COUGAR FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK

OREGON HAS TAKEN on three Top 20 teams in the first four games of the season, so the prospect of facing a 1-3 Washington State club this Saturday night may not be cause for great concern in Eugene. The Ducks are a 31-point favorite. Still, Chip Kelly says he respects hard-nosed football, and Oregon's new head coach also said he has been impressed with what he's seen of the Cougars on film.

"Those guys play as hard as anybody in our league," Kelly said Monday.

The man responsible for instilling that work ethic in the Cougars, head coach Paul Wulff, deserves his props, Kelly says.

"It's a tribute to Paul Wulff and what he's done with that football program," Kelly said. "Those guys play hard. I respect totally the players that play hard, because it's not easy."

THE COUGARS WILL HAVE to play very hard and very well to compete with Oregon. The 16th-ranked Ducks have won three straight, all at home, since a dreadful opening-night performance at Boise State. After squeaking by Utah and Cal, they turned in a magnificent performance last Saturday in a 42-3 mashing of then-No. 6 California.

"They've obviously got things going in the right direction," Wulff said.

A young Cougar team must overcome not only a series of injuries and a talented Oregon team, but one of the loudest crowds in the country. The Ducks have sold out 64 straight games at Autzen Stadium over the past 10 years, and nothing is expected to change Saturday. Kickoff is at 6:15 p.m.

THE COUGARS WALKED AWAY from the hallowed turf of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a certain amount of pride on Saturday.

One year after USC dealt the Cougars their worst loss ever (69-0), WSU limited the Trojans to 27 points, and Jeff Tuel livened up the offense.

Nonetheless, the numbers are going against the Cougars in a big way as they head to Eugene. WSU is 0-9 away from Pullman over the last year.

In addition, Washington State ranks 120th (last) in the nation in total defense, surrendering 503 yards per game. The Ducks, meanwhile, are No. 43 in total D, giving up 329 yards per game. Oregon has outscored WSU 116-21 the past two years, including 63-14 last season in Pullman.

Surprisingly this season the Ducks rank a modest No. 88 in the nation in total offense (336 yards per game). The Cougs are No. 101 (314 yards per game).

IT MAY NOT MATTER as much who plays quarterback for WSU if an injury-riddled offensive line doesn't improve substantially after giving up eight sacks at USC. The Cougars have yet to score in the first quarter, and opponents have scored a touchdown on every opening drive.

The Ducks took a hit when talented cornerback and kick returner Walter Thurmond III suffered a knee injury against Cal. He is out for the rest of the season.

HAVING AN ALL-AMERICA type season is WSU's junior punter Reid Forrest. He ranks third nationally with 45.3 yards per punt, and routinely registers great hang time and pins opponents deep in their own end. The son of former Cougar tight end Jim Forrest redshirted as a freshman in 2006, then took over the punting duties the following year.

"He's one of the best in the country," Wulff said.

Wulff said Forrest is a specialist who is regarded by teammates as a team leader. The athleticism of many punters is open to debate, but Forrest was a three-sport standout at Ephrata High School. He was a quarterback, free safety and punter in football, a point guard in basketball and a center fielder and pitcher in baseball. His first down run on a fake punt in last year's Apple Cup, on fourth-and-18 from the Cougs' 30-yard line, also served notice that Forrest isn't your average athlete at punter.

WULLF CONTINUES TO TALK up WSU's young players and recruiting efforts, and true freshmen starters Travis Long and Gino Simone have certainly made Wulff look like a wise man.

Long, a defensive end from Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, leads the Cougars with three tackles for losses, two quarterback sacks and two quarterback hurries. He's fifth in tackles with 19 -- a whopping 13 more than any other defensive lineman.

Wulff said Long "had a great game" at USC. Long has been named WSU's defensive player of the game two weeks in a row.

Simone, a slot receiver out of Skyline High in Sammamish, leads the Cougars with four receptions per game (12 total for 107 yards). After missing the SMU game due to a concussion, Simone led the Cougars at USC with eight catches and 83 receiving yards.

Help is on the way for Long and Simone. WSU has received 14 known verbal commitments from high school seniors, including Aaron Dunn from Mead in Spokane and the newest commit, Bay Area receiver Robert Jiles of Pittsburg High. Scout.com ranks Dunn the eighth-best college tight end prospect in the nation among high school seniors.

ELSEWHERE ON PLANET COUG:

* Trayce Thompson, the younger brother of WSU basketball star Klay Thompson, has been named the 11th-best major league baseball prospect in the Appalachian League. The outfielder turned down a baseball ride at UCLA to sign with the Chicago White Sox this year.

* Alex Burg, whose outstanding senior year at Washington State was interrupted by a knee injury, is playing instructional ball with other San Francisco Giants farmhands in Arizona this fall. Burg, drafted in the 24th round in June, underwent knee surgery soon after he was drafted and did not play in a pro league this summer.

* The annual "Night With Cougar Basketball" dinner in the Seattle area is set for Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue. Featured speakers are Ken Bone and June Daugherty. Among the guests expected to be on hand are former CouGeats James Donaldson, Guy Williams, Charlie Sells and Ernie Woods. For tickets, head to https://www.athletics.wsu.edu/foundation/nightwithcougarbasketball.asp.

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