September 5, 2008 in Sports

Time to be the Best

Coug emulates Bears back
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

California running back Jahvid Best is front and center in the Cougars’ thoughts.
(Full-size photo)

COMING UP

Saturday: California at WSU, 3:30 p.m.

TV: FSN

PULLMAN – James Montgomery knows Jahvid Best. He also knows he’s not Jahvid Best.

But he’s had no problem portraying the California Bears’ leading rusher this week.

“He’s my friend, so I know him pretty well,” said Montgomery, redshirting at Washington State after transferring from Cal earlier this year.

And how he runs, which might just be an advantage for the Cougars on Saturday.

They open Pac-10 play that day against the Bears in Martin Stadium, and Montgomery and safety Brandon Jones will see a lot of familiar faces on the south sidelines.

“It means a little bit more,” said Jones, who played his high school ball at Seattle’s O’Dea High, before attending Cal for two years. “I used to go there, so I know most of the team, the coaches.

“I’ve already talked to a couple people, they were asking things like if I’m going to be at the game and to see how I’m doing. And they’re asking, ‘Are they ready up there? Are they ready?’ ”

Jones, also redshirting, is not practicing because of a sprained ankle, but Montgomery, a sophomore running back originally from Rancho Cordova, Calif., is doing his best to help WSU get ready by emulating Best – even wearing a blue No. 4 jersey at practice.

“I’m out here trying to run the best I can like him,” Montgomery said. “He’s a pretty fast guy, so, he might have a couple steps on me, but, you know, I’m doing my best.”

Though there are still friends on the other side, Montgomery and Jones are hoping for one thing Saturday.

“I want to see Wazzu really beat up on Cal,” Jones said. “I wished I would have taken a (recruiting) trip here when I had a chance. Both James and I talk a lot about how much better we like it here then down there.”

Council suspends Ahmu

WSU starting defensive tackle A’i Ahmu was suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game by the team’s unity council.

Ahmu was instructed by his probation officer to contact WSU police early Wednesday afternoon concerning his January minor in possession of alcohol charge, according to coach Paul Wulff, because Ahmu had failed to appear for a scheduled court date. The police served Ahmu with an arrest warrant and took him to Colfax, where he appeared in front of a Whitman County judge.

After the appearance, the judge released Ahmu, Wulff said. Without a car or a cell phone, Ahmu was forced to start walking back to campus. A WSU instructor saw him and gave him a ride. The senior missed practice.

“He didn’t really do anything,” Wulff said. “But he didn’t show up for his court date.”

Wulff said he first heard of Ahmu’s contact with authorities late Wednesday evening and suspended the senior immediately, pending an investigation of facts.

Wulff and Ahmu met in Wulff’s office Thursday afternoon. After the meeting, Wulff talked with the unity council, a group of players charged with overseeing team discipline, and gave them the choice of a half- or full-game suspension. Ahmu, who turned 21 in February, was not at practice Thursday.

Ahmu has been hindered by a shoulder injury this week and he missed practice Tuesday for treatment.

Senior walk-on Adam Hineline (6-foot-2, 261) will assume Ahmu’s starting role. Toby Turpin returned to practice Thursday, his recently surgically repaired thumb in a padded cast. Wulff also expects 6-2, 260-pound junior college transfer Jessy Sanchez, whom the Cougars hoped to redshirt, to play this weekend.

Rogers removes jitters

Fifth-year senior quarterback Gary Rogers will make his first Martin Stadium start against the Bears, and he’s looking forward to the experience.

“This is a great atmosphere to play in,” Rogers said. “To have the fans behind you is going to be awesome. I’ve waited a long time to play in Martin Stadium and having my first start here is going to be great.”

Rogers admits he was a little nervous last Saturday in Seattle against Oklahoma State, where he made his first WSU start.

“I was a little, the first couple plays,” Rogers said. “But after the first couple plays, I got going.”

Martin makeover

Speaking of Martin Stadium, WSU fans will see a lot of improvements Saturday.

The $27 million Phase I and II upgrades are for the most part complete, as is the $2.5 million scoreboard that will make its game-day debut. Both were paid for through athletic department fundraising.

The first two phases were more functional improvements – bathrooms, wider concourses, ticket offices – while Phase III, in the fundraising stages, will be quite a bit more elaborate.

The third phase includes new construction of luxury boxes and club seats above the north side stands, east of Hollingberry Fieldhouse. The 18 luxury suites will cost up to $50,000 a year, with prices of other seats in the area dropping down to $1,700 a season.

The phase is estimated to cost $42 million, of which some $16 million has been raised, all from private sources.

Notes

WSU has entered into an agreement with ISP Sports that will have the Winston-Salem, N.C., company handle most of the athletic department’s marketing. The agreement, which began with this football season, is for 10 years. … Wulff said he expects Reid Forrest, cleared from his broken ankle, to handle the punting and Vaughn Lesuma to return from his back injury to start at left tackle. Steven Ayers will move in to guard to fill in for the injured Andrew Roxas. Right guard Brian Danaher (gluteal muscle strain) returned to practice Thursday and is expected to start. … With Alfonso Jackson out with a hip flexor, redshirt freshman Tyrone Justin will start at cornerback.

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