Cougs, Sooners taking wing

THERE IS NO snow in the Christmas forecast for Washington State's Rose Bowl-bound Cougars. They wrapped up practice in Pullman on Saturday and took off for two nights of down time on the shores of Lake Couer d'Alene before jetting off to sunny Southern California on Monday.

The Cougs will waste little time once they land, with practice at the L.A. Coliseum set for 3:30.

That workout unofficially starts the countdown to the Rose Bowl seven days hence, on Jan. 1 at 2 pm. The players get a nice break from the grid rigors, though, with a Dec. 30 visit to the Jay Leno Show.

The Sooners arrive in town Wednesday (Christmas) and will put on the pads Thursday at Loyola Marymount University.

Oklahoma is looking to even up its record in California. Since 1940, the Sooners have played in the Golden State 12 times and produced a 5-6-1 record. Their last trip to the state was in 1997 when Cal edged them 40-36.

In practices this week, the Sooners are reportedly looking very sharp on both sides of the ball.

Mike Price's defection to Alabama hasn't swayed Las Vegas oddsmakers one way or another, with Oklahoma still favored by the 6 1/2 they opened with when the match up was announced.

One guy who doesn't buy that spread is The Sporting News' Tim Brando. Just before Price's flight to Tuscaloosa he wrote: "Oklahoma's zone-blitzing style will be negated by Washington State's spread formations and quick-drop passing. Ultimately, this will become a track meet --- and that plays into the hands of the Cougars. Wazzu 38-28."

Mind you, Brando is no fly-by-night analyst. He was the only national pundit last summer to predict a Sooner-Cougar showdown this bowl season. It's true, though he was thinking Fiesta rather than Roses.


Jim Walden telling the Daily Oklahoman what it's like to coach in Pullman: "There's an emotion that's hard to describe. Washington State is a strange phenomenon the way it gets a hold of you. I am an absolute Cougar forever, and I have no idea how to explain that. I know it's true; I just don't know why."

Barry Switzer, former Oklahoma coach, telling the Tacoma News Tribune why Oklahoma is such a great state: "We ain't got any beach, or any snow runs or any models around here. We've got high school football and some college football and then we've got some spring football."

Word from Norman is that they may have an infiltrator among them. The Sooners' assistant equipment manager is a WSU grad: Andy Weaver, class of 2000. "My heart still bleeds for the Cougs, my alma mater," he told one paper.

How strong is the Rose Bowl allure? So strong that athletic donations to WSU in the month of November totaled $900,000 --- that's $760,000 more than last November when the Cougs were en route to a 10-2, Sun Bowl season, says the Tacoma News Tribune.

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