Feature: Sophomore RB Returns to Cougar Football Team with Most Experience

Aug. 29, 2007

By Dustin Goodnight
Daily Evergreen

August 29, 2007

Pullman, WA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Dwight Tardy clutched his jaw as he spoke, nursing the pain remaining from a root canal.

The sophomore running back is also recovering from a sore right hamstring from early in fall camp.

He may be banged up, but the end zone still beckons.

Tardy powered through a crease in the right side of the offensive line and ran uncontested for a 30-plus yard touchdown in practice Friday.

'Tardy is driven,' head coach Bill Doba said. 'He's playing because he's got an attitude. It's important to him.' In his first scrimmage back from injury on Aug. 14, he ran for 16 yards on nine carries. He followed that performance with just six yards on five carries in the third scrimmage.

But practice Friday was Tardy's breakout performance of camp. He said his legs are ripening and the offensive line is making strides.

'Running backs are only as good as the line,' he said. 'The first couple scrimmages the line was getting put together. But they did pretty good today and it opened more seams for me.' Tardy will need fresh legs Saturday against the University of Wisconsin. He enters the season as the Cougars' starting running back.

He led all WSU ball carriers in 2006 with 667 yards, while sharing time with DeMaundrey Woolridge and Derrell Hutsona. But Woolridge and Hutsona were academic casualties, making Tardy the undisputed starter.

Tardy said this season has a completely different feel without a daily battle for playing time.

'Last year was a competition,' he said. 'This year we are one group. Our focus is getting better as a whole and winning games, not so much on individual goals.' Time will tell if that newfound cohesiveness equates to a more consistent run game. The team's 128.3 rushing yards per game was No. 67 nationally.

Tardy had a central role in the seesaw season in the offensive backfield. He roamed free for 145 yards in a victory against Oregon and had 105 yards in the Apple Cup loss. He rushed for more than 90 yards in four games.

However, in five other games he did not reach 25 yards. In two of those games he recorded at least 10 carries.

Tardy knows he must level the ups and downs.

'That is my key,' he said. 'I've got to be consistent in the run game, pass game. If I'm consistent all the way around I'll be good.' Despite early struggles, running backs coach Steve Broussard said Tardy has been the most consistent back since camp began.

Broussard has liked Tardy's work ethic and said his game experience will help.

But Tardy does have plenty of depth behind him.

Sophomore Chris Ivory, likely second on the depth chart, led all ball carriers in the first scrimmage and has impressed.

Broussard would like to see him compete for playing time.

'I'm looking for his role to be a part, to contribute to the run-pass game,' Broussard said.

Redshirt senior Kevin McCall could also factor in the run game. McCall had the longest run of fall camp, a 78-yard burst in the third scrimmage.

Broussard hopes McCall can make a case for playing time in his final season.

'It's always good to see when you have a guy that can break away and get out in the open field,' Broussard said. 'His deal is the consistency that I talk about.'

(C) 2007 Daily Evergreen via CSTV U-WIRE

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