WSU free safety Tyree Toomer switches jersey number after roommate breaks neck

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PULLMAN — Tyree Toomer usually wears No. 33. But Saturday afternoon he took the Martin Stadium turf against Montana State wearing No. 15.

LeAndre Daniels’ number. His roommate.

See, Daniels’ football career is over. He’s walking around campus wearing a metal halo to keep his broken neck secure as he heals from a freak practice injury.

Toomer saw how depressed his roommate was following the diagnoses a few weeks ago so, going into the Oklahoma State game, he came up with a plan.

“I wanted to wear it for our season opener last week, but it was kind of late, so (the coaches) said I could wear it this week,” said Toomer, WSU’s starting free safety.

Which he did in the Cougars’ 23-22 victory.

Despite being 3 inches shorter and 12 pounds lighter, Toomer looked a little like his roommate on one play. When Alex Hoffman-Ellis intercepted Montana State quarterback Denarius McGhee late in the game to set up Nico Grasu’s winning field goal, it was Toomer who supplied the pressure on a safety blitz.

So how did Daniels like the tribute?

“He was happy,” Toomer said. “He was asking me if it was only for one game, but if I can wear it the rest of the year, I will. I have to just double-check with him.”

Still a winning angle

If Grasu had his way, the game-winner — an 18-yard field goal from the right hash — wouldn’t have been at such an acute angle.

“It’s probably where I don’t want it,” he said, smiling. “But a kick is a kick. You have to take every one the same. Just like the 56-yard one last week. You’ve got to take the same straight kick, just turn the angle a little bit.”

The last three WSU victories — the 2008 Apple Cup, last Sept. 19 against Southern Methodist and the one Saturday — have all been decided by a Grasu field goal. The first two were in overtime, the latest with 2:13 left.

But this one almost was backup Andrew Furney’s to kick.

Grasu strained his left oblique muscle Tuesday warming up before practice and kicked sparingly the rest of the week, and not at all Thursday and Friday.

“Coach (Paul) Wulff wanted me to rest it until game time,” Grasu said. “Muscle memory and a lot of confidence in (long snapper) Zach (Enyeart) and (holder) Reid (Forrest) got me through.

“We’ve been doing this for three years, so it’s more mental. We took more mental reps this week than actual physical ones.”

He almost had one more shot to tack on three points, as WSU had the ball at the Montana State 16 as time was winding down. But, after three clock-deflating plays of Jeff Tuel taking a knee, Wulff elected to do it once more on fourth down instead of trying a 39-yard field goal.

“There was a risk of having it blocked and they could return it,” Wulff said.

Hitting the mark

The last time a WSU running back rushed for more than 100 yards was a year ago. It was against Hawaii and it was James Montgomery who did it, gaining 118.

Montgomery hit the 100-yard mark on his first carry of the second half Saturday, finishing with 116 on 20 carries. Seventy of them came on one second-quarter run from the WSU 5-yard line that set up his only score, a 3-yard run.

In between the two 100-yard games, of course, he dealt with career-threatening compartment syndrome injury and knee surgery. And he jokingly blamed that for his inability to outrun Arnold Briggs on his 70-yarder.

“I know now I can take it from the 30 all the way in,” he said, “I can’t take it from the 5 anymore. That’s what microfracturing and compartment syndrome do for you, they get you ran down.”