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WSU gets back to practice


COUGARS

Got a couple stories for you. With WSU back at practice today, we've updated the injury situation with the offensive line – and a little on the defense. Plus, we have our Pac-10 story. Read the unedited versions on the link.
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• Here's the story on the injuries ...

PULLMAN – Washington State University's football team finally got some positive injury news Tuesday, though maybe not as much as coach Paul Wulff would have liked.

The Cougars (1-5 overall, 0-4 in Pac-10 play) have played the past three games with a makeshift offensive line, necessitated by injuries to starters B.J. Guerra (knee), Zack Williams (ankle) and Steven Ayers (ankle).

Following last week's bye, the trio returned to practice Tuesday, though only left guard Williams consistently took snaps with the first team.

Guerra rotated with Joe Eppele at right guard while Ayers traded off with freshman Alex Reitnouer, who has been playing guard, at left tackle.

"It felt good to be out there again," said Ayers, who was injured at USC two games ago. "It's starting to feel like the beginning of the season again, getting all these guys back."

Tyson Pencer, who has started the last three games at left tackle, was not in uniform. He's nursing a sprained left ankle and his rehabilitation was set back slightly last week when he had to miss a couple days due to illness.

Center Kenny Alfred, who missed the fourth quarter against ASU after suffering a deep cut, had his leg wrapped but didn't miss a snap.

On the other side of the ball, Bernard Wolfgramm was back at tackle after not practicing the past two weeks with a hip injury. And middle linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who had surgery following a staph infection, also took snaps, his right arm wrapped to protect stitches removed Monday.

Wulff said senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman's knee isn't improved and, if it doesn't get better soon, there was a good chance Kooyman, who played just the opener, would apply for an injury redshirt.

And defensive tackle Josh Luapo won't be back this year after having his torn anterior cruciate ligament surgically repaired last Thursday.

"It was strictly an ACL, no cartilage or anything of that matter, which was positive," said Wulff of the surgery on the 6-foot, 311-pound junior. "The doctor said the bones were very, very dense and very big."

But that was the only humorous comment Wulff had about the injuries.

"Right now we've gotten too many key injuries to allow us to build (depth), unfortunately," he said. "We haven't had any luck in the injury department."

•••

• And here's the Pac-10 notebook ...

PULLMAN – The Oregon State Beavers have tugged on Superman's cape twice in the past three years.

Saturday, they'll have to answer for it.

See, it's one thing to defeat USC in your home stadium, it's another to go into the Coliseum the next year.

Of the Trojans last 47 home games, they've won 46. Only Stanford's monumental upset in 2007 blemishes Pete Carroll's Coliseum record since midway through his first year at USC.

"I try to point out to our players, there are goal posts and lines, it doesn't change, but it does," OSU coach Mike Riley said Tuesday about playing USC in Los Angeles. "Their place is a tremendous atmosphere with a ton of history. Then you put a very good team in there with it, which is the biggest factor, obviously.

"Those are the things, and a lot of them are mental, that you have to overcome."

Another is the crowd. The 5 p.m. contest, televised on ABC, will be played before a sellout crowd in the Coliseum, which holds 93,607.

Three years ago Oregon State upset then third-ranked USC 33-31 in Corvallis. The next year they were dominated 24-3 in LA.

Then last year the Beavers destroyed the Trojans' national championship hopes with a 27-21 home win.

Which will play a big part of Saturday's game. Though Carroll says he doesn't need to remind his players of last year's upset.

"We don't use last year or the years before for anything," he said. "I think it's clear to our guys that this is the team that got us last year and all that. There's nothing to do. That's just the facts. I'm not going to spend any time on it and we won't be talking about that."

But it does help the Trojans, coming off a 34-27 win over rival Notre Dame last week, to be playing someone this week they want payback against.

"I do think they definitely have our attention," Carroll said.

The feeling is mutual. So much so, Riley was repeating himself a little this week.

"We know it's a big, big chore," Riley said. "We're going to have to play our very, very best to have an opportunity to win.

"As always, they are very impressive and they appear to be getting stronger."

•••

Game of the Week

No. 12 Oregon (5-1, 3-0 in Pac-10) at Washington (3-4, 2-2)

12:30 p.m. Saturday; ABC

There is no bottom to the animosity between the fans of these two programs, but lately the fire has gone out of the I-5 rivalry. That's because Washington hasn't been that much of a factor, last winning in 2003. But the Huskies, last week's end-of-game meltdown against Arizona State notwithstanding, are playing better this year and would like nothing better than to knock a big hole in the Ducks' Pac-10 title hopes. Oregon is coming off a bye week, though it's still not sure whether quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is healthy enough to go.

•••

• That's it for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow. Until then …




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Vince Grippi





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