Prepping for the Cup

ALL EYES IN PULLMAN over the last four days of practices have focused on an unlikely threesome of lightening-quick freshmen receivers who have yet to catch a ball in a game this season, but could prove the difference in Saturday's Apple Cup showdown.

Well, kind of.

For their actual impact, we'll have to wait until Saturday evening and then ask Marcus Trufant, Erik Coleman and the rest of the WSU secondary just how well the kiddie corps performed.

Cougar rookies Flamingo Malone, Robert Franklin and Chris Jordan, you see, are getting more than their share of attention these days because they've been tasked with impersonating two of the most dangerous weapons the Cougar defense will encounter against the Huskies: Reggie Williams and Paul Arnold.

What the trio lacks in experience, it makes up for in size and speed, proving to be the quintessential scout team equivalents of the Husky standouts.

Malone, a 6-4, 210 pounder from Beaumont, Calif., and Franklin, a 6-3, 200-pound speed merchant from Gainesville, Texas, have been wearing Williams' jersey number -- 1 -- since last Thursday. And Jordan, a 6-1, 195 pounder from Kent, has been wearing Arnolds' No. 20. All have 4.5 speed or better.

For the record, Williams stands 6-4 and weighs 220. Arnold is 6-1 and 200. They also move at around the 4.5 mark.

The scout team won't actually don Husky colors until Tuesday's workout, but getting the Cougar secondary extra looks at the two jersey numbers, regardless of the color behind them, makes good sense. Cody Pickett throws early and often to Williams, who is perhaps the finest wideout on the West Coast, and Arnold has a knack of making things happen after the catch.

So far this season Williams has 77 catches for 1,221 yards and 11 TDs, which adds up to a tidy per-game average of 111 hashes. Arnold has 33 catches for 477 yards and four TDs with a long of 66.

Against Oregon over the weekend, Williams caught 14 balls for 196 yards and three TDs. A year ago against the Cougars, he racked up 203 yards on 11 catches.

THE COUGARS FIGURE to eschew the comfort of their new indoor practice facility this week in favor of Martin Stadium. That will get them used to the same weather that is expected Saturday: Cloudy with temperatures in the 30s.

At least two practices this week are expected to be closed to the public.

Another thing that tells you this week is something special will be found during practices on the stadium video screen. Cougar highlights from past Apple Cups will be running. And just guessing, you have to believe the young guys will be marveling at that snow-covered Bledsoe-to-Bobo connection in 1992.

HEALTH WISE: Fee safety Erik Coleman tweaked a shoulder on Friday and sat out Saturday and Sunday's practices. He's expected back for all practices leading up to the game. Receivers Scott Lunde and Collin Henderson are still nursing injuries, but are back practicing. Both are wearing yellow non-contact jerseys, but will definitely play in Saturday's game.

NOTABLE NOTE: The team spent the past four practices emphasizing fundamentals, with more drills and individual work. The bye week was also an opportunity for younger players to work out more --- they ended Sunday's practice with a 45-minute scrimmage.

THE EARLY LINE: WSU by 8 1/2

TV: Live on Fox Sports. Kickoff at 3:30 pm

LAST SEASON: The Cougar offense sputtered, shuddered and went thud. The special teams managed to set up nine Husky points in the span of 90 seconds on either side of halftime. And the defense just plain wore out. The Cinderella season crashed down in spectacular fashion in Seattle as the Dagws pulled away from a 7-7 knot to prevail 26-14. WSU saved up a season's worth of errors for a game where victory would have given them a share of the Pac-10 crown with Oregon. The Husky defensive front put debilitating pressure on Jason Gesser. On offense, Pickett and Williams went wild. But the biggest culprit in the setback was the Cougars. Two costly pass interference penalties were among the nine flags they drew. There were also two botched kickoff returns and gadget play that looked like something straight off a sandlot. Worst of all, the Cougars drove inside the Husky five-yard-line three different times and three times they came away with zilch.


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