Cougar Notebook: Tardy, Roxas deflect praise

PULLMAN -- When WSU passed Saturday on its first six offensive possessions -- and nearly a seventh were Alex Brink not was flushed from the pocket and forced to run -- it appeared the new wrinkles Bill Doba foretold amounted simply to scrapping the rushing game. It was all a ploy. By day's end WSU had piled up more ground yards on UCLA than they did against Oregon, ASU, Arizona and USC combined.

After rushing for only 277 yards the past four games, the Cougs racked up 274 ground hashes on 51 carries in their 27-7 victory over UCLA -- the same UCLA rated No. 8 in the nation in defending the run.

"The first few plays were passes [which] loosened up those linebackers and enabled us to run," a visibly pleased Bill Doba said after the game.

Quarterback Alex Brink, who still managed to put the ball in the air 47 times despite the huge ground assault, summed up the game nicely: "It kind of reminded me of 2005 with Jerome Harrison."

Running back Dwight Tardy, who accounted for 214 of the Cougars' ground yards, as well as two TDs, was deadpan when a reporter asked him where he'd been all season.

"Hiding out," Tardy said.

Tardy's 214 yards ties him for ninth on WSU's all-time single-game rushing list. His effort marked the most yards in one game by a Cougar back since Harrison's 240-yards against Arizona State in 2005.

The sophomore from Sante Fe Springs, Calif., was quick to deflect the glory to his offensive linemen: tackles Micah Hannam and Vaughn Lesuma, guards Dan Rowlands and Bobby Byrd, and true freshman center Andrew Roxas.

"The line clicked," Tardy said. "The line's been working hard two weeks in a row. We had a couple guys hurt in the previous game that healed up ... this game goes to the line. They did a wonderful job."

Tardy said he wanted to get a least 20 carries, and didn't expect the 37 he collected against the Bruins.

"I was loving every minute of it," a jubilant Tardy said. "I was like, ‘keep feeding it to me, I'm ready.' I've been waiting for that all year."

On Tardy's last touchdown, a 51-yard scamper down the left sideline late in the game, he said he was concentrating on getting the short yardage for the first down and holding onto the football. When the line opened up, thanks to a mammoth block by Byrd, Tardy was home free.

The unsung hero of the game was Roxas, a true freshman making his first-ever college start -- and his first-ever appearance in a game, at any level, playing center.

"That's a credit to that kid. It took a lot of courage. He got the ball back in shotguns, everything else. He did a nice job, said Doba.

Senior running back Kevin McCall, who rushed for 51 yards and caught three passes for 23 more, was equally impressed. "I tip my hat to Roxas because he came in as a young man with not much experience, but he proved he was a man today."

With regular starter Kenny Alfred out with a concussion, the Cougs turned to the 295-pounder from La Canada, Calif.

"Last night I was getting some butterflies," said Roxas, who was still in full pads after the game in the press room. "When it got down to it, there were butterflies, then concentrating on the assignment."

Roxas noted that throughout the week, Byrd and Rowlands, along with Alfred, helped him out with his assignments.

"To be honest with you, the whole game was a blur to me," Roxas said. "Coach Yarno did a good job preparing me to play any position. Since camp started, we rotated through all the spots.

"We knew we could run the ball. We just needed to execute like we could."

Yarno, the offensive line coach, praised Roxas as the team's sixth lineman who would go in at any position if someone got hurt.

"He's a great kid and worked hard, did a good job," Yarno said. "I'm really proud of all those kids. They never wavered, they never requested anything, they just kept working hard."

* With six receptions against the Bruins, giving him 172 for his career, senior slotback Michael Bumpus needs just five more grabs to supplant legendary Hugh Campbell as the most prolific pass-catcher in WSU history. Bumpus is now 25th in the Pac-10 all-time.

* With a five yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Brandon Gibson, Alex Brink moved within one touchdown pass of the all-time record of 70 held by Jason Gesser.

* The Cougs racked up a total of 545 yards of offense, while holding UCLA to 267.

* Doba said the reason the Cougs resorted to squib kicks on kickoffs was because UCLA's return man is one of the best in the nation. One squib even bounced for a touchback.

* Punter Reid Forrest had himself another good day, averaging 42.7 yards on three kicks. On one, Forrest doubled-clutched, causing fans to gasp. The reason for the clutch was to give the gunners more time to race downfield to make a tackle. If there were any doubts senior punter Darryl Blunt's suspension from the team is permanent, consider that Reid, who formerly wore jersey No. 32, has sported No. 8 (Blunt's old number) the last two games.

* Eight was the magic number on the WSU defense against UCLA. Four Cougar players posted eight tackles each to tie for the team lead: Devin Giles, Cory Evans, Xavier Hicks and Husain Abdullah.


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