Cougar confidence riding high

PULLMAN—Several Cougars came off the injury list and took to the practice turf on Tuesday. And the newest starter for WSU says his role isn't that big a change. Kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi says the field goal against UCLA, his first ever in any game, has little relevance now and his confidence level is high, as is the case throughout the Cougar locker room.

A number of Cougar playmakers returned to practice Tuesday, as wide receiver Chris Jordan (knee), defensive tackle Aaron Johnson (elbow sprain), defensive end Mike Graise (hamstring), and tight end Ben Woodard (knee) all practiced in full pads and without apparent restriction, although Johnson did sport a sizable cast.

As expected, absent from drills were kicker Loren Langley (quadriceps) and DE Mkristo Bruce who is suffering from a knee bruise. Bruce was nonetheless on the sidelines Tuesday, and gave his vocal chords a workout instead. Bruce is expected to play Saturday.

Romeen Abdollmohammadi said the change from backup to starter won't mean much of a difference as far as practice is concerned.

"It's not really different at all," said Abdollmohammadi. "It's kind of like the same week, same routine, except I am just up first."

Saturday's contest against the visiting Arizona Wildcats will be the first start for the walk-on from Camano Island. He briefly assumed the lead for the kicking job early in fall camp, but then fell behind Langley just before the season started. Although he saw limited action earlier this season against Idaho, Saturday's field goal was the first of his career, in college or high school. For more, from the CF.C archives, click: here and here.

Any backup is only one play away, but Abdollmohammadi said there appeared more of a possibility he could be called upon against UCLA.

"I had known last week in practice that (Langley's quad) was bothering him, because we spend a lot of time together," Abdollmohammadi said. "So I went into that game, I go into every game, ready to go because you know, anything can happen. Coach Doba came up to me in half time, told me ‘You're going to go in,' so I went out, with about eight minutes before half-time was over, kicked a little bit and got ready to go."

He hit his first field goal towards the end of the third quarter, tacking on a couple extra points in the fourth.

While fans are thinking about WSU finishing the season with a perfect 6-0 second half run, or thinking about which bowl they might go to, Abdollmohammadi said while the confidence in the Cougar locker room is high, the team is guarding against looking ahead at anything other than Arizona. At 6-3, the Cougs are bowl eligible, but it may require seven wins for a Pac-10 team to get an invite.

"Everybody's positive," Abdollmohammadi said. "But we know we have to take one game at a time. Last week, against UCLA, we were 1-0 so this week against Arizona, we have to be 1-0. We just have to think about one game at a time."

Abdollmohammadi looked solid in field goal attempts before practice and even better in kickoff attempts, sending at least three kicks deep.

Meanwhile, punter Darryl Blunt was back in action after missing the UCLA game, launching several punts high and far in special teams practice. Blunt was cleared to practice this week after briefly experiencing an elevated and irregular heartbeat during warmups Saturday. WR Michael Bumpus, who filled in admirably for Blunt against the Bruins, appeared to only take one punt.

As practice temperatures dipped from the high-to-low twenties, a number of the players donned wearing long-sleeved undershirts, high socks, and facemasks to guard against the cold Tuesday. Defensive Coordinator Robb Akey, however, could still be seen sporting his trademark Cougar gym shorts to the practice.

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