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With the college football season now being an even 12 games -- save for the odd game at Hawaii here and there -- it works out nicely to break the season up into three-game (or quarter) chunks for the purpose of evaluating how the team is coming along. We're going to look at it unit by unit.

One important thing to note: These grades are going to be based off the relationship between expectations and actual performance. For example, grading the WSU running backs on the standard set by Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson would be a little silly. We'll grade them based on how well they lived up to -- or exceeded -- our expectations.

First up is the running backs.



Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg TD
2009 - Dwight Tardy 3 28 117 39 4.2 0 7 32 10.7 4.6 0

Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg TD
2009 - James Montgomery 3 37 167 55.7 4.5 1 7 62 20.7 8.9 0

Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg TD
2009 - Logwone Mitz 2 5 15 7.5 3 0 2 2 1 1 0


COMMENTS: Well, this was slated to be overwhelmingly positive before this happened. Still, since the grade is an assessment of where this unit has been rather than where it's going (we'll tackle that in a moment), let's focus on that.

This unit has been a high point for the team, even if the Cougars haven't been able to run the ball as much as they'd like thanks to slow starts, sizable deficits and now injuries on the offensive line. Both Tardy and Montgomery have shown that they have gamebreaking ability when given holes to run through, and that's all you can ask for out of your running backs, since they can't control much else.

Most encouraging is the yards per carry. Much was made before the season of Tardy finally being healthy; that, combined with better line play, has led to his 4.2 yards per carry -- up significantly from the 3.62 of last year. Montgomery's 4.5 yards per carry haven't been seen out of a regular WSU runner since Tardy was able to do it two years ago.

Oh, and after the Cougars fumbled the ball away so many times last year, the running backs have put the ball on the ground exactly one time -- Montgomery's fumble on Saturday.

There's really no fault to be found with this unit.

HOW TO IMPROVE THE GRADE: Well, there typically wouldn't be any way to improve this grade, but with the loss of Montgomery for the season, it's going to take some serious work from Tardy, Mitz and probably either Marcus Richmond or Carl Winston to maintain this grade. Tardy has looked good, but not as good as Montgomery, and he's going to need to step up his game.

If there's a silver lining to all of this, it's that Mitz is going to get a real shot at carrying the ball with some regularity. He's an absolute bruiser -- the kind of guy who can wear a defense down with 15 carries. There just weren't enough balls to go around with Montgomery in the fold, so Mitz got short shrift. (Five carries in three games? Yeow ...) Now we get to see if Mitz can build on the considerable potential he showed last season.