We're swapping questions this week with Lew over at The WSU Cougar Blog. Here goes:
ATQ: We know Alex Brink from his high school days in Eugene. He seems to be much maligned in Pullman, even though his stats are pretty good. For those of us who don't see the Cougs much when they're not playing Oregon, what kind of quarterback is Alex Brink, and what can we expect out of him on Saturday?
Lew:If you ask a dozen Cougar fans about Alex Brink, it's likely you'll get a dozen different takes. Here's mine. Brink is a player. How many games has he missed because of injury since taking over for the highly touted and fan favorite, Josh Swogger (former high school Mr. Football in Ohio)? None. Playing against PAC-10 defensive lines, 'backers and blitz combinations, that's no small feat. What makes his durability astonishing is that Brink isn't afraid to run the ball when forced by coverage. When he runs, he's capable of making some big plays. Brink has done something that is rarely accomplished by any WSU quarterback, he won back-to-back Apple Cup games against the Huskies. Most importantly, Alex Brink is a class act and an outstanding representative of his family, friends and school.
Should the Cougs have trouble getting their running game in gear, as they have the past two weeks, Brink will look for three step quick hits. Some of that should be forced by the top two deep threats for the Cougs probably having to watch from the sidelines on Saturday. Brandon Gibson and Charles Dillon are both pretty well dinged up from the ASU game. However, and this is a pretty big however, the Cougs have a freshman who can fly with the best of 'em. Jeshua Anderson has been dazzling the coaches in practice and managed a couple of nice catches on game day. Last week he hauled in the rock for nearly 100 yards against a decent ASU defense. Chances are that Brink will have to sprint out to get time enough to look deep. But that's where he's at his best. He is accurate throwing on the run and has excellent field vision, matching his confidence in two receivers who will be running precise patterns. Those two are Michael Bumpus and Jed Collins.
Coug fans are hoping that Alex has a great homecoming Saturday!
ATQ:Wazzu's running game has been less than impressive this season. Considering that Brandon Gibson and Charles Dillon are both out, are Oregon run defense is, um, bad, will the Cougars try and run the ball more? Or are they deep enough to keep slingin' it?
Lew:Both the Arizona schools are stronger against the run than defending the pass. That effected Coach Levenseller's play calling. WSU ran than ball well in their first three games, one of which was against a tough Wisconsin team. Though the Cougs are deep at WR, they will try to attack only where they match up best. Dwight Tardy is a tough runner that might surprise Oregon fans. He's no Jonathan Stewart, but that applies to just about every running back in the conference, doesn't it? Chris Ivory broke a couple of long runs last season, but hasn't made a Sports Center highlight play this year. Given the high powered Duck offense, Coach Doba will try to maintain a balanced attack to keep Dixon and Co. on the sidelines.
ATQ: ASU aside, opponents have put up gaudy scoring numbers on the Cougs. How are they going to stop Oregon's offense?
Lew: Who's kidding who? The Cougs aren't going to stop the Duck offense. About the only way that would happen is if the offense misses the team bus for the game. WSU will work to simply slow the train down by throwing everything at Dennis Dixon on just about every play. Coach Doba blitzes over half the time. Last week against ASU, the Cougs finally started playing their positions on defense enhancing the effectiveness of almost endless blitzing. That made all the difference. If they can trust each other again this week, they might be able to disrupt a few drives.
ATQ: Bill Doba has been mentioned as on the hotseat. If Washington State doesn't make a bowl this season--and it doesn't look like they will--does Doba keep his job?
Lew:As much as I like Coach Doba, unless they run the table, his fate may already be sealed. WSU has plans for stadium expansion that depend upon successful fund raising. Winning is the name of the game for donors. It's been about 40 years since a Cougar football head coach was forced out, but that may change at the end of this season.
ATQ: I know it seems strange in Pullman, but how much are you looking forward to basketball season?
Lew: This Cougar has always looked forward to both football and basketball season. When we get to conference play, well, that's another story! This year will be quite unusual for us. About the last time we were justified in our enthusiasm about an upcoming basketball season, George Raveling was the head coach. That's a few seasons back. OK, decades. It's a stretch to think WSU will win 26 games again this coming season, but stranger things have happened. Heck, Stanford might beat USC in the Coliseum despite being a 40+ point dog.
Thanks to Lew for joining us, and be sure to check out his blog for you info on the Cougars this week. Here's to a good game on Saturday.