THE COUGS ARE 24-POINT FAVORITES against Idaho this Saturday but Bill Doba says there's one very good reason the Wazzu players should not be overconfident -- the game tape from San Diego State. A number of crimson rookies tasted their first collegiate action in the 45-17 win at Qwest, injury notes, a sure-handed group of league leading receivers at Washington State, plus much more.
The statement came with a laugh, but the blowout win over SDSU shouldn't have anyone in the Cougar lockerroom overconfident in the least headed into the Idaho game, says Doba.
"Not if you watch our video," said Doba. "Not if you were in our staff meetings or our player meetings.
"I think they're happy this week, and they felt like they accomplished something but I keep reminding them. Look at Auburn and South Florida. Texas A&M had to go into three overtimes to win (over Fresno State) and before you had the Michigan game. It doesn't matter what conference they're in...there are good teams in the WAC and Mountain West and everywhere else."
Doba said he was very pleased with the offense Saturday, and the special teams showed improvement.
"Offensively, of course, we played very well. Alex Brink had a great ball game. The receivers caught the ball really well, off their shoe-tops and everything else," he said. "I was happy with Romeen Abdollmohammadi. He had one bad kick on a kickoff, we didn't call for a squib, (though) it ended up being a pretty good one. He looked like he's getting his timing down."
Doba said Abdollmohammadi tries at times to over-kick when the wind is blowing, an understandable response but also one hampering his ability to get solid contact.
ON DEFENSE, Doba said the Cougs have plenty of room for improvement in several areas -- staying in the proper lanes on the pass rush, better drops by the linebackers, contain better and fill the gaps quicker, and more.
"Defensively, we still have some work to do. I thought we got better as the game progressed," said Doba. "(They're) fundamental things, things that we can work on and (that will) help.
SEVERAL ROOKIES took their first collegiate snaps on Saturday. It's always a balancing act to try and redshirt those you can but a) that doesn't endear you to recruits and b) there are always some first year players who are ready to play now.
Some of the Cougs' junior college transfers do not have a redshirt year available but the message is nonetheless clear and two-fold -- if you earn it, you will play and play early. And the WSU staff will also play those they think can help them win games in the here and now rather than try to redshirt talent.
Daniel Blackledge, despite a deep Cougar receiving corps, was always ticketed for action this season after a strong camp showing. OL Andrew Roxas, OL Reed Lesuma, CB Romeo Pellum and DE Jesse Feagin all took the field against SDSU.
The above quintet, along with starting corners Chima Nwachukwu and Devin Giles, safety Alfonso Jackson and Kendrick Dunn at linebacker, along with WR Jeshua Anderson and LB Hallston Higgins, bring to 11 the number in the '08 recruiting class who have seen action this season.
Another factor is establishing depth in case the injury bug rears it's head. There are plenty of bumps and bruises to go around the WSU training table and while the season is only two weeks old, the number of significant injuries compared to this point from the 2004-2006 years is markedly fewer. But if and when injuries do hit, the Cougs would rather be prepared than not.
"It's a long season, and we just decided we might as well get them ready to play," Doba said succinctly.
THE DEPTH ON the offensive line, absent in recent seasons, is also starting to develop, said Doba.
He noted Joe Eppele got in some work against SDSU, as did Reed Lesuma. Nick Cantlon also saw action.
THE LAST FEW seasons, crimson pass grabbers have had an early case of the drops in one of the first two games, sometimes in both. Not so this year.
It's certainly early and some in the league have already had a bye but it still bears mention that of the Pac-10's top eight in receiving yards, three are from Washington State.
Brandon Gibson leads the Pac-10 in receiving yards with 198 hashes, Michael Bumpus leads the league in catches (14) and is fourth in yards (155). Charles Dillon is in the top ten in both categories with 10 catches for 120 hashes. Tight end Jed Collins also has nine catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Gibson is also tied for the league lead with three TDs.
"I've seen them in practice drop some," quipped Doba. "I think Jed Collins might have dropped one in the Wisconsin game that was thrown just a little bit wide. And Jed's got great hands too, I'm not just singling him out. Our wideouts are really (performing) -- Dillon, Bump and Gibson they made some great catches Saturday, I thought."
WASHINGTON STATE CAME OUT of the annual Seattle game in pretty good shape injury-wise, said Doba. The status of Husain Abdullah, who took a knee to the helmet, won't be known until time and tests have come to pass. Doba said the starting free safety is probably questionable for Idaho. Abdullah didn't have a headache afterwards, always a good sign.
Dunn had what appears a mild stinger but finished the game and Doba expects him to be ready for Idaho.
The practice week availability of Matt Mullennix, who appeared to tweak a knee according to the Cougar Radio Network's Bud Nameck during the game, will be determined starting tomorrow as well. Nameck said Mullennix looked ready to go back in after coming off the field but with the game well in hand, the Cougs went to their 2s and 3s.