PULLMAN – Second-year freshman Dwight Tardy is the leading candidate to start at running back for the Cougars on Saturday, assistant coach Kelly Skipper told CF.C after Tuesday’s practice. But Derrell Hutsona, the former JC All-American, also figures to get plenty of turns in the home opener with Idaho in place of DeMaundray Woolridge, whose thigh bruise makes him doubtful for action this weekend.
Tardy – a 5-11, 208-pound record-setter from Santa Fe Springs, Calif. -- redshirted last season. He made his collegiate debut last Saturday at Auburn, carrying the ball four times for 12 yards. As prep senior he rushed for 2,272 yards and 34 touchdowns on 236 carries.
Tardy, who had an excellent fall camp, says he’s ready for the responsibility and says the 40-14 loss at Auburn is simple a building block toward a great season.
“We’re not down at all,” he said. “It (Auburn) was a learning step for us, and we’re going to take that one step at a time, every day at practice until we get better.”
| Cougars vs. Vandals |
AT A GLANCE
12:45 pm Pacific Time
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Cougars by 16 1/2
This is the 89th Battle of the Palouse. Cougars have won five straight and 19 of the last 21. WSU lead the series 68-17-3.
Tardy says he plans on picking up right where his sophomore counterpart – Woolridge -- left off last week. Woolridge rambled for 86 first-half yards before leaving the game with the thigh injury.
“I feel comfortable -- I feel like I can pick up the slack. That’s why I am here, that’s why I am the back-up. I have to step up like a man, get the job done.”
It won’t all be on Tardy’s shoulders, however, as Skipper said he expects Tardy to share time Hutsona. Still, he isn’t quite ready to concede that Woolridge won’t make the game.
“Hopefully we can get Woolridge back, get him healthy, and get rolling, get better. We have to make a big jump here, and improve a lot from the first game,” he said.
Asked if freshman Chris Ivory or junior Kevin McCall also figure into the mix at running back this weekend, Skipper said he expects most of their reps to be on special teams.
Skipper said the key will be to have the best players on the field in certain situations, and that the amount of playing time for any one back depends chiefly on the situation. “They all can do different things, and we game plan it for certain plays and certain things they can do.”
Several players were absent from Tuesday’s practice nursing injuries. Among them: , cornerbacks Don Turner (right hip contusion), Markus Dawes (high ankle sprain), and Courtney Williams (right thumb sprain), and safety Michael Willis (right shoulder sprain).
Making a comeback for Tuesday’s session were defensive tackle Aaron Johnson (left hip contusion), and tight end Jesse Taylor (left knee bursitis) and long snapper Tony Thompson (concussion).
Idaho coach Dennis Erickson's connections to the Palouse are many. His father Pinky was on staff with Jim Sweeney from 1968-70 and Dennis was later an assistant for Sweeney at Fresno State. He also was an assistant, for former Cougar player and assistant Jack Elway while the latter was head man at San Jose State. Erickson received his head coaching start at Idaho, guiding the Vandals to a 32-15 record in four seasons, 1982-85. He then spent the 1986 season as Wyoming's head coach before taking over for Jim Walden at WSU. Erickson was 3-7-1 with the Cougars in 1987 and 9-3 in 1988. His quarterback both seasons was Timm Rosenbach.
Erickson isn’t the only old Cougar returning home on Saturday. The Vandals’ linebackers coach is Johnny Nansen, a linebacker for the Mike Price-coached Cougars in the 1990s.
WSU's nominations for Pac-10 Conference awards this week were Woolridge (offense), linebacker Scott Davis (defense) and punter Darryl Blunt (special teams). Davis had eight tackles, including a sack, to lead the defense while Blunt made his Cougar debut by averaging 42.1 yards per punt.