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Summing up WSU’s Tuesday


COUGARS

We have our Pac-10 notes on the link, but we also have a few WSU notes from coach Paul Wulff's teleconferences today but mostly from practice. Read on.
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• We'll start with some injury news. I know, I do that a lot. But there have been a lot of injuries. Wulff said at his presser this afternoon that Louis Bland has more damage to his knee. Enough, in fact, that more than likely the sophomore won't be back this season. Wulff would probably have gone further, but he doesn't want to say anything official until after Bland has his knee scoped and doctors make a determination on the true damage. Bottom line, don't expect to see Bland again this year and he might not be 100 percent for spring football. ... Talked with Kevin Kooyman before practice and I get the distinct impression the senior defensive end will return for next season. His knee hasn't gotten better fast enough for him to play this year, and he enjoys football so much he wants to continue playing. He said if he does decide to return, he'll follow the Alex Brink route and not graduate, leaving himself a unit or so to finish so next fall semester will be a breeze, allowing him to concentrate on football. Under the NCAA's idiotic rule, if a player graduates, he has to take a full class load. ... Linebacker Andy Mattingly didn't participate in practice today, nursing a left knee bruise. He's expected to play Saturday, but before he can he'll have to undergo some treatment, then playing with some support on the knee. ... Defensive end Jesse Feagin, who was a captain last week, had x-rays on his sore right hand Monday and a break was discovered. Feagin didn't practice, but, after the swelling goes down, he'll be fitted with a protective covering and will make the trip to San Antonio. The hope is he'll be able to play.

• Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis met with the Notre Dame media today and had some interesting things to say, including he's emphasizing the need for a fast start this week or "we'll be playing the same game we've been playing the last few weeks." The Irish's four wins have all been by seven points or less. ... Weis, who says he's not involved in the scheduling, is sort of looking forward to the game, an off-site home game is how he put it. The Irish will have a lot of recruits at the game, but the NCAA will not allow the Notre Dame coaches to talk with them. ... Weis said he believes the Irish will have the full support of the 50,000 to 60,000 in attendance. Notre Dame has sold its 25,000 tickets, while WSU is close to selling all of its 4,000. Wulff said he thinks Weis is right, that most of those in attendance will be cheering for Notre Dame. ... WSU will get into San Antonio early enough Friday to have a walk through. Notre Dame is arriving at 7 and won't. ... Wulff feels Golden Tate is the best receiver WSU has faced this year and Jimmy Clausen is the best pure passer. ... He would also like to see his team start fast, which would be unlike their other games. ... Forgot to mention this in the injuries, but Tyson Pencer was practicing today, trading off with Alex Reitnouer at left tackle. Steven Ayers, who was still limping some, traded off with Micah Hannam at right tackle. And yes, that's new for Ayers and Hannam. Take from it what you will. ... Wulff was asked about the running back situation and said Carl Winston has asserted himself, as has Logwone Mitz. Dwight Tardy is still in the mix, but the other two have played better recently. ... Finally, I asked Wulff, after Tardy's pass Saturday, when we would see the Cougars in the Wildcat. He laughed and said they were just not deep enough at the running back position to do that. Besides, they aren't proficient enough running their stuff to add more on to the players.

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•And now here's the story ...

PULLMAN – No one says football coaches can't be fans too.

The Pac-10's coaches are this week when it comes to a little showdown in Eugene.

"It's going to be a great college football game, which is exciting," said Washington's Steve Sarkisian. "I'm a big college football fan, that's why I'm in this profession. I think these games are why we coach and why kids want to play.

"Hopefully the suns sets pretty quickly here in Seattle, I'll be able to go trick-or-treating with my kids and then watch that ball game there from about the second quarter on."

Why not? The Halloween contest in Eugene between USC (6-1 overall, 3-1 in the Pac-10, ranked fourth nationally), winners of the last seven conference titles, and the host Oregon Ducks (6-1, 4-0, 10th) may be the best game of the year in the conference.

On the surface, the game features two teams with contrasting styles, USC's more traditional offense and defense against Oregon's blitzing schemes and its spread offense.

But Jim Harbaugh isn't buying it. Asked about the differing styles, the Stanford coach dismissed the dissimilarities.

"I think both are playing very physical," he said, highlighting a resemblance. "Oregon plays the spread, but it's a physical spread. I respect the way they achieve that.

"I'll be definitely watching it, ... watching it live and watching the tape a few times."

One thing the teams do have in common is a dominating defense. In fact, the Ducks group, always overshadowed by coach Chip Kelly's offense, leads the Pac-10 by yielding just 38 points in its four conference games.

"The Oregon defense is going to match up well, they're playing very well on that side of the ball," said Cal coach Jeff Tedford, whose teams lost to the pair on back-to-back weekends by a combined 72-6 score. "They're underrated."

The USC defense, which leads the conference in limiting the opponent's rushing yardage, will be "challenged by the versatility of Oregon's offense," according to Oregon State coach Mike Riley, whose team lost to the Trojans 42-36 last week.

"It's going to be very interesting, the way Oregon spreads the field makes them difficult to defend," Tedford said. "Obviously, SC has great talent on defense, lots of team speed."

But so does Oregon on offense, including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, seemingly recovered from a knee injury suffered against WSU.

Masoli can make plays with his feet – he's rushed for 272 yards – and with his arm.

"When he's able to maintain a high percentage of completions," USC coach Pete Carroll said, "to go along with all the problems he presents running the football, then the offense is really operating."

But Sarkisian, who may be a fan second but is a coach first, sees the game hinging on two areas most other fans overlook, special teams and turnovers.

"What they both do a nice job of, and it comes with depth, both are well equipped on special teams," said the former USC assistant, whose team was victimized for a score on a blocked punt by Oregon last week. "As always, you can probably look right to the turnover margin on to who's going to win and who loses."

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Game of the Week

No. 4 USC (6-1, 3-1 in Pac-10 at No. 10 Oregon (6-1, 4-0)

5 p.m. Saturday; ABC

There's tradition here, but it's mostly personified in the Trojans' defense. It's an old-school, hard-hitting bunch led by safety Taylor Mays. The Ducks are more new wave, from their uniform combinations – one of the fun games around campus is guessing the week's wear – to the fast-paced spread offense triggered by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. But whether you like old-school football or cutting-edge fashion, this game has ramifications far beyond Eugene. The winner has a chance to vault in the BCS standings and take over the inside track on the Pac-10 conference race.

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• That's all for now. As always, we'll be back in the morning. Until then …




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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