Aug. 28, 2006
The Washington State Cougars open the 2006 football season in less than friendly confines, taking on No. 4 Auburn in the Tigers' Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, where 87,451 football hungry fans are expected to watch the match-up between the Cougars from the Pacific-10 Conference and the Tigers out of the Southeastern Conference.
ESPN2 will telecast the intersectional match-up nationally, with live coverage beginning at 4:45 p.m. Pacific Time. Ron Franklin will call the action, with Dr. Jerry Punch and Ed Cunningham joining the telecast crew.
Washington State is coming off a disappointing 4-7 season that included five losses by three or four points, one an overtime setback. WSU led in five of their eight Pac-10 games last year. Auburn, meanwhile, was 9-3 last year, tied for first in the SEC West Division at 7-1, and ended the year losing to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.
The Cougars depart for the game early Friday morning and will return to Pullman immediately after the contest. The trip to Auburn will include a four and a half hour flight from Pullman to Montgomery, Ala., and a one-hour bus ride to Auburn.
WSU returns a good portion of last year's very productive offense that ranked eighth nationally, averaging 489 yards per game. Heading the list of returnees will be junior quarterback Alex Brink, who ranked 19th nationally last year in total offense, 272 yards per game, and 26th nationally in passing efficiency, 139.96.
The list of receivers includes four players who started five or more games...All-America candidate Jason Hill finished the season third nationally with 109.7 receiving yards per game and set a WSU record with 13 TD receptions. Michael Bumpus started seven contests in 2005, Chris Jordan six and Brandon Gibson five.
All-America candidate Mkristo Bruce heads the Cougar defense after ranking 12th nationally with 0.91 sacks per game last year. Also returning on the line will be starting tackles Aaron Johnson and A'i Ahmu. Linebackers Scott Davis and Steve Dildine and defensive backs Eric Frampton and Husain Abdullah were also starters last year.
BRUCE GAINING PRESEASON HONORS: Senior defensive end Mkristo Bruce has been pulling in the preseason honors...Bruce has been named to the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, Ted Hendricks Award, Lott Trophy and rotary Lombardi Award, along with being named to several preseason All-America teams, including Sporting News (2nd team), Street & Smith's (3rd team) and Phil Steele's (4th team).
NATION TAKING NOTICE OF HILL: Following back-to-back seasons where he set schools records for touchdown receptions, senior Jason Hill is finding himself on almost everyone's preseason All-America lists...Hill is a third-team selection by Street & Smith's, Athlon and Phil Steele...additionally, the Sporting News has him rated as the sixth-best receiver in the nation.
WSU'S FIRST FOUR GAMES IN DIFFERENT STADIUMS: When Washington State hosts the USC Trojans Sept. 30 in Pullman's Martin Stadium, the Cougars will have played four teams in four different stadiums. The Cougars begin play at Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium Sept. 2...WSU then hosts Idaho at Martin Stadium Sept. 9, followed by Baylor Sept. 16 in Seattle at Qwest Field (home of the Seattle Seahawks). The fourth game is Stanford Sept. 23 at Stanford Stadium.
2006 AUBURN CAPTAINS: Auburn selects game captains each night before a game.