2007 Washington State Preview

Posted Jun 13, 2007

Washington State has just missed out on going bowling over the last few years, and now it might be a bit of a rebuilding season if underappreciated QB Alex Brink doesn't lead the offense to a hot start.

Washington State Cougars

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 WSU Offense Preview | 2007 WSU Defense Preview
2007 WSU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Washington State Preview 

Do the powers that be still have Mike Price’s phone number?  Not since he was on the Palouse has Washington State been much of a threat to crack the upper echelon of the Pac-10.  Yeah, the 2003 edition won an unexpected ten games in Bill Doba’s debut, but since then, the program has gone just 8-17 in league games with no bowl appearances while squandering all of the equity Price had accumulated.

Head coach: Bill Doba
5th year: 25-22
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 28, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Cougar Players
1. QB Alex Brink, Sr.
2. OG Bobby Byrd, Sr.
3. WR Brandon Gibson, Jr.
4. WR Michael Bumpus, Sr.
5. DT Ropati Pitoitua, Sr.
6. DE Lance Broadus, Sr.
7. C Kenny Alfred, Soph.
8. LB Greg Trent, Jr.
9. S Husain Abdullah, Sr.
10. RB Dwight Tardy, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6

Sept. 1

at Wisconsin

Sept. 8

San Diego State

Sept. 15


Sept. 22

at USC

Sept. 29

at Arizona

Oct. 6

Arizona State

Oct. 13

at Oregon

Oct. 27


Nov. 3

at California

Nov. 10


Nov. 17

Oregon State

Nov. 24

at Washington

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 at Auburn L 40-14
9/9 Idaho W 56-10
9/16 Baylor W 17-15
9/23 at Stanford W 36-10
9/30 USC L 28-22
10/7 at Oregon State W 13-6
10/14 California L 21-3
10/21 Oregon W 34-23
10/28 at UCLA W 37-15
11/4 Arizona L 27-17
11/11 at Arizona State L 47-14
11/18 Washington L 35-32

The theme under Doba has become a familiar and frustrating one, starting fast before stumbling to the finish line.  Last year’s Cougars opened 6-3, but closed with three losses, capped by an embarrassing home defeat to Washington, which kept them out of the postseason and ended the Huskies’ six-game losing streak.  Doba bleeds crimson and gray and is very well liked by the university, however, he’s firmly on the hot seat, entering 2007 with a team that has way too many holes to feel good about a winning season.

If this year is going to be anything more than a rebuilding season in Pullman, the Cougars will have to get contributions from unlikely sources, such as redshirt and true freshmen.  In particular, the offensive line needs an infusion of talent and the back seven on defense will be looking to replace five starters.  At least Wazzu knows it’ll go to battle with quarterback Alex Brink, a solid fourth-year starter, who’s accounted for 55 touchdowns throughout his career.    

Because of its unique location, Washington State never attracts the West Coast’s best and brightest, but had the knack in the past of locating the right kids for its system, coaching them up and shocking the Pac-10 once every few seasons.  Now more than ever, the Cougars need one of those years to improve Doba’s job security and recapture a hint of the magic from the old days.  This is the team that can do it.

What to watch for on offense: Brink is a nice quarterback who throws a soft deep ball and moves well outside the pocket, but he’d be far better with a little pass protection and some support from the running game.  An ineffective Cougar line could struggle again now that its best blocker, tackle Charles Harris, has graduated.  When Brink does have time, he’ll be looking for flanker Brandon Gibson and tight end Jed Collins, a couple of receivers that showed flashes of all-league potential in 2006.    

What to watch for on defense: Since the end of last season, the Cougars have endured a number of key losses headlined by the departure of coordinator Robb Akey to Idaho.  Doba will assume the job he held for nine years, but Akey had a special ability to energize the troops.  If Doba doesn’t survive, don’t be surprised if Akey gets lured back across the border, making him the third Vandal coach in three years to bolt Moscow for a Pac-10 gig.  Figure Wazzu to once again be nasty against the run and vulnerable to the pass after losing three starters from the secondary.  It loaded up on defensive backs in February, but none bigger than Terry Mixon, a junior college safety, who’ll play immediately.     

The team will be far better if … the entire special teams unit does an about-face from last year.  From field goal accuracy to punt and kickoff coverage, Washington State was horrid, putting the special teams coach under the microscope with Doba.  If the Cougars are going to overachieve this year, they’ve got to be solid at the little things, beginning with special teams.   

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule starts off with a bang going to Wisconsin for the season opener, but then things ease up immeasurably with home dates with San Diego State and Idaho. The Cougars get five Pac 10 road games including trips to USC, Oregon and Cal to squash any dreams of going to the Rose Bowl. Even so, there’s a nice mid-season stretch of four home dates in six games including battles with UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State which will go a long way to determining the bowl pecking order.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Alex Brink.  Now entering his fourth season as the starter, Brink is the undisputed leader of the Cougar offense and one of the school’s most prolific passers.  While not off the charts in any one particular area, he does throw soft, catchable passes and has a knack for making something out of nothing when he’s flushed from the pocket.     

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Ropati Pitoitua.  If only Pitoitua can remain healthy for an entire season, he just might realize the enormous potential that matches his hulking physique.  When the 6-8, 290-pound monster on the Cougar interior isn’t nursing an injury, he’s swallowing up overmatched ball carriers and obstructing the sight lanes of opposing quarterbacks.    

Key player to a successful season: Someone, anyone at left tackle. The Cougar offensive line was mediocre at best in pass protection last season, and now it welcomes back four starter-caliber players who should form a better wall. Basically, the Cougars have plenty of guards and no real tackle, and they certainly don’t have one worthy of protecting Blink’s blind side. At least not yet.
Bobby Byrd, last season’s left tackle, was a bit out of position and will be tried out at guard.

The season will be a success if ... the Cougars go to a bowl. While it’s only been three years since Wazzu stunned Texas in the Holiday Bowl, it seems like decades ago. There’s enough offensive firepower to beat some of the better Pac 10 teams, while the schedule has just enough softies to bank on a nice base of three wins (Idaho, San Diego State and Stanford). Anything less than a 13th game and a winning season might mean a new era in Cougar football next season.

Key game: Sept. 29 at Arizona. Wazzu was 6-3 needing one more win to get to a bowl, but a 27-17 home gaffe started a three-game losing streak and no post-season. This year, the Cougars will be coming off a likely loss at USC and with a rough four-game stretch playing Arizona State, at Oregon, UCLA and at Cal after dealing with the Wildcats.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Washington State 1st quarter scoring: 46 – Washington State 2nd quarter scoring: 104
- Sacks: Washington State 36 for 211 yards – Opponents 29 for 181 yards
- Kickoff return average Opponents 23.6 yards – Washington State 17.5 yards


Related Stories
2007 Washington State Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 13, 2007
2007 Washington State Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 13, 2007
2007 Washington State Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 13, 2007

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