Bellingham Herald: Cornerback issues plague Vikings for home opener

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Head Coach Robin Ross
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Head Coach Robin Ross
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Sept. 9, 2006

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

JOE SUNNEN, THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Nobody needed the reminder, least of all Western Washington University senior Kevin Jones.

But as the Viking cornerback jogged cautiously across the practice field on Thursday, somebody on the team said it anyway.

"Hey man, you're not supposed to be running."

That's something WWU knows all too well heading into its home opener against No. 15 Washburn University today at 1 p.m. at Civic Stadium.

The Vikings will be without both of their starting cornerbacks against the Ichabods due to injury.

"We'll have to make some game-time decisions," WWU coach Robin Ross said.

The Vikings started the season with a 28-23 loss to Humboldt State in California, giving up two touchdown passes of more than 20 yards.

Kevin Jones could be out for the season with an Achilles' heel injury.

Maurice Jones, the other starting cornerback, hurt his knee against Humboldt and will miss a few weeks.

Sophomore cornerback Anthony Rosso also hurt his shoulder against Humboldt, but practiced with the team this week. Freshman Anthony Zachary has been dealing with a hip flexor injury.

That leaves the Vikings potentially starting two freshmen cornerbacks against a Washburn team that threw for five touchdowns and more than 300 yards in its win against Colorado School of Mines last week.

"We're expecting them to pass," Ross said. "But they're actually a pretty balanced team. They've got a good running back, fullback and run a lot of two-tight end sets."

Despite the first week setback the Vikings are optimistic about their chances against Washburn. Take away the two big plays by Humboldt and Western's defense held the Lumberjacks mostly in check.

Western also ran the ball well in its opener.

"Practice has been better than last week," Ross said. "You just never know what's going to happen coming out of double-days. Like I said, the effort was good. We just need to clean up the areas that we had trouble with."

One of those issues was the passing game. Senior James Monrean threw for only 98 yards against the Lumberjacks with two interceptions. Washburn has an All-America cornerback in Fletcher Terrell, but the Vikings have another week of practice behind them and some of the jitters should be gone.

Wide receiver Travis McKee, a standout in the spring, also is expected to return from a shoulder injury.

The bright spot for the Vikings last week was junior running back Calvin McCarty. He scored three touchdowns in his WWU debut and had 139 yards on 30 carries. It was the first time a Vikings rusher has found the end zone that many times since 2002.

"Our attitude has still been good," Ross said. "We had that long bus ride back from a game where the result wasn't what we wanted, but we've had a good week. This is a great opportunity."