Woe is We

PULLMAN -- While Jason Gesser appears to be rounding into fine form, the running back situation at WSU -- once thought to be a place of deep riches -- looks more akin to an episode of MASH. That troubling point was driven home in triplicate on Saturday.

Jermaine Green, nursing a sore knee, carried the ball just one time. Jonathon Smith (sore ribs) didn't carry it all and will probably miss the Nevada. And Allen Thompson (shoulder) isn't expected back in uniform for a week or more. Moreover, apparently in an effort by Mike Price to keep his starter healthy until next Saturday's season opener, senior John Tippins carried the ball a mere three times --- alas, for a glossy 22 yards.

So banged up are the Cougar backs that in an abridged scrimmage featuring approximately 35 snaps, only seven balls were handed off to the swine haulers. Besides Tippins' three caries and Green's one, Lavell Anderson ran twice for three yards and receiver Jerome Riley carried once for 13 yards.

Green, widely expected to be the starter this season, practiced on Friday for the first time all week and definitely doesn't appear to be up to speed yet.

The good news in it all is that Thompson, thought by the coaching staff to be lost for the year when he hyper-extended his shoulder in Wednesday's practice, had an MRI that showed no cartilage or rotator cuff damage.

The receiving unit, dinged up earlier in camp, is getting healthy at just the right time and it showed on Saturday as Gesser fired four TD passes -- three to his Terrific Trio of Riley, Mike Bush and Devard Darling -- and another to up-and-coming redshirt freshman Marty Martin.

The TD to Bush, who tweaked an ankle on Thursday but looked no worse for the wear Saturday, covered 66 yards. Riley's stretched 30, Darling's 33 and Martin's 15.

Granted, all this handy-work was done against the second- and third-string D, but it was impressive nonetheless.

In all, the Hurlin's Hawaiian completed 14 of 22 passes for 261 yards.

And speaking of Gesser, a second banner promoting his Heisman Trophy candidacy goes up Monday on the old Rainier Beer building (now Tully's Coffee) that borders Interstate 5 just south of downtown. This one figures to be seen by more people in the first 15 seconds it's up than the one on the grain elevator in Dusty since it was unfurled a month ago.

ESPN, by the way, this week ranked Gesser, Bush and Riley among the nation's top 100 "impact" players for 2002. And the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Florida came out with its rankings of schools based on the quality of each team's top two QBs and WSU was ranked No. 1 in the land. They noted Gesser's Tarkenton-like play and said Matt Kegel had the stuff to start right now for half the teams in Division I.

NOTABLE NOTES:

JC transfer Donnie Jackson isn't big by middle linebacker standards, but he's incredibly fast and has a nose for the ball, so he's been moved from weakside linebacker to middle behind Kevin Sperry. Sperry's old backup, Pat Bennett, is headed to the outside. Jackson may have a little bit of Mark Fields in him, this the try in the midldle, coaches say.

Cougar players love their highly fashionable road white uniforms with crimson helmets so much that they voted to wear 'em in their home game against Nevada on Saturday.

The rumor up and down the coast these days is that -- presuming the Cougars have a banner year -- this will be WSU assistant head coach Kasey Dunn's last year in Pullman. A great season, coupled with Dunn's charisma and talent, would be a hot commodity come December for program's looking for a shot in the arm.


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