Cougar Notebook: Football, hoops and more

PULLMAN -- No one ever said it would be easy winning football games in the Pacific-10 Conference this year. Four Pac-10 teams have cracked the coaches' USA Today Top 25 preseason football poll -- as has Notre Dame, which also is on Washington State's schedule this year.

The Pac-10's early poll entires are No. 4 USC, No. 12 California, No. 14 Oregon and No. 25 Oregon State. Only the OSU game will be played in Pullman.

Notre Dame, whom the Cougs play in San Antonio on Halloween, are ranked No. 23.

IN BASKETBALL, MEANWHILE, only two Pac-10 teams made Dick Vitale's preseason Top 40 on, but the Cougars are set to play two other Top 40 teams and could face No. 21 Oklahoma at the Great Alaska Shootout.

The Cougars play home-and-home series with No. 14 Cal and No. 16 Washington and have back-to-back road games with No. 34 Gonzaga and No. 39 Kansas State.

You'll have to excuse Cougar volleyball players if they don't have much sympathy for the football and basketball teams. Six Pac-10 volleyball teams are ranked in the top 14 in the preseason, led by No. 4 Washington. The Cougars tied Oregon State for last in the Pac-10 in 2008.

PLAYING AT HOME hasn't been a huge advantage for the Cougars -- in basketball or football -- of late. The football team is 13-18 at Martin Stadium since 2004, including 1-8 against Top 25 teams. The basketball team is 43-24 at Friel Court over the past five years, but just 6-10 against Top 25 teams.

ANY ELIGIBILITY LEFT?: Five years removed from the NFL, old Palouse Possee mainstay Chad Eaton is still quite the physical specimen. Offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy couldn't help but notice the muscular former defensive tackle observing WSU's first two practices. "I wish we could suit him up," Sturdy said. "Give him a name. (Say we) found him up in Alaska."

Eaton,who had a long career with the Seahawks and Browns, is in Pullman to finish work on his degree.

FRISCHKNECHT SIGNS: Wide receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Devin Frischknecht are the only 2008 Cougars in NFL training camps right now. Gibson was Philadelphia's sixth-round draft pick. Frischknecht, an undrafted free agent, hooked on with Green Bay after being released by Washington following a spring tryout.

The Eagles have looked at Gibson as a kick returner as well as receiver. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Frischknecht "faces extremely long odds of sticking" with the Packers.

MORGAN STILL BATTLING: Cole Morgan, who seemed to forever sport a smile on his face and an upbeat attitude despite being buried on the depth chart during his days at WSU, has a slew of challengers for the quarterbacking duties at Central Washington.

CWU became Morgan's third school in as many years after Western Washington -- where Morgan was the heir-apparent to start -- dropped football this year. Morgan's competition at quarterback should be intense. CWU -- No. 10 in Division II pre-season rankings by the Sporting News -- returns five signal callers from last season, and recently landed rocket-armed former Oregon and Washington QB Johnny DuRocher. He's back on the gridiron after giving minor league baseball a try.

Central's new starting quarterback has enormous shoes to fill. Mike Reilly, a one-time walk-on at WSU, broke all kinds of records for the Wildcats. He's now in camp with the Steelers.

Ex-Husky running back J.R. Hasty, the son of former Cougar and NFL defensive back James Hasty, failed to qualify academically after transferring to Central.

COUGAR IS PROMOTED: Well, that didn't take long. Matt Way, the ace of the WSU pitching staff this spring, has been promoted to Class A Lakewood (N.J.) after quickly establishing himself as the ace of the Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters.

"He deserved it," Crosscutters manager Chris Truby told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette newspaper. "He pitched his butt off. He's one of those guys we anticipated wouldn't be here very long."

Way, Philadelphia's fifth-round draft pick in June, posted a 2-3 record and 1.67 earned run average in eight games with Williamsport. He struck out 43 and walked only eight in 37 2/3 innings in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.

Another old Cougar, Jim Murphy, is Lakewood's first baseman. Murphy, drafted in the 17th round last year, is batting .291 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 89 games with the BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League.

Meanwhile, former Cougar catcher Paul Gran, a South Atlantic League midseason all-star, added 30 points to his batting average in eight games recently when he hit .586 (17-for-29) with two homers and seven RBIs. The hot streak included a four-hit game and three other games with three hits.

Gran is hitting .279 with four homers and 39 RBIs in 91 games with Greensboro (N.C.). The third baseman was drafted in the seventh round by Tampa Bay last year.

SOCCER OUTLOOK PROMISING: The Cougars return all 11 starters off a 10-6-5 women's soccer team that lost 1-0 to 15th-ranked Texas in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last season.

"Competition, depth, experience -- you really could make a case for us having all the tools in place to build on the successes of last year," coach Matt Potter said.

The Cougars are led by All-West Region forward Kirsten Dallstream. She played on the U.S. gold-medal team at the 2008 Under-19 World Championships.

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