Jim Moore: Tardy offers hope for 2009

YOU WANT HOPE for the 2009 football season? Me too. With a possibly decent offensive line and a host of talented running backs, maybe the Cougs will be able to generate a respectable ground game. If that happens, WSU could shorten the games, keep the defense off the field and open up better passing opportunities for Marshall Lobbestael.

Whattayamean "if that happens?" If you ask Dwight Tardy, which I did, it will happen. The senior from Walnut, Calif., plans to be the Cougars' leading rusher for the fourth consecutive season.

"I've gotta get 1,000 yards," Tardy said. "That's my goal every season, and it's my last go-around. I've got to get it done."

"Think you will?" I asked.

"I will," he said. "I know I will."

Tardy knows he will have to hold off challenges from Marcus Richmond and Logwone Mitz. Chris Ivory, another contender, was dismissed from the team Monday for undisclosed reasons. Then there's the intriguing wild card and the possible frontrunner headed into fall camp, James Montgomery, the transfer from Cal who rushed for nearly 5,000 yards in high school.

GO 2 GUY JIM MOORE

"They all have a lot to prove, and it should be a great competition," said Paul Wulff, who is no doubt looking forward to using ball carriers with different strengths and styles.

Tardy praised his understudies and knows they all have a lot to offer.

But they're still not going to take the job away from him.

"I'll do my thing," Tardy said. "I've got experience, and experience always wins. It's my senior year. I'm not going to let the younger guys take my spot. That's just the way it is."

Two years ago Tardy tore his ACL near the end of a long touchdown run against UCLA, causing him to miss the last four games of the season. Last year he returned but wasn't really back.

"As far as me being me, that wasn't me," Tardy said. "I couldn't make a lot of cuts that I needed to make. Now I can make all of the cuts. It's almost stronger than the other leg. I feel like I'm in my best shape ever."

Tardy has yet to experience a winning season in Pullman. He was recruited by Bill Doba and endured a coaching change and a severe injury. Any regrets? Of course not.

"Things happen, things change," Tardy said. "You've got to move on, you've got to move forward. You've got to love the game of football to be able to adapt. And I love the game of football."

Last year was last year, now forgotten. Tardy said many players were not giving their all and quibbled about little things instead of focusing on team goals.

"Guys were arguing, and we had no leadership," Tardy said. "That's all changed. Young guys are being accountable. Everyone has each other's back."

Asked if he thought the Cougars would have a winning season this year, Tardy said: "I believe so, I know so."

"But what about the media picking you guys last in the Pac-10?" I asked.

"It doesn't matter what people think," he said. "I've always been an underdog myself. Win or lose, you're going to respect us when you play us. We're going to show up on Saturday and take some games. We're going to smack some people around.

"That was a bad experience last year. It was hard to be a part of that. But I'm a Cougar regardless. I'm going to back my teammates and coaches 100 percent. It's going to be a different season this year."

No matter how it turns out, Tardy will look back with pride.

I love WSU, I love being a Coug," he said. "It's been a great ride for me."

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