WASHINGTON STATE'S LEADING scorer, Jason Hill, and leading receiver, Michael Bumpus, are wearing protective boots on their respective high ankle sprains and optimistically look toward the Apple Cup, though history isn't on their side. Hill discusses the injury and his outlook, plus his thoughts about the team's mindset after the loss to Arizona and more.
Hill said his prognosis is unknown with a lot of ice and rest on tap, but he hopes he could come back for Washington. But if history is any indication, the odds are against he and Bumpus, two thirds of the Cougs' starting receiver corps, returning for the Apple Cup.
High ankle sprains generally do not allow a player to come back in as soon as two weeks. Tight end Cody Boyd, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Oregon State this season, missed the California and Oregon games and then returned for UCLA. Cornerback Markus Dawes' high ankle sprain kept him out six weeks, and he wasn't 100 percent when he returned against Cal.
Probably the best known case of a Cougar coming back in short order from the malady is that of Jason Gesser. The WSU quarterback cemented his place in crimson lore in 2002 after a high ankle sprain in the Apple Cup but returned to start against UCLA two weeks later. Still, more than a month later, Gesser was not at full strength for Washington State's Rose Bowl appearance.
THE PLAYERS AND COACHES are more angry about the loss to Arizona than anything else, said Hill.
"I don't see any panic in the locker room, guys were mad, and it's rightfully so," said Hill. "That was a game we definitely thought we could win and we didn't. So guys are mad, but hopefully we all (go) in a positive direction.
"It was a huge surprise, even with me and Bump going down, I definitely thought our team was much more talented but we came out and didn't exactly play like it, even when me and Bump were in the game. There were certain things we wanted to do that we just didn't do. It was some of everything, our coaches tried their best to put us in situations where we would have the advantage. But even in the first half...we just didn't do that."
While several coaches and players said the Cougs came out flat for whatever reason, Hill pointed out he saw plenty of effort on Saturday as well.
"Our team plays hard...I think a lot of people are overlooking our playing hard this past week -- when I looked over the film Sunday, I definitely saw a lot of effort out there," said Hill.
Looking forward to the last two games, Hill said one key will be for the Cougs to be mentally strong and overcome whatever challenges comes their way.
"We have to keep fighting no matter what, adversity is going to come," said Our team has been through a lot on the defensive side of the ball and on the offensive side of the ball and guys have got to step up.
AGAINST ASU in the Cougs' three receiver set, there's starter Brandon Gibson and assuming his knee is at least as healthy as when he came into the Arizona game, Chris Jordan.
After that, assistant coach Mike Levenseller will have Charles Dillon, Finas Rabb, Benny Ward and Scott Selby as among those who could see significant playing time. Head man Bill Doba said in the wake of the injuries to Hill and Bumpus on Saturday, Rabb would be needed to step up.
A BOWL GAME will hold special significance for Hill, he said, and if it came down to being able to try and come back before he was ready for the Apple Cup, or heal up and be better prepared to play in a bowl game, Hill said he would choose the latter.
Hill noted the significance of the Apple Cup and that it means a lot to a lot of people but being from California, said he probably doesn't see it in quite the same way as do some of the in-state players and fans.
"If it was me, no, there's still a bowl game left -- that's just as big as the Apple Cup," said Hill. (The bowl game) is actually probably a little bigger than the Apple Cup, it's a combination of all the seniors and this team as a whole. The bowl game is the last time we're all suited up together. In (2004, 2005), the Apple Cup was out bowl game because that was the last game... I'm going to be smart and do what's best for me...I'm pretty sure the coaches and trainers would want me to do the same thing. I'm going to do all the treatments I can and we'll see how it plays out."
Hill said he was injured when his foot caught and he slipped and then after Hill went down, an Arizona player landed on top of his leg. Of the subsequent pass catch where he said he also may have dinged it again, "That was just my adrenaline pumping," said Hill.
WR Chris Jordan, in his first game back since knee surgery and not at full strength, played much of the game Saturday in lieu of the injuries to Hill and Bumpus. Hill said seeing Jordan out on the field was a welcome sight but the senior was in a tough situation. "Going into the game, his realistic goal, and coach Levy's realistic goal, wasn't to play the whole game." Jordan was in the trainer's room immediately after the loss, and Hill said Jordan's knee on Sunday was "hurting him a little bit." It would seem Jordan would probably practice lightly this week, in an effort to be as healthy as possible for game duty on Saturday.