NICK CANTLON, THE fourth-year Washington State walk-on from Spokane, smiled when asked how it felt to be the wily old veteran of the offensive line in the late going of the Cougars' win last Saturday over San Diego State. Andrew Roxas, a true freshman from Sun Valley, Calif., said his heart just about leapt out of his jersey when assistant coach George Yarno called his name to go on the field.
In the fourth quarter of the Cougars' 45-17 victory, the coaching staff pulled all five starting offensive linemen and inserted four players who had never taken a game-time snap in a WSU uniform and one, Cantlon, whose previous experience consisted all of one play, against Idaho last season.
“It felt great being out there,” said Cantlon (6-5, 245). “We’ve been working really hard, it’s nice to get into a game situation, do well and have fun.”
NICK CANTLON: The Pride of Lewis & Clark High
Besides the late-game action, the 6-1, 285-pound Roxas got some PT earlier in the game when Micah Hannam went out for two plays with a light ankle sprain.
“I was standing there watching the game and then Coach Yarno yelled ‘Roxas’ and told me I was going in,” said the former 3-star prep prospect who chose WSU over Colorado, San Diego State and others. “My heart started beating faster. I didn’t know what to expect, but just tried to do what Coach Yarno taught me in practice.”
Roxas called his mom and dad on his cell phone as soon as he left the lockerroom to tell them he was certified Pac-10 head-knocker.
When the entire first unit offensive line came out of the game in the fourth quarter, Roxas (pronounced Row-HOSS) went in at left guard, replacing senior Bobby Byrd. Cantlon took over at right guard for junior Dan Rowlands. At center, walk on freshman Chris Prummer (6-1, 254) of Renton replaced Kenny Alfred.
And at the tackles, Joe Eppele (6-7, 275), a second-year freshman from Vancouver, B.C., subbed in for Vaughn Lesuma on the left side while Lesuma's little brother, Reed Lesuma (6-3, 302) of Laie, Hawaii, took over on the right side for Hannam, who missed two snaps earlier in the game with a lightly sprained ankle.
Speaking to how thin the Cougars' offensive line is after the starting five, Yarno noted: “For every one of those guys, except Cantlon who had one snap last year, that was their first action.”
Yarno said his entire offensive line, starters and backups alike, have progressed nicely since practice began in early August. “I’m really proud the way the kids have been preparing, practicing and playing. Everyone should be proud of them.
“They’re starting to understand the complexities of the game.”
Yarno noted that the 3-4 defense San Diego State showed Saturday was brand new for the Aztecs. As such, the Cougar offense wasn’t expecting it and had to adjust.
A veteran quarterback, Alex Brink, and an experienced center, Alfred, made all the difference in the Cougars’ ability to counter, said quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach.
Added Yarno, “The 3-4 front -– they’d never shown that before. Our guys weren’t expecting it. It was good for them to go through that experience and have success.”