Spirited practice as Cougs look to Baylor

PAUL WULFF

PULLMAN -- A quarterback competition may just turn out to be the best thing for the Cougars' struggling offense. That, and a bit stiffer defense to face in practice. Those were a few of the notable differences seen at Tuesday's practice out on the Palouse. There's also audio from Paul Wulff and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy.

Kevin Lopina was the new man under center with the first team offense (more on that later), and the ones on offense and defense squared off against one another for a portion of the practice before splitting up to work on game planning against the scout teams -- Wulff had commented in postgame Saturday that the only way to really be prepared was to face the ones off against each other, and that's exactly what the Cougars did on Tuesday.

Lopina, who spent most of Tuesday's practice taking snaps from center Kenny Alfred with the first team, showed some of the reasons why the coaches opened up the position up for competition.

While he was far from perfect, his release was quick and many of his throws were accurate. When asked about the performance from the QB position on Tuesday, Wulff saw the good and the bad.

"Well...I mean, its a work in progress like every position is -- Yeah, we got some work done, but we've got to get better. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day," said Wulff, who as reported earlier, said he doesn't plan on naming a starter until gameday.

Gary Rogers is expected to see more snaps on Wednesday with the first team.

"It'll rotate here and there, (Lopina) hasn't had a lot of opportunity to get some reps with the ones all year," said Wulff.

Subscribers can listen to more from Wulff here:








TODD STURDY, the Cougars' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, didn't take long when asked about Rogers' strengths as a quarterback.

"Leadership," said Sturdy.

On Lopina, someone who hasn't taken a lot of first team snaps, he took a bit longer before answering; "His best strength is—he has a lot of savvy as a quarterback...There's a lot of ways you can look at savvy. He creates sometimes, he's able to create... I think Kevin's done some good things and deserves a chance to compete for the position."

Wulff was quoted by various media outlets in the last 10 days as saying the Cougs have installed about 50 percent of the offensive playbook. Sturdy said he wasn't sure on the exact figure at the start of Week Three but adding more to the plate, or making major adjustments, isn't a solution at this time.

"We'd like to continue to grow offensively but we can't grow until we start to do the basic things right -- and we're not to that point yet," said Sturdy.

Subscribers can listen to more from Sturdy here:








ROGERS CARRIED WITH him no sense of entitlement to the quarterback job after Tuesday's practice.

"Competition, I think, is great. It's going to bring out the best player, and that player should be rewarded with the starting job...I would like that to be me," said Rogers. "We'll see how the week goes...I think the tempo looked good. We had a lot less mental mistakes, which is nice to see out there. I think everybody's starting to gel a bit a little better and get the mental side of it, which is really needed right now."

Lopina echoed Rogers' sentiments, adding, "It wasn't mine or Gary's decision. It was the coaches' decision. I think it will bring out the best in both of us. I think we're just going to keep working hard and not get complacent, cause anything can happen."

After getting his first snaps, he had a mixed reaction to his performance. "I think I did alright for my first college snaps. But I did make mistakes that I shouldn't have. Other than that, I thought I did alright. The score didn't show in favor of the Cougs, but it was just good to get out there and get some snaps finally."

Lopina doesn't feel like a leader yet. But that will come in time. "I'm friends with everyone on the team, and I haven't really been able to show what I can do on the field—yet—to them. But hopefully if I get some snaps, I can show what I can do, and they'll rally around me on the field as well as off the field."

OVERALL, AFTER TUESDAY's practice, Wulff said he saw progress. With Wulff also making it again crystal clear earlier in the day that backups who show the staff something can earn playing time, and the possibility also exists at a few spots in addition to QB that he didn't specify for changes in the starting lineup, the Cougs came out ready to go.

"It was okay... I thought they came out and had a good attitude today, they did want to work. They came out with a good mindset -- so it was productive which is real positive," said Wulff. Lopina went even farther.

"I thought it went well. I think this was the best Tuesday we've had going up to the game week," said Lopina.

PRACTICE NOTES:
  • For what appears to be the first time this season, the first team offensive line from the previous week's game practiced together in preparation for the upcoming week's game. Barring something unforeseen, this will be the first full week that all five starters remain the same on the offensive line.

  • And the Cougs have liberally moved players around this year in practice, taking a look at backups and youth running with the ones and evaluating where they're at. Hallston Higgins manned the outside linebacker spot vacated by Corey Evans with the first team on Tuesday. Evans is expected to be ready to go by Saturday.

  • Lopina continued to show his mobility, breaking off for a pair of nice runs in practice.

  • Rogers was focused on Tuesday, displaying nice touch on several passes to second team receivers, including throws to Benny Ward and Jared Karstetter.

    APPLE CUP TICKETS:
    All remaining tickets for the Nov. 22 Apple Cup will go on sale this Saturday (Sept. 13), beginning at 10 a.m., only at wsucougars.com, WSU announced. To date, only season ticket holders have had the opportunity to purchase Apple Cup tickets; combined with the WSU student allotment and the University of Washington's allotment, this has left a limited supply of tickets available for the annual renewal of the intrastate rivalry. All tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis until the game has sold out. There will be no refunds or exchanges on tickets purchased through the online sale. Sales will be limited to 12 tickets per customer. Tickets are $60 apiece, plus a one-time $10 processing charge, which is applied to every order regardless if it's one or 12 tickets. If any tickets remain after the weekend, orders will be taken by phone at 1-800-Go-Cougs beginning Monday, Sept. 15 at 8 a.m. Any remaining premium seats in areas that require an additional donation ($30, $50 or $100 per seat) to the Athletic Foundation will also be made available on Monday by phone.
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