PRACTICE: Defensive scores, player returns

XAVIER HICKS

PULLMAN -- High spirits and cold air filled the practice field as the Cougs began full pad on-field preparations for this Saturday night's showdown with California. A Cougar cornerback came in for praise, a pair of Cougar players returned to the practice field, and a linebacker and safety each made some noise.

A business-like offense on Tuesday worked on red zone drills for part of the session, finding success. A first and goal on Saturday from the 1-yard line against UCLA in the 27-7 Cougar victory resulted in no yards gained and a blocked field goal.

Against Cal, the Cougs go up against a team that only three weeks ago was on the verge of a No. 1 ranking. But after losses to Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State, the Bears suddenly find themselves unranked.

Leading the Bears on Saturday will be pre-season Heisman candidate DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins at the wide receiver positions. The two have 1,130 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns combined.

"We go against great receivers everyday, but you've got to practice right," cornerbacks coach Dave Walkosky said about preparing for Cal's receiving corps. "If you practice right, you've got a good chance on Saturday."

The Washington State secondary and defense must have practiced well last week, with the Cougs holding the Bruins to 267 yards and 7 points. But Cal is a more potentially explosive offense with greater speed.

The Cougs will also counter Cal's touted receivers with a touted group of grabmasters in their own right -- Michael Bumpus, Brandon Gibson and Charles Dillon. Gibson is among the league leaders in yardage and touchdowns and Bumpus is in the top ten. Burgeoning freshman Jeshua Anderson is first off the bench.

Washington State's passing attack also boasts tight end Jed Collins, the Cougs' third leading receiver this season with 38 catches for 350 yards. Both Collins and Devin Frischknecht pulled in grabs from quarterback Alex Brink on Tuesday.

MEANWHILE, DEFNESIVE LINEMEN Toby Turpin and Asly Jean-Jacques returned to practice on Tuesday. Head coach Bill Doba said the two had been suspended for disciplinary reasons, declining to elaborate further.

It was a good day to be back on defense. Near the end of practice, the defensive starters, going up against the scout team, got a little rowdy.

The stop corps pilfered two interceptions for touchdowns back-to-back—the first by linebacker Andy Mattingly and the second courtesy of safety Xavier Hicks. Both plays drew loud roars from all players on defense.

Mattingly, tied for second with Husain Abdullah in tackles on the season with 53, leads the team in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (10). Hicks was tied for the team lead with eight stops against UCLA. One hit that wasn't included in the box score but had a major impact on the game was the stick the safety put on Brandon Breazell, knocking the Bruin playmaker out of the game.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Walkosky praised the defensive backs on their performance after the UCLA game, singling out Devin Giles as one guy who played a key role. "Devin Giles did a great job," Walkosky said in excitement. "The open-field tackling that he did—he had nine open field tackles last week—and they caught the ball and he made tackles. I thought that was great." Walkosky noted that Giles also gave up very little, if any, yards after the catch, which contributed to the nice performance put on by the Cougar defense.

  • Chima Nwachukwu also had a key pass breakup on an almost certain Bruin touchdown grab.

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