Believe it or not, the college football season is winding down. The Cougars play their final home game this weekend against Oregon State...that means it's Senior Day.
Washington State will bid farewell to 15 players suiting up for the last time at Martin Stadium on Saturday. The biggest names in the class are Mead High School product Andy Mattingly, Kenny Alfred (who was invited to the East-West Shrine Game on Wednesday), and Xavier Hicks. I'll talk more about the individuals in a second.
As for the class itself (the guys who were here for all four years), they didn't have the most successful run at WSU. With two games to go this season, the Cougars are 14-33 in their time here (6-6 in 2006, 5-7 in 2007, 2-11 in 2008, 1-9 so far in 2009). The team never made a bowl game, but they did beat Washington in the Apple Cup two out of their first three years (they'll try to make three out of four on November 28th in Seattle).
Center Kenny Alfred is the biggest name in the class. He spent five years at Washington State, redshirting his freshman year. He was twice named to the Rimington Award watch list, which is handed to the nation's best center every season. He was also named to the All-Pac-10 team as a junior and will likely get the nod again this season. Alfred was also named to the Pac-10 All-Academic team for three straight years (again...he'll probably get recognized this year as well). In my mind, he's the only real player on WSU's offensive line.
Linebacker Andy Mattingly will also be missed next season. The Spokane native played in 11 games as a true freshman and never looked back. His best game (in my opinion) was against Arizona State his sophomore year (I'm probably biased because I was there and watched him dominate). Mattingly collected 13 tackles, four sacks, and five tackles for loss (then a school record) against the Sun Devils. He bounced around from defensive end and linebacker as a junior, but found his home at linebacker again as a senior. Mattingly ranks third on the team with 57 tackles this season.
Safety Xavier Hicks had issues off the field (he spent time in jail and has been arrested again since), but he also made an impact on the field for four years (he also redshirted as a freshman). Hicks is a tackling machine. He finished with 78 stops last season to finish second on the squad, and he currently paces the Cougars with 75 tackles this season. Hicks is also a vocal leader every week at practice and on game days.
Quarterback Kevin Lopina had a very up-and-down career at Washington State. He transferred to WSU from Kansas State in 2006. He never saw game action in 2007 behind Alex Brink and Gary Rogers, but finally had a chance to play last year. He didn't do very well (to put it kindly), throwing 11 interceptions and no touchdowns. Lopina was the starting quarterback at the beginning of the year in 2009, fell out of favor, but resurfaced last week against UCLA. He very well could start the final two games of the season.
Tony Thompson will also say goodbye to Pullman on Saturday. The son of WSU great Jack Thompson, Tony battled injuries for much of his Cougar career. Thompson served as the team's long snapper his freshman season, but mostly made an impact as a tight end. He made four catches last season and has added nine more receptions this year.
Running back Dwight Tardy has led the Cougars in rushing each of the last three years and he's poised to top the team again this season. Tardy's greatest game was against UCLA in 2007. He scampered for 214 yards (the 9th most yards in a single game in school history) and two touchdowns. He also blew out his knee in that game and missed the last four games of the year. The injury seems to have bothered him since. Tardy has collected just 343 yards and one touchdown this season.
The rest of the seniors on the list made little or no impact on the team, but they dedicated as much time, heart, and effort as the stars of the squad. Defensive end Jesse Feagin (nine career tackles), Patrick Rooney (the team's place kicker the last two years), linebacker Jason Stripling (battled injuries and academic issues...now suspended indefinitely after a fight), offensive lineman Reed Lesuma, Colin Huemmer, Andrew Kreutz, Zach Tatman, Sam Tennant, and K.C. Thometz will all be honored on Saturday.
I know there isn't much reason to go to Saturday's game against Oregon State (start time is 2pm with no TV coverage), but if you're there, be sure to send these kids off with a huge round of applause. They may not have succeeded much in the standings, but they are true Cougars and they deserve nothing less.