Seen & Heard 10/14
Post-game notes, short-yardage worries and more
By RYAN METCALFE
CF.C Palouse Bureau Chief Emeritus
PALO ALTO -- It wasn't too long ago when critics were wondering when Mike Price was going to start recruiting more offensive lineman. It appears the worry beads were for naught, because Saturday's Cougar win over Stanford proved that depth in the trenches probably doesn't need to be a concern on the Palouse for another year or two.
Injuries to Sam Lightbody, Calvin Armstrong and, before them, Josh Parrish and Phil Locker, forced Price to start redshirt freshman Riley Fitt-Chappell and true freshman Nick Mihlhauser against the Card.
Fitt-Chappell was charged with protecting Jason Gesser's blind side and Mihlhauser, still a good 30 pounds shy of where he'll weight in down the road, did a yeoman's job as he split time with Locker. In fact, he was voted WSU's co-lineman of the game along with senior Derrick Roche.
Price and Gesser were gushing about the results Saturday evening.
"To have two freshman start on the line and beat a quality Pac-10 opponent on the road I think is really saying something about us," said Price, noting that the Cougars should really be ready to roar because they have a week off to get people healthy before hitting the road to Arizona.
"I think our offensive line is playing great right now," said Gesser. "Theyve really stepped up to the challenge. Coach challenged them after I got injured in the Montana State game to protect me and they've really done that."
ONE AREA OF CONCERN
The Cougars' ability to convert inside the opponent's ten --- a malady first detected last year against UCLA, driven home with an exclamation in the Apple Cup and then again versus USC a week ago --- is really starting to become nettlesome and looks to send Cougar coaches to the chalk board this week.
Twice against Stanford, the Cougars settled for field goals after driving inside the ten. By the count of the Seattle Times' Craig Smith, the Cougars' two-back/two-tight end package in short-yardage situations produced an average of about 18 inches on six carries inside the Stanford ten.
"Obviously, that's not our strength. You may not see the old standard look from the Cougars any more," Price told Smith, noting that the Cougar back most suited to short-yardage situations, Allen Thompson, but he was is out for the season.
One area the Cougars are looking oh-so-sweet these days is cornerback. Marcus Trufant, after shtting down one of the Pac-10's best --- and tallest receivers ---- in Teyo Johnson on Saturday, appears destined to be a first-round NFL draft pick come April. "I think he's going to be our next millionaire," Price proudly told Cougfan.com the other day. And fellow corner Jason David, after snaring two interceptions against Stanford, is now tied for the third in the nation in the air theft department with five picks (all, by the way, coming in the last four games).
David's two INTs at Stanford were strangely similar to one another -- streaking down the sideline both times after stepping in front of Chad Lewis passes as if he knew exactly where they were going to be thrown and when.
Alas, he did know in advance, David confessed at game's end.
"I can't stress film enough," said David, who studied the Cardinal O all week looking for tendencies. "You see the tendencies and you kind of know what they are going to do and I just read the play." He also praised the Cougar defensive line for putting pressure on Lewis.
"I think Jason David might have stole the show," Price said.
A TIME TO HEAL
Price is looking forward to this week's bye and is giving his players three days off to rest and heal. They won't return to the field until Thursday, and then things will be focused more on fundamentals than action drills.
In all, 17 Cougars ailing right now. Among the more notables, Price expects LB Will Derting, and OLs Parrish, Armstrong and Lightbody to be ready to go Oct. 26 at Arizona in two weeks. Same for receiver Devard Darling, who tweaked a shoulder against Stanford. LB Al Genatone's status us less certain; he suffered a high ankle sprain at Stanford.
The Cougars, now 6-1 on the season, are ranked No. 10 by the Associated Press and No. 11 in the coaches poll.
Receiver Mike Bush, double covered much of the time against Stanford, kept his 19-game reception streak alive but it wasnt easy. Bush caught just one pass midway into the fourth quarter when Gesser had already left the game and Matt Kegel was in his second stint of tune-up duty. Kegel, by the way, continues to look solid if not spectacular in his reserve duty. He went 7-for-11 for a modest 38 yards. One of his drives ended in a field goal and the other was stopped on a fumble down field. Price said he did a nice job in quality time.
Gesser is ranked No. 8 in the nation in both quarterback efficiency (155.8) and passing yards (1,894).
Several Cougar assistant coaches hit the road to Northern California early last week so they could tend to recruiting chores. Many of them are back at it this week with the team's three days off. Price told Cougfan.com last week that his is shaping up to be one of the oddest recruiting seasons in his Pullman tenure because so many grayshirts (Wes Rainwater, Carl Bonnell, Aaron Ware, Matt Mullennix) and previously committed JC transfers are in the pipeline. That leaves about 10 spots for incoming prepsters and other JC transfers