LOS ANGELES - Las Vegas oddsmakers list Washington State as a 45-point underdog at the University of Southern California tonight, and Dwight Tardy sounds like he wishes the odds facing the Cougars were even higher.
“I love being the underdog,” said Tardy, WSU’s senior running back. “I always root for the underdog doing the unbelievable.
“Everyone wants to see the underdog win.”
According to Tardy, “I go into every game thinking I’m going to win.” He says that will be the case tonight, even though USC is ranked 12th and the Cougars are inexperienced and shorthanded due to injuries and the loss of quality wide receivers Jeshua Anderson (quit) and Kevin Norrell (discipline).
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“If the team believes it (winning is possible), anybody can beat anybody on any given day,” Tardy said. “That’s why the Pac-10 is great – you can get beat by anybody.”
Perhaps, but the Trojans are loaded with speed, a weak spot for the Cougars.
“They’re a great team,” Tardy said.
“Washington State might want to call in sick Saturday,” Derek Samson wrote on Sporting News magazine’s Web site.
Tardy grew up in the Los Angeles area and was recruited by USC, but he says the Trojans lost interest due to his relative lack of speed. He’s been fast enough to lead the Cougars in rushing three straight years – no one knows of anyone leading WSU four straight years – and he ranks ninth in school history with 1,941 career rushing yards.
California transfer James Montgomery, who is faster than Tardy, appeared set to replace Tardy as the starting running back before he ran into injury problems. Montgomery’s season is over, and possibly his career, and that saddens Tardy.
“It’s going to be tough for us,” Tardy said. “He’s a great leader. He’s definitely a great addition to our team.”
Tardy kept it quiet until this week, but he revealed that he’s been limited by a high-ankle sprain since being injured in the season opener. His left ankle was heavily taped in the second game, then he switched to a brace last week that he plans to continue wearing in games and practices indefinitely.
“It’s just something that’s going to be there for the rest of the season,” Tardy said. “I’ve got to deal with it.”
Logwone Mitz, Tardy’s backup, may be limited from a battle with the flu. ... Two more true freshmen, quarterback Jeff Tuel and running back Carl Winston, could make their WSU debuts as soon as tonight. Coaches would prefer to redshirt both players, but there’s a lack of depth and production at their positions. ... Kevin Lopina, who started the first two games at quarterback, may be limited or sidelined after injuring a calf. He’s been listed on depth charts as the No. 2 quarterback behind Marshall Lobbestael, but that’s paperwork: Tuel has taken far more snaps than Lopina in practice the past two weeks. Prior to Lopina’s injury, offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said Tuel would definitely be the first quarterback inserted at USC if Lobbestael is pulled. ... Redshirt freshman Tyson Pencer, who made his college debut last week, makes his first start tonight at left tackle. He protects the blind side of right-handed quarterbacks such as Lobbestael, Tuel and Lopina. ... WSU ranks near the bottom nationally in several defensive statistics, but the Cougars came into the week tied for sixth with nine takeaways. Last year, WSU ranked next to last in the country with just 13 takeaways all season.