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Tigers too much to chew?

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Tigers too much to chew?

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Times Sports Staff pmarsh9485@msn.com

Washington State's Doba knows the challenge at AU

AUBURN - Washington State coach Bill Doba says he knew he was taking on a challenge when he agreed to open the season against Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He just didn't know how big.

"It was a chance to open with a very, very good opponent," Doba said. "I didn't know they were going to be this good."

The Cougars play No. 4 Auburn on Saturday night at 6:45. The game will be televised by ESPN2.

Doba was criticized last season for scheduling games against Grambling State, Nevada and Idaho. When the possibility of playing Auburn surfaced, Doba was immediately interested. Washington State president V. Lane Rawlins, once vice chancellor of the University of Alabama System, wasn't sure it was such a good idea.

"Do you know what you are getting into?" Rawlins asked Doba.

Doba told him he believed this season's Cougars would be ready to play such an opponent, especially in the season opener.

"If you're going to play someone that good, it's best to play them in the first game," Doba said.

The Cougars will be greeted by an expected crowd of more than 87,000, but Doba says his team won't be afraid of the noise or the hostility.

"I think it's neat," Doba said. "I like places where there are a bunch of people yelling against you. I think it helps to pump the adrenaline. It helps to get you going.

"Once you get hit in the mouth, you forget about all that stuff. It's self-preservation after that."

There were also financial reasons for playing the game. Auburn will pay Washington State some $850,000 for making the trip. No return trip by Auburn to Washington State is scheduled.

When Mike Price left after the 2002 for his short, ill-fated stay at Alabama, Doba, his long-time defensive coordinator, was named head coach. Doba promptly took his first Washington State team to a 10-3 season, its third straight with 10 wins, and a 28-20 victory over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

Facing adversity

As his wife struggled with ovarian cancer, a battle she lost in April, Doba followed that season with records of 5-6 and 4-7. In the last 11 seasons, the Cougars have had losing records seven times. But they won 10 games in each of the other four seasons. :blink:

After losing five games by four points or fewer last season, there is optimism in Pullman that this could be another big year. The Cougars return one of the nation's top receivers in senior Jason Hill, who caught 62 passes for 1,097 yards and a school-record 13 touchdowns last season.

Quarterback Alex Brink passed for 2,891 yards with 24 touchdowns. They must find a replacement for running back Jerome Harrison, who rushed for 1,900 yards last season.

The big question marks are on a defense that was among the worst in Division I-A last season, surrendering 442.5 yards per game.

Auburn's offense has a familiar look to Doba. Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges spent seven seasons in the Pac-10 at Oregon, UCLA and California.

"For every running play, there was a reverse off that run, a play-action pass of that run, a screen off that run," Doba said. "Your defense had to slow down.

"He has a very good offensive mind, obviously."

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