WSU defense settles down after tough start

PULLMAN -– Cougar head coach Bill Doba wouldn't make a very good politician. He says what's really on his mind. And Saturday night, after Washington State defeated Idaho for the 70th time in 90 games, he had visions of two Vandals -– walk on receiver Max Komar and freshman quarterback Nathan Enderle – stuck in his head.

The pair teamed up on the game's opening series for a 38-yard TD pass that illustrated yet again how far the Cougar defense has to progress. Enderle and Komar later connected for a key first down and a pass interference call to put Idaho up 14-7.

And then they paired up yet again, to knot the score at 21.

All that fireworks -- from two guys who couldn't buy a scholarship offer from a Pac-10 school -- in just the first half of play.

Doba said after the Cougars' 45-28 victory that it didn't feel like a win.

He did take solace in the fact that his defense did settle down. Eschewing the stunts and blitzes they were trying early, the Cougar defense got into a groove with its base defense, Doba said.

With four interceptions and two forced fumbles, the box score at evening's end read pretty well.

The Cougar defensive line was up against a tough Idaho offensive line, Doba said, and he praised Enderle.

"He's strong, he runs well and he throws the ball well under pressure," Doba said. "I think Idaho's gonna win some ballgames."

Early in the second quarter, Husain Abdullah hauled in the first of four interceptions thrown by Enderle. He returned it 34 yards to set up a Dwight Tardy TD that put the Cougs ahead for the first time, 21-14.

Sophomore Devin Giles, freshman Chima Nwachukwu and senior Christian Bass all pulled down their first career air thefts.

"It was fun to get some turnovers, get our hands on the ball and run with it a little," Abdullah said, who now has seven career INTs. "It just boosts your confidence."

Abdullah said the team needed to settle down as a whole, this being the first game of the season in Martin Stadium, under the lights no less.

"As soon as we started to calm down, we started to do a lot better," the senior co-captain said.

"They (Idaho) came out fired up. They made some nice plays."

The Cougars go up against a tough defense next week at the Coliseum in Los Angeles when they take on the top-ranked USC Trojans, who routed No./ 14 Nebraska in Lincoln on Saturday.

"We're good enough to go down and play with those guys," Doba said.


* On the Cougar injury front, defensive end Mike Graise left the game with a bum finger, but no details were available late Saturday.

Brian Williams injured his right shoulder near the end of the first half while defending a punt. Linebacker Kendrick Dunn experienced cramping at halftime, but finished the second half with no ill-affects. Freshman Romeo Pellum received his college football welcome as he suffered a concussion trying to field a punt late in the game.

* Backup WSU punter Reid Forrest booted the first punt of his young college career, sending the ball 28 yards. Freshman walk-on Wade Penner also tasted his first career game, kicking the extra points on two occasions, as well as kicking off. "I'll tell you what, I like that Penner kid. He's consistent," said Doba.

* With his 4 TD passes on the night, Alex Brink has 60 career scoring aerials, moving him passed Ryan Leaf (59) into second place all-time. Jason Gesser (70) is at the top of the list.

* Running back Dwight Tardy praised his offensive line after gaining 108 yards -- his first 100+ yard game this season. "They're doing a great job," Tardy said. "They're creating holes. They're more consistent than they were last year. They're getting better everyday."

THE COUGARS' LEADING tacklers were Greg Trent with 8 total stops, Alfonso Jackson and Kendrick Dunn, 7 each, and Ropati Pitoitua with 6.

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