Cougar Notebook: Bears, Bruins and more

BILL DOBA

WASHINGTON STATE IS A 14 1/2-point underdog for Saturday night's battle at Cal, but those long odds didn't pose any threat to the sunny skies created by the Cougars' big win over UCLA. Head coach Bill Doba was buoyant Monday, sharing humorous text messages from his play-calling drywaller, and saying the win -- WSU's first in Pac-10 play since last October -- gave a Texas-sized shot of enthusiasm.

Following the win over the Bruins, Doba said he hadn't been so excited since the Cougars knocked off No. 5-rated Texas and Vince Young in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. "Our kids really needed to win," said Doba. DOBA SAID HE got some playcalling advice during the game from the Midwest. After checking his mobile phone after the game, he found some text messages, sent during the game, by the guy who did the drywall on his lake home in Michigan.

"The guy who fixed my roof texted me during the game saying 'Fake it to 31 (Tardy) and play action pass'," laughed Doba. "The second text said 'Hit the tight end up the middle.' I said the guy sounds just like our alums...I got a big kick out of that."

DobaAndrew Roxas would be starting in place of the injured Kenny Alfred at center on Saturday -- but he offered up some news and notes on the injury from Monday.

Kenny Alfred got "dinged" a couple weeks ago but didn't say anything until this past Monday when he felt lightheaded. His status will likely be updated later in the week, with Doba saying he's probable at this stage. Also continuing to undergo tests will be safety Alfonso Jackson and running back Chris Ivory. Both missed the UCLA game with concussions. Defensive end Mike Graise has an inside ankle sprain and is doubtful, Doba said.

Cal isn't exactly the picture of health, either, after a loss to Arizona State on Saturday -- the Bears' third straight setback this season. Bears QB Nate Longshore is still hobbling after missing time earlier this year and running back Justin Forsett is dinged.

A smaller UCLA d-line, one that stunts and slants more than most, helped the Cougar running effort on Saturday, said Doba. So did the Washington State offensive line.

"Coach Yarno did a nice job of designing schemes ... and taking angles and we just happened to split them a few times ... And when the run game goes, it helps the pass game and vice-versa," said Doba.

Until Saturday, the Cougs had little success running the ball against Pac-10 opponents. Doba wasn't doing much celebrating on Monday over his team's 274 rushing yards. He pointed out that when UCLA brought their safety up and played run defense when it appeared WSU was apt to pass, the Cougs had less success on the ground.

ON DEFENSE, Washington State's renewed push up the middle has been driven by d-tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu with one linebacker, and sometimes two, charging in, said Doba.

"That makes the offensive line soft, they have to get back and sort that out," said Doba. "...I think with the talent we have, that's the best way for us to get a push up the middle."

Cal boasts the most athletic line the Cougs have seen this year, said Doba.

DOBA, ASKED BY a reporter about the win over UCLA and the speculation over his future wasn't having any of it.

"We're not going to talk about that, okay? Let's talk about Cal and the rest of it, we've got a long way to go yet," said Doba.

Later, Doba talked about Washington State and the Martin Stadium advantage.

"I'll tell you what. And I've said this before. Washington State is special. Everybody talks about a family atmosphere but this whole campus is a family atmosphere," said Doba.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Doba praised Kevin McCall for his play (74 all-purpose yards Saturday) and attitude. The senior running back has volunteered for special teams and to help the team any way he can, said Doba, who said McCall is an example of why senior-laden teams win. "You get 25 guys like that, 22 guys like that, and they're not going to give up," said Doba.

  • Against UCLA, the Cougs had one man in front of the punter, a departure from earlier in the season where d-tackles Ropati Pitoitua and Aaron Johnson were the last line of defense. Doba said the Cougs have been tweaking the punt team a little each week over the year. They may have found the right combination. Against UCLA, Washington State averaged 42 yards on three punts -- and 42.7 yards net. "You notice people aren't rushing us anymore," said Doba.

  • The Cougs are running more "boots" with Brink rolling out of the pocket, and Doba says that plus his quarterback's smarts have played a big role in him staying healthy when so many of the Pac-10 quarterbacks have gotten hurt this season. "And it's a team game. When the defense is getting three and outs and getting the ball back, it takes the pressure off the offense and they don't feel they have to (force it) and can throw the ball away on third down."

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