If that is the case, Bill Doba's paycheck just got a whole lot soggier.
News of Dwight Tardy's wrecked knee torpedoed much of the momentum that Washington State hoped to carry into Saturday night's pivotal game at California.
Kevin McCall is a personable young man who has hung in admirably through five years (counting a redshirt season) of limited playing time at WSU. He is not, however, Dwight Tardy … or, for that matter, Chris Ivory, Tardy's backup before getting his bell rung a few weeks back.
Who knows? Plenty of folks didn't know about Andy Mattingly a month ago, and the sophomore linebacker has emerged the past three games as a dynamic force on Washington State's defense.
On Saturday, however, the Cougars were facing long odds even before Tardy's injury. The Bears have lost three in a row, but when they were healthy, Cal was one play from being No. 1 in the nation. Cal is still loaded with the type of raw athletic skill that teams like USC and Oregon boast -- and we all know what happened when the Cougars played the Trojans and Ducks.
Minus Tardy, let's not be tardy with this week's Dirty Dozen.
1. View From Pullman:
Bill Doba put on a brave face at the Thursday press conference announcing Tardy's season-ending injury, but you know the coach has to be wondering, "Why me?"
2. View From Berkeley:
The Bears are licking their chops, but they've got some key players banged up, too. Cal players have been making a good share of mental and physical mistakes., and their confidence has taken a hit during the first three-game losing streak of the Jeff Tedford era.
3. Scouting Report:
The game may come down to just two things: McCall's ability to run enough to keep Cal's defense from focusing solely on WSU's passing game, and the Cougars' ability to blitz hobbled Cal quarterback Nate Longshore. Blitzing was highly effective against the last two immobile quarterbacks WSU faced (against Arizona State and UCLA). However, Doba said the slide blocking scheme of Cal's athletic line makes it tougher to blitz, and Cal coaches say Longshore's battered ankle appears to be improving.
4. Betcha Didn't Know:
The Cougars are trying to win two straight Pac-10 games in one season for just the second time in four years. Can you believe that? WSU beat Oregon and UCLA on back-to-back Saturdays last season, then lost the remaining three games to miss out on a bowl game.
5. The Rankings:
The Bears dropped out of the Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls this week (27th in both), but FOXSports.com still ranks Cal 19th. FOXSports.com bumped the Cougars up six spots to 54th (one ahead of Washington) out of 119 teams. SI.com has Cal at No. 26 and WSU at No. 70, a jump of 19 spots from last week.
6. Cougar Trivia Department:
The Cougars have fumbled just seven times, and they've lost only three fumbles. In records dating back to 1951, the fewest WSU fumbles in a season is 16.
7. Bear Trivia Department:
Zack Smith, who splits time at fullback, transferred to California this year after graduating from Duke in just three years. He played linebacker for two years at Duke, then
redshirted last season with an injury.
8. Alumni Hall:
Former Boston Red Sox star Jackie Jensen was an All-American football and baseball player for the Bears. A fullback, he became Cal's first 1,000-yard rusher in 1948 and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1947, Jensen (a pitcher and outfielder in college) led Cal to the first NCAA baseball championship. Runner-up Yale had a first baseman by the name of George Bush -- the first one in the White House, not the current goofball. Jensen outpitched future NFL quarterback standout Bobby Layne of Texas at regionals that year. Jensen was named MVP of the American League in 1958, when the slugging right fielder clubbed 35 homers and drove in 122 runs.
9. Cougar Talk:
Doba, recounting his discussion with Tardy after the severity of the knee injury was diagnosed: "I said, ‘I'm really sorry.' He said, ‘I'm a big boy; I'll be back next year.'"
10. Bear Talk:
Spokane native Bob Gregory, Cal's defensive coordinator and a former WSU safety and linebacker, on speculation that he might be a candidate for the Cougars' head coaching job if Doba does not return: "I can't comment on any of that stuff. I hope Bill stays there a long time for his sake. I know in the coaching profession, he's well respected. Except for Saturday, I hope he does great."
11. Opinion Of The Week:
Tardy's departure seriously damages the Cougars' chances of winning any of their remaining four games -- yes, even against the hapless Huskies -- unless Alex Brink and his merry band of receivers just go bonkers. Anything's possible with a heady senior quarterback like Brink and sticky-fingered targets like Brandon Gibson, Michael Bumpus, Charles Dillon, Jed Collins and Jeshua Anderson. Which reminds me: Throw the ball to Anderson! The kid averages 28 yards every time he catches the ball.
12. And Your Final Score Is:
California 41, Washington State 24.
The Dirty Dozen of Cougs vs. Bears
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