to Arizona in 2004. Arizona's athletic director is former WSU AD Jim Livengood.

THE COUGARS ARE RANKED No. 25 in this week's Associated Press poll and climbed two spots, to No. 23, in the BCS ratings. They are the only three-loss team in AP's top 25 -– a justifiable nod to the fact their three losses have come against Auburn, USC and Cal, teams who are a combined 21-3 this year.

For you stat lovers, I think you'll agree that there's one especially big reason for the Cougars' turnaround this season. The defense is giving up 341 yards per game -– a full 100 yards less per outing than a year ago. Time of possession is another telling number. The Cougs are holding the ball 3 minutes, 19 seconds longer this season vs. last.

COUGAR STRONG SAFETY Eric Frampton is putting together an eye-popping senior season. He leads the team in tackles (81) and interceptions (4), is second behind Tyron Brackenridge in pass breakups (6) and also has forced two fumbles. The San Jose native is a ball-hawking stat machine. With seven tackles in the victory over UCLA he now has an even 200 for his career, putting him within sniffing distance of breaking into the Cougars' 250+ Career Club.

He's averaging nine stops per game and -- presuming the Cougs go bowling -- would need to average 13.3 the rest the way to make it. There currently are 16 members of the Cougars 250+ career tackles club. No. 1 on the list is Lee Blakeney (1980-84) with a remarkable 524 stops. The three most recent additions to this elite fraternity have been Billy Newman (325 tackles, 1998-2001); Steve Gleason (282, 1996-99); and Will Derting (260, 2001-05).

There's nothing new in the fact senior defensive end Mkristo Bruce also is having a whale of a year, but what's gratifying to see is that the national limelight continues to shine on him. In the last two weeks he's been named a semi-finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Hendricks awards, and a quarterfinalist for the Lott Trophy. Bruce, the nation's sack leader for most of this season, hasn't had one the last two weeks -- and there's little wonder why with veteran defensive tackles Aaron Johnson, Ropati Pitoitua and Fevaea'i Ahmu all out with injury and therefore unable to coax opponents out of double-teaming Bruce. Moreover, Bruce tweaked a knee early in the year and it has been getting progressively more tender.

By the way, did anyone else notice that true freshman Toby Turpin was suited up and on the sidelines at UCLA on Saturday? He's ticketed for a redshirt this season, but the rash of defensive line injuries for the Cougars no doubt has put him on emergency reserve status.

MICHAEL BUMPUS' PINCH-hit work at punter against UCLA wasn't the first time a Cougar receiver was deployed for his leg rather than his hands. At the high point of the Jim Sweeney era, the 1972-73 seasons, the Cougars' starting punter, Greg Johnson, was also a starting receiver. And while Johnson didn't return punts like Bumpus, he, too, was a triple threat. Besides punting and receiving, he rushed for 248 yards as a senior. Johnson, from Pasadena, was one of the numerous JC players Sweeney brought in between 1969-71 to kick-start the program. His final game as a Cougar was most memorable. He and Chuck Peck teamed up for a 42-yard scoring aerial at Husky Stadium that helped WSU to its biggest-ever Cougar Apple Cup win, 52-26, in 1973.

WHILE THERE'S NO Way to replace a talent like Jerome Harrison, the Cougars' trifecta at running back this season -- Dwight Tardy, DeMaundray Woolridge and Derrell Hutsona – is doing a pretty nice job of filling the void. The "Three Ds" are on track this season for a collective 1,600 ground yards – just 300 shy of Harrison's record-shattering 1,900 a year ago. Granted, The Three Ds have one more regular season game, 12, than did Harrison, but these youngsters are teaming with their injury-plagued mates on the offensive line for solid production. Speaking of injuries, both Tardy and Hutsona were dinged up in the UCLA game. No word yet on their status for Saturday's tilt with Arizona, but if one or both can't go, look for junior Kevin McCall and true freshman Chris Ivory to join the rotation.

HAT'S OFF TO COUGAR quarterback Alex Brink. One week after completing 87 percent of his passes (20 of 23) against Oregon, the junior from Eugene today was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Cougars to a 37-15 road win over UCLA. He completed 28 of 38 passes against the Bruins for 405 yards, three TDs and two interceptions.


BRUCE DIGS IN AT UCLA.


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