Lopina stakes a big claim for QB job

PULLMAN -- Paul Wulff remained mum on a starting quarterback Friday after the Cougars' final scrimmage of fall camp, joking that "one of two guys" would be behind center for the Sept. 5 season opener. But senior Kevin Lopina clearly put a super-charge in his chances. He set the tone on the very first play from scrimmage, tossing a beautiful 41-yard strike to freshman Gino Simone.

In all, Lopina completed 9-of-11 passes for 123 yards, no interceptions and a seven-yard touchdown pass to Simone -- one of four passes Simone caught on the afternoon for 56 yards.

Lopina did most of his handywork on one series, when he went 8-of-9 for 72 yards and the touchdown. One completion was a nifty 37-yarder to Jared Karstetter who slipped under defensive back Anthony Houston to get position on the inside and then adjusted perfectly to haul in the catch.

"I felt confident and comfortable out there, when I'm running the offense I feel really good," said Lopina. "I've been here for two years now so it's just a matter of execution."

Sophomore QB Marshall Lobbestael was no slouch himself. He was efficient, completing 7-of-13 passes for 88 yards, no INTs and no TDs.

"I just wanted them to continue to do things they've been coached to do whether it's run or pass and make the right decision on where they need to go with the ball and that's the bottom line," said Wulff.

Wulff said he won't make a decision on his starting quarterback until Tuesday.

A NUMBER OF NOTABLES didn't participate in the scrimmage or played minimally. Among them were running backs Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz, and Marcus Richmond, and defensive tackle Toby Turpin. With those guys out – either for minor dings or purely preventative reasons -- freshmen back Carl Winston saw the majority of time running with the 1's, and defensive tackle Josh Luapo joined Bernard Wolfgramm at d-tackle, while Kevin Kooyman and Travis Long saw the majority of first-team action at defensive end.

Both Kooyman and Long registered sacks, as did freshman walk-on linebacker Josh Garrett. Winston carried the ball six times for nine yards and a TD, while fellow freshman Arthur Burns also carried six times for nine yards. Tardy saw limited action only going in for one play. Wulff explained that there are really no serious injuries to those players, and it was more of a preventative thing.

The defensive line played well throughout the day, getting to the quarterback quickly and shutting down the running game.

"I like the progress our d-line has made and Coach Malik Roberson does a tremendous job with those guys and really does a good job fundamentally and getting those kids into believing the techniques they're taught. They did a real good job today controlling the line of scrimmage," said co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears.

Wulff explained there is still a possibility Jeshua Anderson (hamstring), and Jeffrey Solomon (ankle) will be able to go against Stanford, and cornerback Brandon Jones has made significant progress with his sprained ankle. Jones was warming up with the team and was spotted running and making cuts on the sidelines with no hesitation.

Meanwhile Anderson and Solomon were also running at a higher speed on the sideline, providing coach Wulff and his offense some excitement off the field.

The special teams unit also impressed Firday, with punter Reid Forest and safety Xavier Hicks leading the way. Early on after a 3-and out with Lobbestael operating with the 2's, Hicks broke open and blocked a Dan Wagner punt with ease. Hicks could have walked into the end-zone, but Wulff called the play dead.

Forest showcased some of his talents by drilling two punts inside the 10-yard-line. His first punt went 37 yards and was downed at the 7, while his most impressive kick of the day was a 62-yarder that was downed at the 2.

After a struggle in Thursday's practice knocking down 35-yarders, place kicker Nico Grasu looked good hitting a 30-yarder trey and knocking in both of his PAT attempts.

All in all, Wulff said he was happy with the way the team played Friday, and said he's excited to start game-prepping for Stanford.

"I think it's time for that and you can have too much practice where you just get to be real sluggish but I don't think this team's done that -- they've done a heck of a job but I think it's time to get into some game preparation," said Wulff.

NOTABLE: Receiver Kevin Norrell had an unbelievable 30-yard catch that was ruled incomplete by the officials. Norrell used great foot work and dove full extension on the grab.

Cougfan.com Recommended Stories