D gets big dose of help; QBs show off legs

PULLMAN -- The Cougar defense received a double dose of good news Wednesday, with a pair of key players returning from the injury list, but when they're ready for game action is unclear. Meanwhile, an old coach made a visit to the sidelines, prompting an entreaty from Bill Doba to "get a whistle!" and help out. At QB, Alex Brink and Gary Rogers showed that feet can be mightier than the arm.

The defense, which looked to have a slight upper hand over the O most of the day, welcomed the return of linebacker Andy Mattingly, who has been out with a sprained ankle since the first week of fall camp and JC transfer safety Terry Mixon, who also has been shelved -- with a hamstring injury -- most of August. Mattingly was in full pads and participated in full contact drills.

Mixon spent time with the No. 2 defense, manning the safety position alongside Christian Bass. Mixon, a JC All-American expected to contribute significantly this season, has a lot of work to do before the opener Sept. 1 at Wisconsin, head coach Bill Doba said.

"He's still struggling quite a bit and he hasn't picked up the tempo yet," Doba said. "He's got a long way to go. Let's put it that way."

Doba also made it clear that it is difficult to tell when Mixon will be ready for game action, since he hasn't practiced since the beginning of fall camp.

But Doba was pleased with the return of Mattingly, a likely starter at outside linebacker, but cautioned that any player newly back from being out for an extended period isn't ready for a game situation right away.

"If you don't practice, then you go out and play bad in the game, (and) they blame the coach," Doba said with a laugh.

After a somewhat sluggish practice on Tuesday, Doba said he thought the team competed much better Wednesday.

One of the sideline observers of the action was former Cougar head coach Jim Walden, who will team up again this season with Bob Robertson in the Cougar broadcast booth.

WITH OFFENSIVE lineman Dan Rowlands and defensive tackle Aaron Johnson each sitting out the practice with what appeared to be non-serious tweaks, some young guns worked with the first team Wednesday.

In place of Rowlands was true freshman Andrew Roxas, a 6-1, 295-pounder from Sun Valley, Calif. Johnson was replaced with junior Matt Eichelberger, who saw a considerable amount of playing time last season when injuries hit the defensive line.

Safety Alfonso Jackson (concussion) remained in street clothes, so sophomore Xavier Hicks joined the No. 1 defense.

The defense controlled most of a simulated scrimmage, with sophomore defensive end Kevin Kooyman recording a sack on Rogers.

Junior cornerback Devin Giles got in the act and nearly picked off a Brink pass intended for Finas Rabb. Brink later threw an interception right into the chest of safety Husain Abdullah, who still dons the yellow no-contact jersey because of an injured shoulder.

Brink did show his mobility a couple of times as he escaped sacks on two different occasions, drawing praise from quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach.

Brink also fired two TD passes -- one to junior tight end Ben Woodard and another to receiver Charles Dillon who made a nifty adjustment to offset the tight defense of Giles.

Running back Dwight Tardy scored a pair of TDs in short yardage situations. The offense ended the day on a positive note when Rogers ran for a touchdown.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Defensive end Asly Jean-Jacques provided the hit of the day when he blindsided running back Chris Ivory during goal-line drills.

  • For the Cougars' Sept. 8 game in Seattle against San Diego State, Sound Transit will be running special trains to the stadium, with pick ups in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Everett and Edmonds. Click to soundtransit.org/x6122.xml for more details.

  • With 65,000-plus seats to fill and 20,000 tickets sold (not including student tickets) so far for that Sept. 8 game in Seattle, plenty of good seats remain. However, the 20K figure figures to bounce significantly in a few days once the student tickets, beginning tomorrow evening, start getting put on the books. WSU estimates after the student tickets are accounted for, they will have sold close to 30,000 tickets. The current sales pace is running about 3,000 ahead of last year. Call 1-800-GO-COUGS or go online at wsucougars.com to get yours. Prices range from $7 to $50.


    BannerFan.com, which sells oh-so-sweet Cougar banners perfect for home, tailgating or the stands, is offering CF.C readers free shipping this month. Just write "CFC" on the order form. Head to www.BannerFan.com to order.


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