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PACIFIC 10 / ROBYN NORWOOD

Doba's Homecoming an Irish Affair

September 05, 2003|ROBYN NORWOOD

You can go home again. But you might not be able to win the game when you get there.

Washington State Coach Bill Doba was born in South Bend, Ind.

His second game as a head coach is Saturday at 19th-ranked Notre Dame.

He wonders if even his mother would be pulling for the Cougars if she were still alive.

"My mom used to get out the rosary beads about kickoff time and pray those beads till the game was over for the Fighting Irish," said Doba, who grew up on a street so thick with traffic on game days you couldn't walk across it until almost kickoff time.

As a local high school coach in the 1960s and '70s, Doba used to study the Irish.

"I can remember watching Ara Parseghian's practices, Dan Devine's practices, and Joe Theismann was quarterback back then," said Doba, 62.

He's not telling many of those tales to his players. He doesn't want them to be intimidated.

"As I told them, the Frank Leahys and Knute Rocknes and Leon Harts and all the Heisman Trophy winners were there probably before most of these kids were born."

Well, yes: Hart won the Heisman in 1949.

Doba's freshmen were born in 1985, making Tim Brown (1987) the only one of Notre Dame's seven Heisman winners to win during their lifetimes.

Theismann, second in the 1970 Heisman voting, could practically be a freshman's grandfather.

"Joe's an old man, isn't he?" Doba said with a laugh.

The Washington State team Doba will take to South Bend doesn't look much like former coach Mike Price's wide-open offensive teams, based on first appearances. Then again, Doba doesn't have Ryan Leaf or Jason Gesser at quarterback.

Last week against Idaho, Washington State scored only two touchdowns in a 25-0 victory, and new quarterback Matt Kegel passed for only 108 yards and didn't throw a touchdown pass while completing 12 of 21 passes with one interception.

"It was Matt Kegel's first game as a true starter, and we've got a couple of guys in [Jermaine] Green and [Jonathan] Smith and we found another kid, Chris Bruhn, that can run the ball pretty well, and we've got a good offensive line," said Doba, previously the defensive coordinator. "If we can run it and take some heat off Kegel and keep the defense on the sideline and keep them fresh.... We're going to take what they give us. We're still going to throw the football."

The Cougars' 339 yards rushing -- Smith ran for 160 yards and Bruhn for 118 -- were the most by a Washington State team since a 1993 game against Montana State.

"Against Idaho, we got ahead, and they're our neighbors, to be honest with you, and you don't want to embarrass your neighbors," Doba said. "In the second half when we had a 13-point or 16-point lead, we just kind of got cozy with the ball and ran that clock and got out of there injury-free."

Presumably that will be one of the goals Saturday, as well.

Doba jokes that there are a lot of places he'd rather go, but he is looking forward to the visit with friends.

"I hope they're rooting for their old buddy, but I was back in the summer, and I had an awful lot of people tell me, 'Good luck, all except for one game,' " he said.

"That's like saying, 'Good luck, and I hope you have a heart attack.' Just say, 'Good luck,' and forget the one-game stuff."

Pac Bits

Many coaches resist playing two quarterbacks because of continuity issues and the potential for divisiveness, but the practice is widespread in the conference, at least for now.

Oregon rotated Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife at Mississippi State. Arizona played Nic Costa and Ryan O'Hara against Texas El Paso. Stanford is expected to play Chris Lewis and Trent Edwards in its opener against San Jose State. California has been playing Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers. And if UCLA quarterback Matt Moore doesn't keep his grip on the job, a rotation with Drew Olson could develop.

"You play two running backs, two wide receivers, and you play different people for situational offense and defense. The reality is that you can do it nowadays at the quarterback position," said Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti, an old hand at the practice. Clemens and Fife are the latest Oregon tandem in a line that has included A.J. Feeley and Joey Harrington, and Akili Smith and Jason Maas.

"It allows you to bring in and attack defenses differently with different quarterbacks," Bellotti said. "I just think sometimes it's also that you may have two very good players that both deserve to play. The key is how they respond not when they're in there, but how they respond when the other young man has success, and it's a noticeable thing a team responds to.... Last week, they shook hands every time they left the field."

The Pac-10's 2-0 record on the road against Southeastern Conference teams last week was impressive, but face it, it was mostly because of USC's 23-0 victory over Auburn. Oregon's 42-34 victory was over a Mississippi State team that was 3-9 last season.

Oregon's "yellow lightning" uniforms have been widely ridiculed, but Bellotti said they're a hit with the target audience: "Actually, yesterday was the first day we could call recruits, and it was unanimous that they loved the uniforms and were fired up about them. I think you have to put yourself in the mind-set of a 17-year-old young man instead of an old sportswriter."

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