Washington State coach Bill Doba says "it's tough going home at night" without his wife there.
Judy Doba, 65, died in April after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer.
A reporter on the Pac-10 conference call Tuesday asked the coach how he is doing without her and he replied, "It hasn't been easy."
Doba said, "Football has been my savior, to honest with you. To have something that occupies your time and with the time demands of this job you're not home very much, and that's a good thing. That part has been a blessing."
The Dobas had been married for 43 years.
The Cougars open Saturday at No. 4 Auburn, and some fans are wondering why such a difficult road opponent was scheduled.
Doba explained the scheduling, saying, "It was a chance to open with a very, very good opponent. I didn't know they were going to be this good."
Doba said he "got all kinds of criticism" last year for playing Grambling State, Nevada and Idaho as nonconference opponents because they weren't strong teams. He said he is being criticized this year for playing Auburn and Baylor (Sept. 16 in Seattle).
Doba said even WSU president V. Lane Rawlins, who once was vice chancellor of the University of Alabama System, "wasn't real excited" about playing Auburn. Doba said Rawlins asked him, "You know what you're getting into?"
Doba said he projected that this year's Cougars would be able to compete with a strong opponent such as Auburn. He added, "If you're going to play someone that good, it's best to play them in the first game."
Doba also said the trip is "a good payday" that that will help the university. The Cougars will get $850,000, plus at least $260,000 from ESPN2.
WSU athletic director Jim Sterk said last year that ESPN proposed the game to both schools. Sterk said then that Doba "talked me into it" because he likes to play a tough nonleague opponent when the Cougars have a veteran team. The Cougars played at Ohio State in 2002 and at Notre Dame in 2003. They lost both games but finished with 10-win seasons.
Doba said he thinks opening against an elite team has prompted his players to be more focused and work harder throughout the summer and fall camp.
Auburn is a 14 ½-point favorite.
• Tony Thompson, son of former WSU quarterback Jack Thompson, will do the punt-snapping for the Cougars at Auburn. Pete Hill, son of former Cougar Mike Hill, will snap for field goals and extra points. He is a sophomore offensive lineman from Wenatchee. Backup quarterback Gary Rogers will be the holder.
• Doba said Loren Langley, if healthy, will be the kicker for the opener. Langley had flu symptoms earlier this week but practiced Tuesday. Doba said he doesn't want to take backup kicker Romeen Abdollmohammodi on the trip because he wants to use the travel-roster spot for a non-kicker since hot weather might require a lot of substituting. Langley has been erratic on field goals in camp, but his strengths include kickoffs and onside kicks, Doba said.
• Doba said the charter company flying the Cougars to Alabama called this week to say a previously unplanned refueling stop may be necessary. That could further complicate travel plans that involve landing in Montgomery, Ala., on Friday, busing more than an hour to Auburn then busing back to the Montgomery suburb of Prattville for the night.
• The players have been urged to drink plenty of fluids this week; a total of one gallon a day has been suggested. The forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 85 degrees. It should be cooler at the 6:45 p.m. (CDT) kickoff.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or email@example.com