Erik the Great

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE, especially after watching his all-world performance Saturday at California, but <b>Mike Price</b> and <b>Dennis Erickson</b> were the only Pac-10 coaches who thought defensive back <b>Erik Coleman</b> was worth a scholarship three years ago.

Erik Coleman (CF.C Photo)

A two-way star at Spokane's Lewis & Clark High, Coleman was largely ignored by recruiters. In fact, Erickson was actually late to the party. For most of his senior season, Idaho and WSU were Coleman's only suitors.

"I couldn't believe it," says Paul Sorensen, his old position coach at LC and a former Cougar safety. "Here's a kid who runs like the wind, hits hard, is a leader and looks like a body builder. The Cougars got one of the great steals of the century when they landed Erik."


After his work Saturday -- in which he put a giant exclamation point on what already was shaping up as a stellar season for him -- Coleman, a 5-foot-10 free safety, will be hard to ignore coming balloting time for the all-conference team.

Sure, the Cougar D surrendered a ton of yards and points to Cal. But in the end, they did what it took to win. And Coleman was one big reason why. Simply put, he was golden against the Golden Bears. He made ESPN's highlight reel with a third-quarter touchdown run after scooping up the ball following D.D. Acholonu's block of a Cal punt. But that was just the tip of his monstrous day.

He also intercepted one Kyle Boller pass, deflected two others, posted a team-leading 10 tackles, including one for a six-yard loss on third-down that set up his TD on the ensuing blocked punt. Another of his stops helped force Cal into a field goal after they recovered a muffed kickoff return at the Cougar 12 late in the game. In addition, he returned three kickoffs for a collective 71 yards.

The TD, by the way, was his second in two weeks and third of his career. Against Montana State last Saturday he picked up a fumble and took it 12 yards to paydirt.

For the year, Coleman has 39 tackles --- 10 more than the next-highest Cougar defender, and among the leaders in the Pac-10.

"He's really coming into his own," says Sorensen. "Having to succeed Lamont Thompson, one of the greatest DBs in school history, is no easy task and he's making it look easy. I just love the kid."

Actually, it's not hard to love the entire Cougar secondary. Sure, they've had some breakdowns this season -- some downright glaring, even -- but on the whole they've been outstanding, picking up the slack of what frankly has been subpar play by the linebacking unit.

Three of the top four Cougar tacklers this season are DBs -- Coleman, Marcus Trufant and Virgil Williams. At Cal, four of the Cougars' top five tackles were DBs -- Coleman, Williams, Trufant and Jason David. Linebacker Mawuli Davis was the interloper, with nine stops.

David also had three deflections and a key interception with 3:50 left in the game. And Trufant, the Pac-10's most dangerous punt returner, had a 35-yard return.


  • The Cougars did not punt in the second half against Cal. Starting with their last possession of the first half, the Cougars scored on eight of their next nine possessions before running out the clock with their tenth. And the one series in which they didn't score ended at the Cal 26-yard-line on a failed fourth-down play.
  • We'll have to check the record book to find the last time, if ever, three Cougar receivers went over 100 yards in receptions in the same game, but we're certain that no trio has ever done it while also scoring one TD each in the game, which is exactly what Jerome Riley, Devard Darling and Mike Bush did against Cal.
  • WSU has now won six of the last seven meetings with Cal. And going back to 1979, WSU is 15-5-1 against the Bears.


Jason Gesser, sore ribs and all, took every one of WSU's 72 offensive snaps. He also took a number of nasty shots but didn't miss a beat, throwing for 431 yards -- second-best of his career and fourth-best all-time for WSU..


Two bugaboos so far this season for the Cougars have been injuries and yellow flags. At long last, the Cougs appear to have finally finished a game without a single significant injury. And on the penalty front, they were flagged a fairly modest -- for them anyway -- six times.


"That second half was a thing of beauty." Color commentator Jim Walden

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