WSU NOTEBOOK: Johnny Rocket takes off, eh?

PULLMAN -- Johnny Forzani, like any red-blooded Canadian, was hooked on hockey when he grew up in Calgary, Alberta. It seems Forzani, the fleet-footed deep threat on the Washington State football team, was just as fast on the ice as he is on the football field.

"They called me ‘Johnny Rocket,'" the colorful Johnny Forzani recalled.

Still, he gave up hockey at 13, ("My parents were devastated"), and switched to basketball. He averaged 42 points as a high school senior and started on Canada's small-college national champions as a freshman at Douglas in Vancouver, then gave up hoops to play football for the first time in his life.

"I'm going to play tennis next year," he joked, "and baseball the next."

Forzani, who says he was clocked while on a CFL scout team in a blistering 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash, grew up in a football family. Father Tom and two uncles played at Utah State and in the Canadian Football League, and Tom was a CFL Hall of Fame wide receiver.

"It's always been my favorite sport," he said.

Still, Forzani's high school did not offer football, and he never played organized football until last year with an 18-22 age-group team sponsored by the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. Forzani also played on the scout team of the Stampeders in 2007 and '08, and he said Calgary coach John Hufnagel (Forzani's godfather) wanted him to turn pro this year.

Forzani, who started college in 2006 and has just one more year of NCAA eligibility beyond this year, is the first to admit he is extremely raw as a wide receiver. However, he averages a whopping 38 yards per catch, thanks partly to a school-record 99-yard touchdown catch against Arizona State.

At Thursday's practice, a spate of drops by Forzani and Jeffrey Solomon drew the vocal ire of offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. The tongue lashing clearly worked, they dropped nary a ball against Cal, combining for 11 catches for 197 yards.

Jokingly, Forzani said "as much as I hate to admit that," he is grateful for the tough-love instruction of demanding WSU receivers coach Mike Levenseller, who roomed with Johnny's father Tom when both were in the CFL. "Yelling at me, ripping me every 5 seconds," Forzani said with a smile.

WHEN TERRANCE HEYWARD started last week at California, he became the 10th freshman to start for the Cougars this season.

The last time WSU started 10 freshmen was in 2000. The Cougars finished 4-7 that year -- their third straight losing season -- then ran off a school-record string of three consecutive 10-win seasons and bowl appearances.

COUGAR COACHES ARE reminding their young team to focus only on the Notre Dame team that shows up Saturday in San Antonio and not get caught up in the Fighting Irish's glorious football past.

The coaches probably don't have to worry about them being awestruck. One Coug player said he knows next to nothing about Notre Dame's football history.

"I know it's one of the Ivy League schools," said the player.

THE COUGARS OPENED as 30-point underdogs to Notre Dame, the line as of Wednesday was at 28-points.

The Irish are ranked No. 25 in the AP poll, and an ESPN panel ranks quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate second and 12th, respectively, among Heisman Trophy candidates.

THE SCHEDULE FOR for men's basketball includes at least six national appearances for Washington State.

The Cougars will play a minimum of 14 games on TV, starting with a Nov. 16 home game against Eastern Washington on FSN. For more, click HERE.

A MEMORIAL SERVICE for Aaron Haskins, a popular forward on Washington State's NCAA basketball tournament teams in 1980 and 1983, will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at The City Church in Kirkland. A graveside service for Haskins is set for 10 a.m. Thursday in his hometown of Tacoma at the New Tacoma Cemetery.

Haskins, a well-respected pastor at The City Church for 15 years, died unexpectedly Monday. He was 49.

"I'm as proud of him as any kid I ever recruited," George Raveling, Haskins' coach at WSU, told The Seattle Times.

COUGAR BASKETBALL ALUMS are warming up early in foreign pro basketball leagues. In their most recent games, season highs were recorded by Marcus Moore (35 points and 11 rebounds in Mexico), Taylor Rochestie (20 points and five assists in Germany), Ivory Clark (13 points and nine rebounds in Hungary) and Derrick Low (15 points for the third straight game in Lithuania).

In addition, Aron Baynes recently posted season highs of 21 points (on 9-for-10 shooting) and seven rebounds in a game in Lithuania. Former Cougar guard Josh Akognon just signed with a team in Estonia.

THREE WSU FALL sports teams are nationally ranked. Volleyball and soccer are 21st, and men's cross country is tied for 26th. In case you missed it, the volleyball team beat then-No. 4 Washington before 2,724 fans last Friday in Bohler Gym. That's the largest home crowd since 1997.

Earlier Friday, the soccer team bowed 2-1 in overtime to top-ranked and undefeated Stanford. More than 700 fans turned out in the rain at WSU's Lower Soccer Field.

The Cougar men's and women's cross country teams run Friday in the Pac-10 Championships at Long Beach, Calif. The men's golf team concluded its fall season Tuesday, finishing second behind No. 17 UNLV at a tournament in Las Cruces, N.M.


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