Cougs plan new wrinkles for Bruins

JED COLLINS

A NEW-LOOK COUGAR team will take the field Saturday against Pac-10 co-leader UCLA, head coach Bill Doba told listeners Tuesday during his weekly radio show. The Cougars will be introducing "some whole new packages" on both sides of the ball, he said. Meanwhile, the injury situation in Westwood poses interesting questions.

Doba declined, when pressed by Bob Robertson, to elaborate on what might be in store for the regionally televised contest that kicks off in Pullman at 3:30.

Doba's only response was jocular, saying the Cougs would come out with an eight-man front and one defensive back.

The Cougars have won five of the last six games between the two teams, including last season's 37-15 outcome in Pasadena.

Doba said this year's Bruins, 5-2 overall and undefeated in Pac-10 play, are different than previous UCLA clubs.

"Defensively, they are more aggressive (than they have been in the past)," Doba said. "I expect they will challenge our offense all day."

UCLA's defensive rebirth began last season under new D-coordinator DeWayne Walker, who came to the Bruins from the NFL. Prior to that he was associate head coach at USC.

UCLA is currently ranked 26th in the nation in total defense. They're No. 8 in rush defense, but 78th in pass defense.

DOBA SAID THE COUGS cannot take UCLA's early season shellacking at Utah or loss to Notre Dame as indicators of their talent. Both games presented unique challenges to UCLA, particularly on the injury front, something that will likely not hamper them in Pullman, Doba said.

In particular, the Bruins will be armed and dangerous this weekend at quarterback with surging Patrick Cowan, who is back from a right knee injury. However, the L.A. Daily News reported Wednesday that Cowan practiced little Tuesday with what he called fatigue. The L.A. Times reported that he was limping. In addition, the Bruins' injury situation is reported as "dire" at defensive tackle and said there were some woes at linebacker as well.

Doba played the comedian while referencing UCLA's previous trips to the Palouse. "They've never really enjoyed coming to Pullman, it's colder here ... We're praying for snow," he quipped.

The comment earned chuckles and cheers from the audience gathered at the Hill Top restaurant, where the radio show originates.

The forecast for Saturday calls for partly cloudy skies and a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Despite the Cougar's struggle this year, Doba echoed Athletic Director Jim Sterk's earlier comments this week, saying "we have five games left, and like I told the kids, it's a whole new season."

Doba also discussed the possible pro futures of several Cougs, saying both quarterback Alex Brink and tight end Jed Collins have turned the heads of several NFL scouts at this point in the season.

"Some teams are very interested," Doba said of Brink, citing game-management ability and improved arm strength as two assets the senior gun-slinger possesses that make him a potentially attractive asset to a pro team. Doba also said Collins' versatility and attitude are what set him apart, mentioning that several teams have been looking at the senior playmaker as an H-back or special team's commodity.

Brink and Collins, by the way, were this week named to national pundit Phil Steele's Mid-Season All-Pac-10 second-team. Receivers Brandon Gibson (first team) and Michael Bumpus (second team) and left guard Bobby Byrd (third team) also were recognized.

When asked by Robertson how the team looks on the injury front, Doba was tight-lipped, saying he hoped everyone would be healthy, but didn't want to give the Bruins any extra information. Doba did note that Gibson (heal) has been practicing and looks solid.

In addition, Cougar right tackle Micah Hannam (leg) practiced with the first-unit Tuesday.

Doba wrapped things up Tuesday on a high note, saying that practices this week have been good, and that the Cougars are "pumped and ready" for Saturday.

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