Cougs prepare for variety of 'SC challenges

PULLMAN -- The Cougars on Saturday face a USC team some call their best ever. A high scoring offense with numerous weapons -- and a stifling defense -- offer a big impediment to Washington State's upset plans. The Cougars finished the non-conference slate without any major injuries but as the team began preparing for the No.1 ranked Trojans on Tuesday, a handful of key players did not participate.

Offensively, the team missed the presence of wide receiver Michael Bumpus (left leg bruise), running back Dwight Tardy (left knee bruise and ankle sprain) and offensive tackle Micah Hannam (sick) on Tuesday. All are expected to recover and play this weekend against the Trojans.

Running back Christopher Ivory did participate in full contact drills on Tuesday after missing the Idaho game, and will be back in the lineup against the Trojans.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Mike Graise (finger) and cornerback Brian Williams (shoulder, concussion) sat out practice. Graise is expected to play this weekend, but Lance Broadus, who has been getting up to speed the last two weeks after missing the fall with a shoulder injury, will most likely start in his place. Cornerback Romeo Pellum, who suffered concussion against Idaho, donned a yellow no-contact jersey.

SOUTHERN CALL QUARTERBACK John David Booty leads an offense that will give the Cougar defense a tall task. The Cougar secondary has been a concern all season long, and will face a superior group of receivers Saturday evening.

"They're getting better," head coach Bill Doba said on Monday, regarding the secondary. "They're getting more and more confident.

"It's not that we're so young in the secondary, but we're inexperienced there."

Doba went on to say that USC's running backs will be tough to defend as well, as a number of them saw ample time against Nebraska last Saturday. The Trojan fullback, Stanley Havili, runs like a tailback, Doba said.

THE KICKING GAME was a hot topic after last Saturday's 45-28 win over Idaho. Senior Romeen Abdollmohammadi connected on a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter, but missed later from 32 yards. Senior Loren Langley missed from 24 yards as well although the snap and hold looked less than perfect.

True freshman Wade Penner impressed with six kickoffs during the game. Reid Forrest saw his first game action of his young college football career when he punted once for 28 yards. But Doba says the starting kickers will remain the same.

"Basically, Romeen's our kicker still, he's just in a little slump," Doba said. "Penner's doing a nice job and we wanted to get Forrest in there just to see how he'd do."

On the punting situation, Doba said, simply, "Blunt's the punter."

Doba said he'll decide later in the week which two of the three kickers the Cougs will take to L.A. One is virtually certain to be Abdollmohammadi, with the other choice coming down to between Penner and Langley. PRACTICE NOTES:
  • The play of the day occurred when freshman flash Jeshua Anderson adjusted and snagged the ball from behind Devin Giles who was caught unawares.

  • Linebacker Alex Hamill is out of his protective boot for his foot.

  • With Mike Graise out of practice, Kevin Kooyman saw nearly all of the snaps with the No. 1 defense.

  • Good news and bad news on the defensive line: Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua showed no ill-affects as he played at full speed and full contact on his left foot. The injury turned out to be a sprain, and not a stress fracture. But Matt Eichelberger left practice early and returned in street clothes with a brace on his right knee. More is expected to be known Thursday.

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