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The Cowboys' record of six and five represented their first winning season since 1959, and much of the credit went to a new Wishbone offense. Coach Dave Smith installed it before moving to SMU, but the Wishbone will be back. So will senior Quarterback Brent Blackmail, one of the best in the Midwest at its operation. In 1972 Blackmail ran for 842 yards, including five touchdowns, and passed for 572, including six more scores. Against Missouri, with the clock running out on fourth and 28, he hit Split End Steve Pettes for a 54-yard scoring play and a 17-16 win. Blackman is an elusive runner, capable of 4.8 for the 40, and he is completely recovered after breaking a collarbone in the spring game.
Another returnee is the club's leading rusher, junior Fullback George Palmer, who gained 937 yards. Palmer averaged 4.8 yards a carry over the season, but returning Halfback Fountain Smith averaged an impressive 6.7 in gaining 610.
Four key players return on defense, including Linebacker Cleveland Vann, who was on the Associated Press All-Big Eight team. He was in on 122 tackles, 50 of them unassisted, six behind the line of scrimmage. He also deflected two passes and made three interceptions.
Safety Alvin Brown tied the Big Eight record of eight interceptions. He also deflected 13 passes and had 67 tackles. He can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, but then he hasn't got much to carry. The amazing Brown weighs only 162 pounds. No wonder they called the Cowboy secondary "Alvin and the Chipmunks."
Defensive Tackle Barry Price goes 238 and he hits more like a bear than a chipmunk. Six of his 52 tackles caused fumbles, and if he can control a notorious temper he should be even better.
So should his team.
Bert Clark used to say, " Washington State doesn't belong in the Pacific Eight." Fine, and who is Bert Clark? Well, he used to coach Washington State. And Bert Clark was right, too; Washington State did not belong in the Pacific Eight. WSU was the Brown of the West, the VMI of the North, the gimme on everybody's schedule.
Jim Sweeney says, "We've put together a superfeeling of togetherness and goal orientation." And who is Jim Sweeney? Well, he is the guy now coaching Washington State, and forgive him if he lacerates the language with an idiom that may be described as Billy Graham-jockstrap. Sprinkling "super" around like it was going into style, he got the woebegone Cougars up to 7-4 last year, and Super-Sweeney says it could have been 9-2 "if I had done a better job of coaching." Three years ago, when the Cougars had a 1-10 season (down from a heady 1-9 the year before), he told the "supergreat" alumni, "You need me more than I need you."
WSU runs out of a triple option called the Multiple Veer. It depends heavily on a versatile quarterback, and while WSU lost few to graduation, one was Quarterback Ty Paine, a three-year starter who holds many school records. Paine's understudy, Chuck Peck, is returning as heir apparent, but count on Mike Mitchell from Walla Walla Community College to start. Sweeney says that Mitchell has "superfoot quickness and can ad-lib real good." Formerly, this was known as scrambling.