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Time to start looking ahead for WSU, Pac-10


COUGARS

There is actually a little frost on the roofs across the way, which scares me just a little. How much longer until snow starts dropping from the sky? Is it too early to put on the snow tires? Of course it is. But it’s never too early to start thinking about Saturday’s football games. We’ll help, with stories and notes on the link.

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• Washington State: Before we get to the links, some thoughts about last week. … One of the little changes WSU made before the game was moving placekicker Nico Grasu to the kickoff role. The junior from Southern California worked over the summer on his leg strength and it showed. All but one of the kickoffs he tried to get into the end zone reached it and were not returned – the last, with 28 seconds left, was a squibber that used up 10 seconds on the clock. That meant SMU started three possessions after WSU scores at the 20. “We need him to continue that,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “It’s a big advantage to be able to have the opposing start on the 20-yard line.” … Two of those kickoffs came after WSU interception returns for scores. The Cougars tweaked the pass defense during the week, played almost exclusively zone against the Mustangs and that seemed to free up players to make plays. It also is designed to take away the deep ball – at first that wasn’t done too well – but allows a lot of underneath pitch and catch. The idea is to force a team to work its way down the field and try to make a play or two that ends the drive. The philosophy worked on 12 of SMU’s 16 possessions Saturday. “Usually zone schemes are going to give you a better opportunity to have interceptions,” Wulff said, going on to add that good sound zone principles coupled with a pass rush that forces the quarterback to hurry are the foundations of an interception-forcing defense. Both those things started to show up in the second half. … When you click the link to our looking back feature below, check out Marshall Lobbestael’s stats when the pressure was on. Lobbestael’s seems to be one of those players who is better when the game is on the line, when his competitive nature rises to the surface. He just takes over. “There’s no question that’s a trait he brings to the table,” Wulff said, “that every team would love to have in all our players. I know he brings that, which is just a positive asset for us.” In explaining Lobbestael’s stats, Wulff pointed out five or six early drops by the receivers – we charted five during the game – and the failures, and later improvement, of the pass protection. … OK, now on to the links. … We start with our follow-up story and our looking-back feature. … Freelancer Howie Stalwick had a follow notebook in the Kitsap Sun and other papers. … CougCenter wants to know how you feel about Paul Wulff. … And CougFan has this piece.

• Around the Pac-10: ESPN.com’s Ted Miller relays what we learned in the Pac-10 last Saturday and ranks the teams. … Nick Daschel of Buster Sports gives out his week three report card. … Five things about college football, two of which cover Pac-10 teams. … Washington: The Huskies are ranked for the first time since 2003, when Keith Gilbertson was coach. That earned a story from the Times’ Bob Condotta and … a column from Tacoma’s John McGrath. … Oregon State: Though Sean Canfield struggled against Cincinnati, coach Mike Riley isn’t ready to announce a change. … Oregon: With the Pac-10 opener against undefeated Cal up next, Jeremiah Masoli takes over the spotlight. … Cal: The Bears’ win in Minnesota moves them up the polls. … Stanford: The big upset in Seattle has repercussions throughout the conference, including with the Cardinal. … USC: Why have the Trojans stumbled the past few years against unranked teams? Here’s one opinion. … Coach Pete Carroll backs his play caller. …UCLA: Hey, maybe Mr. Positive was right. … Arizona State: What the Sun Devils learned from Saturday’s win. … Arizona: Iowa exposed the Wildcats weaknesses. Now an angry Oregon State team looms.

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• That’s all we’ve got for this morning. We’ll be back later today with our first look at USC. Until then …


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