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New Faces, Similar Results Surprising Washington State

Washington State coach Bill Doba really couldn't blame the
writers who cover the Pac-10 for picking his team to finish
seventh in the conference. He knew the prognosticators were
focusing on whom the Cougars had lost from last year's 10-3 team,
which went to the Rose Bowl: coach Mike Price, who left for
Alabama; quarterback Jason Gesser, their alltime leading passer;
and cornerback Marcus Trufant, a first-round draft pick of the
Seattle Seahawks.

But Doba was focused more on what Washington State had, which is
why he had a feeling his team would be better than almost anyone
outside Pullman expected. It's becoming clear that he was right.
After nearly knocking off Notre Dame on Aug. 30, the Cougars
routed Colorado 47-26 in Boulder last Saturday. "I felt we had
some big-play people on offense, and I thought we would be able
to get after the quarterback pretty well," Doba says.

Senior quarterback Matt Kegel, who threw for 310 yards against
the Buffaloes, is proving to be a capable replacement for Gesser,
and receiver Sammy Moore is one of Washington State's big-play
makers. The Cougars don't have as many individual stars on
defense, but coordinator Robb Akey has the team blitzing more.

Washington State put a scare into Notre Dame, but the Cougars
squandered a 19-0 lead and lost 29-26 in overtime. With that
defeat in mind, Doba kept his halftime message simple on
Saturday. "We just talked about how we needed to finish," says
Doba. "I really don't know how good Notre Dame is or how good we
are yet, but I think we might be pretty good." --Phil Taylor

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER (KEGEL) Kegel, who passed for 310 yards on Saturday, has been an ablesuccessor to Gesser.