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Aloha To Cougar Football Fans
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Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 11/22/1999
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Follow the Cougars' Hawai'i trip through the camera of WSU Sports Information Director Rod Commons. Visit the Aloha From Hawai`i Photo Gallery.

SATURDAY, NOV. 27

TRAVEL DELAYS: The Cougars took a leisurely bus ride to the game, Hawaiian style...leaving the hotel at 3:30 p.m. (on time), the team arrived at Aloha Stadium in about 35 minutes, but it took another 20 minutes to get through the jammed parking lot...the team finally got into their lockerroom at about 4:25 p.m., 10 minutes later than expected...and that was with a two-car police escort...the only trouble was figuring if the escort, with flashing blue lights, slowed traffic...certainly no one got out of the way as the three Cougar busses worked their way through traffic.

MIKE PRICE'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:

"The defense was marvelous. The future looks bright for guys like Trufant, Gesser and Hawkins. The Cougar fans were great. I think Cougar fans like it here because they sell beer. Absolutely not (expect to hold them to one offensive TD). I was shocked. Bill Doba had a great defensive scheme. That was the key. We twisted with our takles and blitzed a little. We sent our outside linebackers some times, but they usually were defensive backs because we played with the nickel package so much. I think our defensive speed was something they were not used to seeing. Adam Hawkins just ran with so much determination. We needed to run the ball and he did it. There was no panic when we were behind. Hawkins was the hot one, he was running with authority.

JASON GESSER: "In the off season I am just going to try and get all the guys together and get ready for next year. Even though I am on another team (WSU), they (local Gesser fans) give me support here. Hawkins, he's the MVP. Hawkins and Lindell. (on knee strain) I'll play any time anywhere. To be able to run the ball (second half) set up all the passing schemes. There is pressure at this position every which way. If you play this position you have to deal with it.

ADAM HAWKINS: "I took it on my shoulders not to let us down. Every time we ran a play I gained more confidence and was able to make the reads quicker. This is a huge win, especially for the seniors. They are our brothers."

RIAN LINDELL: "I just thought about it (go-ahead kick) as a PAT. I told myself this is the same thing I have been doing for five years. I felt good about it (when he kicked the ball)."

COUGAR NOTES: Junior Lamont Thompson picked off the 14th interception of his career in the first half, giving him a share of the school career record with Richard Reed, who picked 14 passes during his career, 1966-68...Adam Hawkins had his finest game as a Cougar with a career high 103 rushing yards and two second half scores...Deon Burnett, who had 65 yards rushing at halftime, finished with 97 yards...Nian Taylor pushed his streak to 23 straight games with at least one reception and finished his career with at least one catch in 43 of 45 games...he came up five yards short of Hugh Campbell's career yardage record...Rian Lindell went over the 200 point scoring mark with his field goal in the first half and then two second-half field goals and an extra point...he finished his career with 206 points.

FRIDAY, NOV. 26

ALOHA STADIUM: The Cougar players and coaches got their first glimpse of Aloha Stadium during a 10:00 a.m. workout...the spongy feel of the artificial Astroturf, and the abrasive surface drew lots of comments from the players...the Cougars went through their regular Friday practice routine, then spent another 30 minutes as players ran and threw to one another while adjusting to the turf.

PRICE IN DEMAND: Once the team arrived back at the team hotel FOX Sports Northwest recorded an interview with Mike Price for replay next week...freshmen Deon Burnett and Collin Henderson were also interviewed by FOX for their look at next year's Cougar team.

EVENING MEETINGS: For the first time this week, Cougar players did not have free time in the evening...their evening schedule included dinner, team meetings and an early bed check, the same schedule they follow on all road games.

MIKE PRICE TELECONFERENCE QUOTES: From the team hotel Mike Price conducted his final phone conference with mainland media...his comments included:

"Going to the stadium today was good because it got us focused on what we are here for. It is a very impressive stadium, a big league ball park. They are remembering why they are here. The stadium will be packed, it is senior night for Hawaii, so it will be an exciting time."

"I don't think Steve Gleason is going to start. And Steve Birnbaum pulled a neck muscle Wednesday so I don't know if he is going to play. It looks like Gesser will get the start. I am not going to announce it, we'll just show it when he runs on the field. Steve just threw a pass and twisted his neck wrong. He may not even suit up. Talk about a hard luck guy."

Torry Hollimon and Earl Riley will play and Leaford Hackett was running around okay today. He may not start, but he can play. Lamont Thompson looked good. Collin Henderson practiced today, but his toe is still sore. We'll have to see how he is feeling."

"I feel comfortable with what they are doing. I think the kids are focusing in now. They have prepared well and we have had no problems, no trouble. They have been just perfect."

"If I had it to do again, I would do anything not to practice at the University of Hawaii. The practice field is overlooked by their coaching offices. It was hard to put in anything new."

"Paul Mencke has been playing so well at wide receiver we are going to go ahead and play him there. If he needs to play quarterback, we'll just move him there."

"Hawaii runs a lot of shotgun and they hardly run at all. They do a nice job of picking up blitzes. We have to pressure him (QB Robinson). He is not a scrambler. He has good anticipation. He throws the ball well and they are catching the ball well. Their five offensive linemen have started every game this year. They seem to know what they are doing.

"We don't have that many defensive backs, so we'll play a lot of nickel, but not a lot of dime defense. I think we are going to start Billy Newman and Early Riley at safeties. Gibbons and Trufant will be the corners."

"Kareem Anderson is going to the Hula Bowl and Rob Meier has been picked to play in the Blue-Gray game."

"The players will have the same routine Saturday as with any other night game. They will sleep in and have a brunch, then a special teams meeting. They will lounge around, watch television and then go into our four hour routine before the game. Tonight we'll have our regular meetings with the seniors speaking to the team. Tomorrow they won't be out in the sun and they already have backed off using the hot tubs and that kind of stuff.

THURSDAY, NOV. 25

Morning Workout: The Cougar players had a little more time before departing for practice, leaving at 9:45 a.m...they went directly to the grass practice field near their regular practice field and drilled for just over an hour in shorts, but no pads...WSU's injury list certainly hasn't gotten any smaller, with Leaford Hackett, Brad Philley and Torry Hollimon walking the sidelines...Earl Riley, however, practiced for the third straight day and appears to be ready for duty Saturday...quarterback Steve Birnbaum was hampered by a sore back but should be ready to play against Hawaii...receiver Collin Henderson also was limping because of a sore toe, but he assured everyone he will be on the field at kickoff time (6:00 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time) Saturday evening at Aloha Stadium.

Special Dinner: After free time during the afternoon, the Cougar team, coaches and support personnel gathered at a local Sheraton hotel for Thanksgiving dinner at 6:30 p.m. The buffet dinner included plenty of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, ham, salads, prime rib and deserts.

During the day several Cougar players and coaches took time to offer their Thanksgivings:

Farwan Zubedi: "I am thankful for the opportunity to come out here and play for Washington State. I am also thankful for being healthy, for school, and for the ability to pursue my goals."

Bill Doba: "When you get to my age you are just thankful when your eyes open in the morning."

Joey Hollenbeck: "I am thankful to play on a team with so much brotherhood and so close that I could talk to anyone on this team about anything. I am here with 62 of my brothers."

Rob Meier: "I am thankful for such good teammates and friends."

Mike Price: "I have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful we have one more game in which to prove we are a better team than our record indicates."

Paul Mencke: "I am thankful for my family. I have all my loved ones here and it is neat to spend time with them."

Brad Philley: "I am thankful for my family. My family has a tradition of watching the Dallas Cowboy game on Thanksgiving Day. My mom always arranges to have lunch right at halftime, so I will be thinking about them at halftime and they will be thinking about me."

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 24

Travel Guides: The Cougars' four players from Hawaii are much in demand as travel guides for their teammates...Sean DeCambra took several players to the North side of the island after practice and the other three local players, Gerry Cook, Ing Aleaga and Jason Gesser have had to answer a thousand questions about what to do and where to go during the first three days of WSU's stay.

Practice Notes: Senior safety Earl Riley practiced for the second straight day, although he did wear a "hands-off" gold jersey...joining already injured players Torry Hollimon, Steve Gleason and Brad Philley on the sidelines was freshman running back Deon Burnett, who suffered a mild ankle sprain Tuesday...Burnett, however, is expected to start against Hawaii and should be back on the field Thursday...players seemed to have put the local distractions aside for Wednesday's practice...execution was much better than in Tuesday's workout.

Mike Price Teleconference Quotes: While no local media attended Wednesday's practice, head coach Mike Price spent about 15 minutes talking with mainland media following lunch on his daily conference call. The following are some of Price's comments during the phone call:

"We have had two real physical practices since we have been here. Not having a scout team here means we have been going ones versus ones and they have been getting after it pretty good. We have probably practiced harder than I anticipated and it has been a good teaching situation."

"Hawaii is such a passing team. They don't have much of a running game at all. If you don't put any kind of rush on them their quarterback will pick you apart. He obviously did that against Navy for over 500 yards. Hawaii has two NFL offensive tackle prospects, so they are loaded up on the offensive line. They do a nice job of protection. They have had the same starting offensive line for every game this year. They have stayed healthy and won close games. Their receivers catch the ball real well. On defense they scramble around well and hang in there."

"We don't have a lot of bodies in the secondary, but Earl Riley has practiced in both practices the best he's worked in quite a while, so that is encouraging."

"Greg McMackin (Hawaii defensive coordinator) is a quality coach. They run a lot of zone blitz packages. It isn't anything revolutionary, but something we have to be concerned with. So far we have done well in practice. He has them playing real well. They play with enthusiasm."

"Hawaii doesn't play with a tight end, so the two formations we use where we have four receives in the game is their basic two formations formation. They don't run any two tight end offense at all or one tight end. They throw more than we do and run less. They try to throw the ball down the field a little more than we do, with fewer screens."

"Jason Gesser has looked okay, but not great. He is still rusty. His grip on the ball concerns him a little. He has gotten lots of work. Today Steve Birnbaum kind of got a stiff neck and didn't take many snaps during the second half of practice, so Jason got a lot of reps. I just hope we haven't worn him out this week."

"I said we were going to play a lot of our younger players, but we are playing a lot of them, so there aren't a lot of young players who haven't been playing. Someone like Tyler Hunt might play a little more, Melvin Simmons, but I guess we really are playing a lot of younger players."

"I was concerned about Jason handling the pressure earlier in the year, like against Utah when he competed against an old teammate (QB). But the time is now. He probably is putting a little too much pressure on himself and it is a concern, but I guess it is time. He wants to come back here with a smile on his face every time he visits."

"We kind of have a little battle cry for the Pac-10. The Pac-10 Conference has taken its hits and we have an opportunity for the Pac-10's last place school to knock off a first place Western Athletic Conference school."

"I don't know how much Steve Gleason will play. He was out there in shorts today. I think Torry Hollimon might play a little more than Gleason. Nian Taylor pulled up with a little groin pull but I think he is going to be okay. Deon Burnett sprained an ankle and missed his first practice of the year, but I think he will be okay. Leaford Hackett also hasn't practiced. I hate to see these guys finish their career like this. They have been such warriors."

"I don't think we will have any lineup changes. Raonall Smith will start for Steve Gleason, but I think it will be the same as against Washington. We will use a lot of nickel defenses, but not a lot of dime packages because we don't have a lot of bodies."

TUESDAY, NOV. 23

Practice: Cougar football coaches were up early in their quest to visit 25-30 local high schools. Players meanwhile hit the local McDonalds and other restaurants for a quick breakfast before boarding busses for practice at 9:15 a.m. After a quick stop at the YMCA to change into practice gear, they headed for Hawaii's practice field, an artificial turf field adjacent to the Rainbow baseball stadium and in view of the Hawaii football coaching offices.

Free Time: Local Cougars Jason Gesser and Ing Aleaga were in demand by local media after the two-hour workout. Following practice, the players headed back to the YMCA for a shower, then to lunch, a buffet meal at a Sheraton hotel near the beach. By 1:30, most of the players had taken off to rest or walk the beach area. Other than some video watching, the players will be on their own for the rest of the day.

Recruiting: Meanwhile, the Cougar coaches who were out recruiting early in the morning, hit the recruiting trail again after practice. Head coach Mike Price, who was scheduled for a couple of high school visits, taped his daily media interview so he could make his high school visits.

Price offered the following during his taped interview:

"I think it is real obvious if we had one day to prepare for Hawaii it might be difficult to play very good, because we were not focused in practice and we did not have as good a practice as we are capable of having. But it is not Saturday yet, so I am not worried. I talked to the team about it after practice. It shows how important the right mental attitude is. We haven't got the right mental attitude right now. It was hot and there are a lot of distractions. It is a distraction, a focus breaker when you first get here. I am glad we have the whole week to get ready. This team has good character and they are not messing around. They are just being normal people. That's why people come here, for a vacation, not to play football games. That's why it is hard for a team to play a football game if they are only here for a day. We will be ready to go by Saturday."

"There are not a lot of organized functions for the team, other than Thanksgiving Day. We are doing all the normal things we would be doing back in Pullman. They have lifted weights and watched video, but we are going by the 20 hour rule, so they have some free time."

"Today we didn't have chalk talks before practice because most of our coaches are out recruiting. We will visit between 25 and 30 high schools today"

"We had a good 15 minutes of fundamentals today at practice and the rest was team work. We are getting scouted by their coaches, which makes it a little difficult. We were playing with 12 guys on offense and 12 guys on defense to disguise our formations this morning. I don't know if they need to see any more because they have every game of us, but they certainly are able to peak in and see what we are doing. There won't be many trick plays they haven't seen."

MONDAY, NOV. 22

Cougar players left at 9:15 a.m. for practice at the University of Hawaii. Practice included stretching and running sessions, plus weight lifting.

YMCA: WSU is using the local YMCA lockerroom and weight room facilities. The team will leave the hotel each morning, change into practice gear at the YMCA, then bus to practice at the UH Rainbow facilities. Practices will be 10:00-Noon Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Practices Thursday and Friday will be shorter than those of the first three days.

BAYWATCH: Several members of the Cougar team took in filming of Baywatch and had photos taken with members of the cast. One young Cougar defensive specialist was a little more than disappointed that his digital camera ran out of memory too early. He reportedly did have some nice video shots of the cast, however.

PRICE ON CONFERENCE CALL: Cougar Head coach Mike Price met with mainland media via a conference phone call in the morning. He also will hold conference calls Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 1:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time. The following are some of Price's comments Monday:

"It has been a little difficult (preparing for the next game). We did have a two-hour layover in San Francisco and we had televisions ready to go so we could break down video on Hawaii. We also had a little recorder on the plane so we looked at our game withWashington. That also is what we have been doing all morning (Monday)."

"Hawaii had a quarterback throw for over 500 yards (Dan Robinson, 530 yards). They run a lot of trips (three receivers) and a lot of stuff we are doing. They throw out of the shotgun a ton. On defense they do a lot of zone blitzing, like the Seattle Seahawks did with Greg McMackin, who is Hawaii's defensive coordinator now. They are playing real well, with great intensity and a good attitude. They are the WAC champions, they will play Oregon State here in a bowl, they just have everything going for them right now."

"I think Jason (Gesser) is pretty excited. The whole (Hawaiian) press corps was there at the airport when we flew in last night. He is like a legend here. He is going to have to handle that and not let it be a distraction. Jason will play quite a bit."

"I don't think you can keep the team ready to play for an entire week. What I have to do is make sure they are ready to play Saturday. Right now they probably need to get a little of that Hawaiian flavor out of their system, get on the beach and get some sun, but don't get sun burned. We understand why we are here. It is not a bowl game. When you first get here you are looking every which way. You become distracted. I think after two or three days they will get that out of their system and we can get down to football."

(Hawaii head coach June Jones, who was with the San Diego Chargers when they drafted WSU's Ryan Leaf in 1998): "I known him pretty well, not real well. We did get a little closer with Ryan Leaf being down there (Chargers). He has done a great job, just a great job."

(Injuries): Steve Gleason and Leaford Hackett didn't hurt themselves by not playing last weekend (Gleason came in for two plays only and Hackett did not play against Washington). I think Earl Riley and those two guys will be healthier than they were for the Apple Cup. Lamont Thompson twisted an ankle and he is limping. Gosh, we don't have very many DBs. We will know more about those players Tuesday."

"Our practices will be very similar to what we have in Pullman. They may be a little longer because we don't have scout team players here. We only brought the travel squad (62 active players). We practice every day 10:00 until noon, except Friday, when we work out at the stadium at 10:00 a.m. (normal Friday walkthru)."

"Tuesday will be a big recruiting day for us. We will probably hit about 25 high schools."

SUNDAY, NOV. 21

Travel - The Cougar football team departed from Seattle today in two waves. The first, including much of the support staff, few directly to Honolulu via Northwest Airlines. Originally scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m. from Sea-Tac, the group left about an hour late after the replacement of a hydraulic pump. By 1:30 p.m. the group was checking at the team hotel on Waikiki Beach.

The rest of the travel party, including the players and coaches, left Sea-Tac at 10:16 a.m. on a United flight to San Francisco. After a layover at SFO, the team flew to Hawaii, arriving at Honolulu shortly before 7:00 p.m. TV stations and newspaper reporters were on hand at the airport to check out the Cougars, especially those from Hawaii.

Four Cougar players hail from Hawaii - sophomore defensive tackle Ing Aleaga (Aiea High), freshman defensive end Gerry Cook II (Campbell High), senior wide receiver Sean DeCambra (Kailua High) and freshman quarterback Jason Gesser (St. Louis High).

By 7:30 p.m. the Cougars were checked into the Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel. After a team meeting, they hit the beach and streets, walking off the kinks of the long airline flight.

WSU's hotel is located on the Beach just off Lewers Street on Kalia Road and is surrounded by hundreds of shops, plus, of course, Hawaii's famous Waikiki Beach.

Washington State Cougars Football
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