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Washington State Cougars pt 1

Record 1-3 (0-1)

Last Game: Portland State W 48-9

Pacific 10 Conference

, Washington

On TV: FSN / OSN / CSN NW @ 3:15 p.m. Pacific

Part 1 of 2: Washington State on Offense

Could there possibly be any group of fans more sympathetic to Washington State’s recent quarterback woes than Oregon fans? We feel their pain. No pun intended.

In case you missed it, the Cougs will start a third-string redshirt freshman at QB Saturday. And while it might make sense to look back at the recent success of redshirt freshman QBs against the Ducks defense, let’s not.

Kellen Moore was no third stringer.

Marshall Lobbestael is. Or, at least he was. He’s not anymore due to the unfortunate scene that unfolded at WSU’s Martin Stadium last Saturday. Kevin Lopina got the start against Portland State, but left with an apparent shoulder injury following a sack late in the first half. It wasn’t a shoulder injury, we found out this week, but a fracture in his lower back. He’s out indefinitely.

Lopina was replaced by senior Gary Rogers, who started the Cougs’ first two games of 2008. Rogers didn’t last long, suffering a spine fracture in the third quarter (no surgery required, he is expected to make a full recovery following three to four months of rehabilitation). Rogers’ career as a WSU quarterback is over. I don’t care who you root for, that sucks.

Down two QBs, the Cougs had no choice but throw Lobbestael into the fire. His performance was as eye-opening as what we saw from Darron Thomas, albeit versus an entirely different kind of opponent. Lobbestael’s first pass was a touchdown. So was his second. WSU scored on all of their first four drives under Lobbestael’s direction. Nine completions on 12 attempts, 149 yards and two touchdowns later, he was named the Pac-10 offensive player of the week.

Does the kid give Washington State a chance against the Ducks? He’s certainly injected the Cougs’ fan base with some hope, but this week will likely be more about reality. The 2008 Cougars are really bad.

Throw out the 638 total yards of offense against Portland State. The Vikings want to pass 50 times a game, play absolutely no defense and are not even regarded as a decent Big Sky team. In blowout losses to Oklahoma State, Cal and Baylor, the Cougs have struggled to run, pass, score or do anything that even resembles competent offensive football. When a team is ranked 82nd, 88th, 69th and 92nd in key offensive categories, what’s the point of even identifying those categories. These things happen when you bring a new coach and try to rebuild almost from scratch.

If WSU tries to establish the run it will take huge efforts from Dwight Tardy (#31, 5-10, 201 lbs., Jr., CA) and Chris Ivory (#23, 6-0, 225 lbs., Jr., TX). Tardy leads the team with 203 yards rushing, just 50.8 per game. Ivory is Wazzu’s big back. He averages more than 5 yards a carry, but has only about half the carries compared to Tardy. Neither has had the benefit of much blocking form an inexperienced and largely ineffective O-line that has endured some injuries and some shuffling.

Anyone else highly suspicious that the Cougs are planning some deep throws to WR Brandon Gibson (#4, 6-1, 200 lbs., Sr., WA) off play action? Gibson is a talented receiver with a knack for getting open and making big plays. He was an 1100-yard receiver in 2007 and leads WSU in 2008 with 20 catches for 295 yards and a couple scores. The only other Wazzu player with double-digit receptions is tight end Devin Frischknecht (#80, 6-3, 251 lbs., Sr., UT). Fox Sports announcers are probably rooting for passes to go Gibson’s way. Try saying Frischknecht three times fast.

Did I mention the Cougs will probably run some play action?

Will Oregon’s D step up and regain some credibility? If it doesn’t happen against this Washington State team, it may not happen all season.

Cougar coach Paul Wulff and his staff will work furiously to prepare Lobbestael. The stark reality is that with Lopina and Rogers in a battle to start this season, Lobbestael has not taken a lot of snaps in practice. Prior to hitting the field last week, he’d thrown only two passes in a game, those at the end of the 66-3 ass-kicking by Cal. This week he’s facing a legit yet embarrassed Pac-10 defense with something to prove.

We should learn early on if WSU can protect their young QB long enough for him to throw downfield. I say that because the Ducks should stuff the run. Everyone that’s played WSU has – Portland State doesn’t count since their defense resembles a decent high school team. Oregon is going to score points and the Cougs will have to keep up.

With time to throw, Lobbestael might find some success. Without time to throw… Well, let’s just hope no one gets injured.

A few Wazzu game tidbits:

● In four games 13 different WSU offensive players have made their first collegiate start.

Oregon leads the all-time series 40-38-7.

● Don’t bash on FSN play-by-play guy Rich Burk. He was a friend of mine in college and the only guy I could find who would join me in the batting cage at 6 a.m. Go ahead and bash on Jason Gesser.

● It’s Homecoming at WSU this week, and they’re honoring Rueben Mayes at halftime. For a reminder of Mayes’ involvement in one of Oregon’s darker days, check this out. That’s right, 357 rushing yards by one dude. I was there. I hated that guy, but recently got over it.