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Cougs make it through September unscathed

PULLMAN – The biggest fish to catch has nothing to do with playing USC or some other big-name opponent. Film study is the name of an art department class, not a pre-practice ritual. And game planning involves the careful examination of a TV Guide.

It’s bye week at Washington State, and head coach Bill Doba was wearing a smile after finishing off his September schedule 3-0 and nearly 100 percent healthy.

“We wanted to be undefeated, that’s for darn sure,” Doba said of his non-conference season goals. “I think we looked better against Nevada, as an offense especially, than we did against Grambling. But I don’t know really how good Grambling is. I might be underestimating them a little bit. I think maybe you think just because they’re I-AA you should roll right by them. But we’re where we want to be.”

True, Doba admitted, his team didn’t always sparkle against Grambling State in a 48-7 win at Qwest Field on Saturday evening. But the head coach countered his self-described disgruntled post-game state of mind with the knowledge that things could have been much worse.

Exhibit A was handed to Doba on a platter after his own game Saturday night when fellow Pac-10 school Stanford lost a home game to I-AA UC-Davis.

“The thing that we forget as coaches is that we’re playing a I-AA school. You think every play should go for 10 yards or every pass should be a completion or should go for a touchdown,” he said. “So after seeing that and looking at the video, I’m thankful for the win. I’ll put it that way – it’s good to be 3-0.”

The Cougars will spend this bye week resting, repeating a familiar schedule used by Doba in years past. WSU won’t practice for the next three days, and didn’t have meetings Sunday night, either.

However, the head coach plans to balance that rest out with some of the season’s toughest practices on Thursday and Friday. After playing Idaho, Nevada and Grambling, questions linger about how prepared the Cougars are to play a Pac-10 opponent, like the one they’ll see at Oregon State on Oct. 1.

“I think we need to see Pac-10 speed,” Doba said. “I think we need to go one versus one on an inside run drill, one versus one on skelly, one versus one on some team work in a blitz period. Not a two-hour, two-and-a-half-hour practice, maybe a 25-, 30-minute individual period and 15-minute sections to try to get them on and off the field in an hour-and-a-half.”

No new injuries bubbled to the surface in the 24 hours after the game, but Doba said he’s still unsure of linebacker Scott Davis’ status for the Oregon State game. Davis sprained his right foot – unprovoked by contact, it would seem – and said he felt better Sunday. But Doba guessed it would be a few days before anything certain was known.

The third-year coach does understand this much, though: Things will get a lot more difficult from here on out. The easy part of 2005, in all likelihood, is in the rear-view mirror.

“It’s going to be bing-bang-boom. It’s going to be one right after another,” Doba said. “Win the ones you’re supposed to and upset a couple of people, and you have a good season most years.”

Notes

The Cougars were back at their own facility in Pullman by 10:30 Saturday night. “It’s a real easy trip to make,” Doba said. … Grambling defensive end Jason Hatcher made an impression on Doba, who complimented the junior’s ability and overall game. Hatcher spent much of the day breaking up passes and stuffing the run when it came his way. … Many of the first-year Cougars playing significant time on special teams this year without redshirting will probably enter the rotations on offense and defense next season, Doba said. … Tight end Troy Bienemann sustained a minor ankle injury, but Doba referred to it as one of the “bumps and bruises” that come out of any game. Tight end Cody Boyd, playing his first game, was a little sore Sunday but generally felt fine. The same was true of running back Kevin McCall, also playing his first game. … One of the pleasant surprises for Doba thus far has been kicker Loren Langley, who’s 5 of 5 on field goals and 15 of 15 on extra points. Last season as a freshman, Langley was 5 of 11 on field-goal attempts. … Nearly all of the WSU assistant coaches stayed in Seattle after the game to fly out Sunday morning for recruiting trips. Aside from Doba, only offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller and defensive coordinator Robb Akey are left. … With middle linebacker Will Derting out for most of the game because of the flu and the lopsided score, true freshman replacement Greg Trent tied for the team lead with six tackles.

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