Monday, August 31 2009 11:39 AM EDT2009-08-31 16:39:15 GMT
(Photo: File / WSU Athletics)
PULLMAN - The identity of Washington State University's starting quarterback in the season opener against Stanford? Coach Paul Wulff answered that question SundayMore >>
PULLMAN - The identity of Washington State University's starting quarterback in the season opener against Stanford? Coach Paul Wulff answered that question Sunday. It will be senior Kevin Lopina. But the Cougars' No. 1 quarterback is still to be determined.More >>
Wulff looking for quarterbacks to step up vs. Stanford
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Cougars are getting in the last few moments of practice before Saturday's season opener at home against Stanford.
For fans, Saturday's game will be an opportunity to see how far Washington State has come during the offseason. For coaches and players, it will be that and more. The game against Stanford is also the conference opener, and a chance for the newly-named starting quarterback to prove he can get the job done.
Coach Paul Wulff named senior Kevin Lopina as the starter earlier this week. But don't be surprised if sophomore Marshall Lobbestael gets some playing time too. In fact, Wulff said you can expect it.
"They're both earned the right to play. They've both done a good job during the offseason to prove themselves," said Wulff. "They've improved. It's still competitive and hopefully one of them is going to take a huge step, hopefully both of them. But ultimately we need one of them to step up on gameday."
Lopina, the senior of the two quarterbacks, knows he has competition. Sharing playing time - at least initially - is something with which he's comfortable, but it's also evident he wants to be the go-to guy for the Cougars.
"I know Marshall's probably going to play, and that's fine," said Lopina. "Whatever coaches want to do, as long as we get this win. But I'm a senior. This is my last time. It's my last go-round and have to embrace it."
Going strictly by history, the odds of Washington State winning on Saturday are in the Cougars' favor. Wazzu is 75-33-3 all-time in home opener, though to be fair, not every home opener is a Pac-10 conference game. Since 1990, the Cougars boast a 13-6 record in home debuts, and are 23-11 dating back to the start of the 1975 season.
Another interesting statistic to watch, beginning with Saturday's game against Stanford, will be how many rushing yards running back Dwight Tardy can rack up. Tardy, a redshirt senior, could become the first known running back in school history to lead the Cougars in rushing in four consecutive seasons. Dating back as fas as 1942, only three backs have led WSU in rushing in three consecutive seasons (Tardy, Shaumbe Wright-Fair and Tim Harris.
Notes: Senior tight end Tony Thompson will wear No. 14 this year, the same number worn by his father, Jack Thompson, when he played for WSU 1975-78. Thompson's No. 14 is one of just two numbers to be retired. The other is No. 7 in honor of Mel Hein.