FOR ONE, SAYS Washington State head coach Bill Doba, it’s a sad day when fans boo a college kid. Worse, he added in an exclusive interview with Cougfan.com on Wednesday, if the crimson faithful who saw fit to jeer quarterback Alex Brink last weekend at Qwest Field actually knew the fourth-year junior from Eugene, they'd be rooting hard for him to succeed.
Asked at the start of the interview if -- before getting into prepared questions -- there was a particular topic he wanted to discuss or message he wanted to share with the Cougar Nation, Doba didn’t hesitate.
“I'd really like everyone to know that Alex Brink is a good kid. He’s a smart kid, and he’s a good quarterback,” Doba said. “He’s going to make a bad pass once in awhile or have a bad series, but he’s a good quarterback. Do the Yankees bench Alex Rodriguez when he makes an error? Of course not, because they know he's going to produce.”
Doba said he appreciates the 41,000-plus fans who watched Saturday’s dramatic victory over Baylor, but found the behavior of a vocal minority to be out of line.
BILL DOBA: If you must, boo him, he says.
“I think it’s sad when a college kid gets booed,” he said. “If certain fans have the need, I’d rather they boo me.”
For what it’s worth in the historical context, Brink is in good company when it comes to being the target of the ol' Bronx Cheer. Mark Rypien, Timm Rosenbach and Drew Bledsoe were each booed at one time or another while quarterbacking the Cougs.
After the Baylor game, Brink appeared to take it all in stride, telling reporters, “When you play this position it’s pretty clear that not everybody is going to be your best friend and love you. It is what it is. And that’s OK … you just have to block it out and get strong and go out and play ball.”
Doba said Brink, who has a reputation for uncommon maturity, doesn’t –- outwardly, at least -– heed his detractors. “But everyone would always rather have people cheer than boo.”
Doba also says it’s a truism of the game, from high school on up, “that the backup quarterback is always the savior.”
AND THE COUGARS' No. 2 man, sophomore Gary Rogers of Mukilteo, has certainly played his part -- a development that has delighted Doba (despite the fan repercussions it has meant for Brink).
GARY ROGERS: Efficiency rating of 163.5.
In limited action this season, Rogers has fired a touchdown pass in every game and completed 15 of 23 passes for 175 yards. His work in the opener at Auburn set the tone. Entering the contest a little more than halfway through the third quarter he completed five straight passes to four different receivers, capping the 90-yard drive with a long scoring aerial over the middle to tight end Cody Boyd.
Doba said he plans to continue getting Rogers playing time in the Pac-10 portion of the Cougars’ schedule. He isn’t, however, going to guarantee a series or two for the Kamiak High grad each week the way he did in the three non-conference games. The Cougars (2-1) open conference play at Stanford (0-3) this Saturday in Palo Alto. Kickoff is at 2 pm.
“It may not work out every week, but in most cases we’re going to try to get him in,” Doba said.
DOBA CALLS BRINK the consummate team player and noted that the former Oregon high school player of the year sprinted onto the field Saturday to congratulate Rogers after the 6-5, 237-pound understudy fired a second-quarter TD pass to Jason Hill. “Alex wants to win -– he doesn’t care who’s getting the credit,” said Doba, adding that Brink and Rogers get along famously.
Elsewhere on the quarterbacking front, Doba reported that second-year freshman Arkelon Hall, locked in a battle with Cole Morgan for the No. 3 spot behind Brink and Rogers until breaking a leg in mid August, is progressing nicely.
“He’s out of the boot and starting to jog and run,” Doba said. Hall made his first practice appearance in more than a month, though not in full pads, on Wednesday.
Redshirting second-year freshman Kevin Lopina, who transferred to WSU from Kansas State in June, has been outstanding running the scout team, Doba said. In fact, his work leading up to the Baylor game earned him Scout Team Offensive Player of the Week honors. Lopina will have three seasons to play three starting in 2007. “He throws hard, has a great attitude and studies,” Doba said. “He’s going to be a good one.”
* Doba said in the ideal world the Cougars would play their annual game at Qwest Field over the Labor Day weekend, when many students are home on the west side of the state, rather than a later weekend when they have to make a special trip to attend the game. "There's nothing better than playing in Martin," he said. "You fill the stadium and all the kids are there. It's a great atmosphere."
* In electing to go for it last Saturday in the first half on fourth-down in Baylor territory rather than have Loren Langley try a 42-yard field goal, Doba said his decision was based on the fact Langley was 0-for-2 on treys coming into the game and had struggled in warm ups before the game. "He's got all the physical skills and works hard, but half of kicking is mental and his confidence was shaken," Doba said. "I wanted him to have success on his next try, to get that confidence back, and that situation would have just put pressure on him." Doba's master plan worked well -- Langley won the game for the Cougs with a 17-yard field goal with nine seconds left on the clock. He subsequently was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week.