October 8, 2007

The Big Cat Speaks - Defense O-ptional

It was a bittersweet game for Bill Doba against Arizona State last week. On the one hand, the defense of his Cougar football team turned in their best performance of the season, recording seven sacks, picking off two passes and generally keeping the nationally-ranked Sun Devils on their heels for much of the game while linebacker Andy Mattingly had a career game, getting four of those sacks. On the other hand, all the good things that happened on the field went for naught as WSU, in the end, was unable to come away with the victory. Arizona State hit the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter and a potential game-tying field goal attempt by Romeen Abdollmohammadi had the distance but lacked the accuracy as the Sun Devils held on for the 23-20 win in a rare Homecoming where the crowd stuck around for the entire game. Afterwards, despite the good overall and individual defensive efforts, Doba, normally a positive-mannered person, was not carrying his usual positive demeanor.

"I just felt bad for the kids, really," says Doba. "They battled and prepared and came up a little bit short."

Nobody battled and prepared more than linebacker Andy Mattingly, who only got the start after the anointed season starter, Kendrick Dunn had gone down the previous week with a complicated hamstring injury. That gave one week for Mattingly to prepare as the starter and the Spokane sophomore came firing out of the blocks on all cylinders - and if not for the Pac-10's tendency to not award player of the week honors to members of the losing team - would likely be named as the conference's defensive player of the week for his performance.

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