Cougs upbeat, and accurate, in practice

Brandon Gibson

PULLMAN -- After three straight nailbiting losses, Washington State's heartbreak Cougars looked surprisingly upbeat during Tuesday's practice. Alex Brink and Jason Hill were in a Manning-Harrison, Montana-Rice-like zone. Freshman receiver Brandon Gibson was sterling, and Will Derting looks that much closer to getting back on the field.

Despite hooking up eight times for 65 yards and a first-quarter touchdown against UCLA last week, Brink and his favorite target, Hill, were unable to capture their deep-down-the-field magic against the Bruins. The fact that Hill was still recovering from a thigh bruise played an obvious factor. But Tuesday, the pair hooked up for several deep balls, and each looked effortless on his particular end; Hill running and catching, and Brink flinging 30-to-40-yard darts over the arms of scout-team defensive backs.

Cougars (3-3) vs. Bears (5-2)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
7:15 p.m. Pacific Time

WHERE:
Berkeley, Memorial Stadium (67,537), Momentum Turf

TELEVISION:
Live on Fox Sports Northwest

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Bears by 12

THE SERIES:
Cal leads 34-25-5, but the Golden Bears have not beaten the Cougars since 1998. They did not face each other the last two seasons. In 2002, WSU prevailed 48-38 in Berkeley.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 38, Bears 37


Another receiver who looked like a star Tuesday was Gibson, the true freshman from Puyallup. Having started in place of dinged up Chris Jordan last week, Gibson played like a starter Tuesday, hauling in a few impressive sideline catches and shaking defenders on runs after the catch.

Derting's return to the field is still a few weeks away, but he's off crutches and is now wearing just a small knee brace.

Running back Jerome Harrison tweaked his shoulder against UCLA, and Tuesday was wearing a yellow no-contact jersey. He didn't take as many snaps as usual, meaning DeMaundray Woolridge and Kevin McCall each got more work than usual. Even fullback Brandon Asuega-Stark got some PT, and understandably ran like a man who hasn't touched the ball in weeks.

In other backfield news, freshman Dwight Tardy has changed his number for the fourth time this season. Tardy started out spring ball wearing 44, then after three days switched to 31. A couple weeks ago he wore 21 for one day, than went back to 31. On Tuesday, Tardy was wearing No. 10.

NOTABLE NOTES:

Defensive end Adam West practiced for the first time since suffering a concussion on Sept. 9. Cody Boyd (ankle) was also back at practice.

Freshman cornerback Shelton Danzy's knee is reportedly well enough for him to resume practice, but he missed Tuesday's session with an illness.

Quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach booted scout-team linebacker Brian Skjei out of practice. Skjei, who was standing on the sideline while the first-team offense scrimmaged with the scout defense, apparently said something during or after a play that caught the ire of Rosenbach, and was loudly sent to the locker room.

WSU's offensive line has allowed just five quarterback sacks this season --- tied for seventh among schools from major Division I conferences. Of those schools, only Boston College (269), Purdue (261) and Georgia Tech (226) have more pass attempts than the Cougars' 214.

California enters Saturday's contest with a 5-2 record, 2-2 in conference play, and a No. 25 national ranking after falling to Oregon State, 23-20, this past Saturday. Golden Bear quarterback Joe Ayoob accounted for three touchdowns, one throwing, one running and one receiving, before the Beavers rallied for the winning score in the fourth quarter.

Cal's coaching staff features two former WSU players: mid-80s defensive back Bob Gregory, who is the Bears' defensive coordinator, and late-80s offensive lineman Jim Michalczik, assistant head coach.

THE HARRISON FILE

With his 260 yards against UCLA, Jerome Harrison became the only running back in WSU history to rush for more than 100 yards in nine consecutive games. He has rushed for more than 200 yards three times in his career: 247 against UCLA last year, 218 against Stanford two weeks ago and then the 260 last week. Harrison's 1,901 career rushing yards (in 17 games) is eighth on WSU's all-time list, and he's on pace to topple the WSU single-season record set by first-team All-American Rueben Mayes in 1984 at 1,637 yards.

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