The Dirty Dozen of Cougs vs. Vandals

THE 90TH BATTLE of the Palouse kicks off in front of a regional television audience at 7 tonight. But it's not too late to get up-to-speed on the story line. Here's the Dirty Dozen -- 12 things you need to know/might want to know/might not give a damn about when Washington State and Idaho square off at Martin Stadium.

1. View From Pullman:
No one will say so for public consumption, of course, but you just know WSU players and coaches are thinking: What a pain this game is! Win, and the world yawns. Lose to a 26-point underdohg, and everyone looks at you like you have Lloyd Carr's disease

2. View From Moscow:
It's a good thing this game isn't being held in Idaho's little Kibbie Dome, because former Cougar defensive coordinator/motivational speaker Robb Akey will have the Vandals so fired up, they'd blow the lid off. Everyone was impressed with how hard the Vandals played in their season opener at top-ranked USC, but facts are facts: The Trojans won by four touchdowns while sleepwalking through a game without two of their best players.

3. Scouting Report:
The Vandals have a number of quality players, just not enough of them. The Cougars' offensive line has been surprisingly good and should dominate Idaho's weak defensive line, but Idaho runs a 3-4 defense with a quality linebacking crew. Quick little Deonte Jackson ran for 99 yards against USC and 214 against Cal Poly Wants A Cracker. Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle -- like Jackson, a redshirt freshman -- has completed just 41 percent of his passes for 256 yards. Vandal cornerback Stanley Franks tied for the NCAA Division I-A lead with nine interceptions last year, but he can't cover everyone, and WSU's receivers rank with the nation's best. That Cougar quarterback ain't too shabby, either, although some WSU "supporters" will forever resent Alex Brink for a) not having Drew Bledsoe's arm; b) not having Jack Thompson's charm; c) not walking on water.

4. Betcha Didn't Know:
Long before either team had a nickname, the Cougars beat the Vandals 10-0 in 1894 in the first football game for both schools. The Cougars' euphoria was short-lived, since they lost their next game 18-0 to (blush) Spokane High School.

5. The Rankings: ranks WSU 50th and Idaho 108th among 119 teams. Naturally, the Vandals fume about being No. 108. But if you're ranked 108th, what's the best you could be? Maybe, I dunno, 79th? Somehow, that "We're No. 79! We're No. 79!" chant just doesn't cut it.

6. Cougar Trivia Department:
Offensive line coach George Yarno played on the D-line for WSU against Idaho in the mid-70's when his brother, John, was a star center for the Vandals. Both Yarnos enjoyed lengthy NFL careers as offensive linemen.

7. Vandal Trivia Department:
The Vandals have not posted a winning record this century. Since going 5-6 in 2000 (two years after winning the Humanitarian Bowl in their third season back in I-A), the Vandals' best record was last year's 4-8 mark under former (fill in the blank with virtually any school in the country) coach Dennis "I've Got My Realtor On Speed Dial" Erickson.

8. Alumni Hall:
What a comment on the world we live in: Bill Fagerbakke, who played dimwitted assistant football coach Dauber Dybinski on the hit television show "Coach," might be better known than ex-Vandal and NFL star Jerry Kramer. Fagerbakke played football for the Vandals before a knee injury led him onto the stage for the first time while attending Idaho. Kramer starred at offensive guard for Vince Lombardi's legendary Green Bay Packers teams. Fagerbakke now rakes in major coin as the voice of Patrick Starfish on "SpongeBob SquarePants" (hey, it's a living). Wayne Walker, a long-time star with the Lions who later became a 49ers broadcaster, is another Idaho grad. Mark Felt, the former FBI assistant director who was the "Deep Throat" whistleblower of Watergate fame, is an Idaho alum as well. So is U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, but we won't go there just now. And don't forget Dan O'Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon gold medalist. Or former Vandal football star Mark Schlereth, now a familiar face as an ESPN football analyst. Remember that classic Schlereth line about reading? Schlereth had dyslexia, so when asked to name his favorite books, he deadpanned, "Thin ones."

9. Cougar Talk:
Sophomore center Kenny Alfred on offensive line coach George Yarno: "He's really improved me as a person over the last two years -- as a person and a player -- with his style of coaching. He puts you in situations where you have to be a man and overcome the adversity that'll come at you in life and on the field."

10. Vandal Talk:
Senior linebacker David Vobora, telling Boise's Idaho Statesman newspaper about a preseason practice collision between cornerback Breyon Williams and running back Jayson Bird: "Breyon didn't remember that he was even in Idaho. It was one of those (hits) from the highlight tapes that your mom showed you when you were a little kid when she was trying to talk you out of playing football."

11. Opinion of the Week:
The Cougars won't have a real good read on how great/average/lousy they are until they play the Arizona schools in a couple weeks. Blowout wins over rebuilding rivals Idaho and San Diego State are to be expected, as are lopsided losses to Top 10 foes USC and Wisconsin.

12. And Your Final Score Is:
Washington State 48, Idaho 17.


* The Cougs hope to give backup punter Reid Forrest some game action against Idaho because he's doing so well in practice. Placekicker Loren Langley, newly back from a leg injury, also may get a chance depending on the situation, Bill Doba said.

* Doba said Idaho's film against USC was impressive. The Vandals didn't miss tackles and played with intensity.

* Because Idaho head coach Robb Akey and assistants Al Genatone and Pat Libey know well the audibles, checks and signals the Cougars use -- as well as the strengths and weaknesses of WSU players -- Doba expects to see a very solid game plan from Idaho.

* Doba on his friendship with Akey: "Once the game starts he's out to kick my fanny as much as I'm out to kick his."

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