NOTEBOOK: Bowl hopes, Mattingly, 3-4 and more

ANDY MATTINGLY

WASHINGTON STATE MUST win their final three games if they are to have a shot at a bowl game this season. In a wide ranging press conference on Monday, Cougar head man Bill Doba talked Stanford, recruiting, Tavita Pritchard, Cal, the 3-4 defense, where Andy Mattingly might fit best down the road and much more.

Projecting out the rest of the season for the teams involved shows, on paper, the Cougs in an advantageous situation to go to a bowl at 6-6 -- provided Wazzu wins out.

Given some of the upsets this year and that Stanford, the Cougs' opponent this week, has arguably the biggest upset in college football this year over USC, trying to handicap the future games may be an exercise in futility. But it's all moot if the Cougs don't take care of business Saturday against the Cardinal.

"I think it's possible but we still have to play the games. And the thing you can't overlook that I think is still a darned good team is Oregon State...but as I told our kids, in order to beat the next three you've got to beat Stanford. That's the only thing we have to worry about right now," said Doba.

The Cougs have played their best football at home this year, and Doba said the Cougs are looking forward to playing the next two games at home and feeding off the crowd.

"But I can't complain about their effort last Saturday away from home, they really battled hard," said Doba. "Cal has got great speed. There were a few mistakes we made but they're starting to pick up the 3-4, the blitz package, the pressure, the zone pressure, the "zone dog" is the term I think they call it. But they really played hard."

DOBA SAID THE move to the 3-4 defense this season was mostly to be able get the best players on the field.

"Getting Andy Mattingly on the field, as much as anything. He's playing better than some of our defensive ends and tackles," said Doba.

Another benefit, said Doba, is that no one else runs the same defense the Cougs do -- teams have to prepare especially for Washington State and are unfamiliar with it's intricacies. Doba also noted that at 6-4, Mattingly has the size to move up a few yards and put his hand down at some point.

"He's just a playmaker. He's not especially fast, but he's fast enough obviously. He's got good size. He'll make a mistake or two, but he reminds me a little bit of Steve Gleason -- he enjoys practice and he's running around having fun on the practice field and has a smile on his face. And he just makes plays.

"He's still young. He might be an all-Pac-10 defensive end before he's out of here, or he might still stay at linebacker...It just depends on where his body takes him. Like I tell our kids, I don't want you to diet to try and stay at linebacker. If the weight comes on naturally and he gets stronger..."

DEFENSIVELY, DOBA SAID the combination of getting more comfortable in the scheme and confidence have the Cougs playing their best D of the season the last two weeks.

"From where we were after the Oregon game, defensively, to where we are now, I think our kids have made huge strides."

The play of Husain Abdullah has played a part, as has that of linebackers Kendrick Dunn and Mattingly. Abdullah is second on the team in tackles with 67 behind Greg Trent (69) and leads the Cougs in interceptions with three. Dun had 10 tackles against Cal and Mattingly had 11 -- and his seven solo stops were tied for the top slot with Abdullah (14 total).

ON OFFENSE, Doba said missed opportunities by Alex Brink and others contributed to Washington State being unable to find the end zone until the last seconds of the fourth quarter. Some of that, said Doba, was also in the timing lost during the practice week when players care nursing injuries and are sitting out Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

"In this last ballgame there were four or five opportunities that we just missed. A couple of those were Alex's fault. And two or three of them were just drops," said Doba. "Part of that too is that these guys were nicked up and don't practice." AFTER TAVITA PRITCHARD engineered Stanford's monumental upset against USC, talk amongst the Cougar Nation surfaced on why Pritchard, whose father David played at WSU and whose uncle is Jack Thompson, didn't go crimson. The answer, said Doba, was an early commitment in May from highly regarded quarterback Arkelon Hall, who since rendered himself academically ineligible.

"It was one of those deal where we made an early offer, the kid committed early, and so we were full at quarterbacks. Way before we should have been -- that's why, one of the reasons, I'm dead set against those early offers...until you get a chance to get in the home and know what the heck's going on," said Doba. "But he's (Tavita) a good player and I sure wish we had him. I think he's doing a nice job for them."

INJURY-WISE, DOBA DID not have anything new to report from the Cal game. He said Chris Ivory may be back this week although Doba noted Ivory has been out several weeks and with a concussion, the injured player does not lift weights, run or anything else until he's cleared. His conditioning, coming back, is therefore almost always a factor. Doba said how much Ivory might play would be determined by how he and Kevin McCall, who gained 57 yards on 16 carries at Cal, practice during the week.

The availability of Michael Graise (high ankle sprain), Kevin Kooyman (high ankle sprain) and Alfonso Jackson (concussion) will not be known until late in the week, said Doba.

NOTABLE NOTES:
Doba said he had no regrets choosing to kick the field goal with the Cougs trailing 13-6 with 5:58 remaining facing a fourth-and-7. "If there had been 2-3 minutes to go in the game, obviously we would have gone for it. If it had been fourth-and-two or three, I think again we would have gone for it."

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