Cougars claw way into title picture

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Washington State is pointing fingers this week -- and not at each other.

Despite losing two defensive starters because of a fight, the Cougars have climbed to their highest ranking ever at No. 5 and the fifth spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

A 44-22 win over Arizona State put the Cougars (8-1, 5-0) into the Pacific-10 Conference lead. Now, they're turning their attention to No. 15 Oregon, and to the possibility they might actually contend for the national title.

"We are not giving the No. 1 sign yet, but at least now we have just one hand in the air," coach Mike Price said. "In the past we have had to use a lot of fingers to signal our ranking."

The quest for the Pac-10 championship, the Rose Bowl and a possible shot at the Fiesta Bowl didn't seem to skip a beat after Price suspended linebacker Ira Davis last week for breaking cornerback Jason David's cheekbone in a locker-room fight.

Price said Monday that Davis will remain on suspension until David's face heals and he returns to play, likely after the regular season.

David, the Pac-10 interception leader with six, had surgery Monday to repair the three cheekbone fractures.

Price also said Davis would have to take anger management classes before he is allowed to return to the team, as well as other stipulations that the coach would not disclose.

"Ira is suspended indefinitely," Price said. "He will not be allowed to rejoin his teammates until Jason David fully recovers from his injury and returns to the team."

Neither player was available for comment Tuesday.

Price said the fight, apparently about a woman both men knew, was more of a diversion for him than for his players.

"I was distracted at the beginning of the week," Price said. "When things like this happen, they bleed and go on and on and on. I think it is a credit to our team and the maturity of our team."

Asked Tuesday if his team had put the incident behind them to focus on Oregon, Price replied: "Absolutely."

"I'm trying to figure out some incident that can break the focus of our team ... so I can keep these guys motivated for the game, something unrelated to football," Price joked at his weekly news conference in Pullman.

Cougars defensive tackle Rein Long sacked Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter three times.

"We seem to rise above adversity, injuries, sickness, people getting into fights," Long said. "We came together as a team."

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