NOTEBOOK: Rankin rising, QB smiling

PULLMAN -- Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael had a smile on his face following the Cougs' 59-7 shellacking of UNLV, something offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said doesn't come often from the fifth-year signal caller. But on Saturday, Lobbestael deserved to smile and smile wide. Heck, mayor Glenn Johnson should give him the key to the city.

Marshall Lobbestael's performance was one for the record books. The Oak Harbor native threw for 361 yards and five touchdowns, the first time a Cougar QB has thrown five TDs since 2007 when Alex Brink threw five against UW in a 42-35 win in the Apple Cup.

"Marshall has an unbelievable work ethic and he's an extremely committed individual," Sturdy said. My challenge to him was for him not too watch too much film, I told him to cut back on it and not to over prepare."

"I told him to smile once in a while, that helps with Marshall," Sturdy said. "He's a pretty serious young man in a great way."

Coming into the game, there were plenty of question marks surrounding Lobbestael taking over as the starter. Fans wondered in cyber space if Lobbestael could fill the starting role and lead the Cougs on an extended road of success, but Paul Wulff and his teammates said they had and have nothing but trust for the "Lobster."

"Poor guy when he started playing early, he had no supporting cast," Wulff said. "He didn't have the confidence and took some beating but now we've built that supporting cast for him to be one of the 11. He just relaxed, played football and I was very confident he was going to play well because he's a great kid, he's worked hard, and he's a great player."

"We've been playing with Marshall for five years now and we know what he can do," Jared Karstetter said. "He executed great and played even better against a better ball club. It's great for his confidence and it's great for the team. We knew Marshall could do it and we're just happy to see him out there playing so well."

As for Lobbestael, to say he's humble is like saying the sun was warm today in Pullman. During the post game press conference, he was quick to deflect credit and direct it towards his offensive line and teammates.

"It was definitely a great day and it was fun," Lobbestael said. "Guys were open and execution was the key word for us. The line gave me a ton of time and the one sack they allowed was really my fault to be honest. Guys were running great routes and they we're pretty much open all day.

"I just feel like I'm playing my role on the team as a quarterback for the Cougs. Obviously our number one guy is down so until he comes back I'm stepping in and trying to win."

As stellar as the offense was on Saturday, the defense was equally impressive. Defensive coordinator Chris Ball's unit had arguably their best performance in the past three seasons by forcing a fumble, recording two sacks, and allowing the Rebels offense to muster only 158 total yards of offense.

The Cougars were poised to record their first shutout since 2003, when they shutout the Idaho Vandals, but UNLV's Tim Cornett took a kickoff back 95-yards to the house to spoil the victory for the defense.

"I guess I just have to take it out on (Dave) Ungerer this week, that's what I have to do," Ball said with a smile. "Those things happen."

The biggest difference this week? How the second team defense was able to pick up their game -- and not allow big plays. Perhaps the biggest star for the Cougar defense in the second half was DT Brandon Rankin.

Rankin, who also saw plenty of action in the first half, looked like a man possessed on Saturday. Defensive tackles don't get the tackles, but Rankin had three, wall powerful hits on Rebel RBs right at the line of scrimmage.

"We're going to look at the last two games and put something together and start building off that," Ball said. "I think we do have something going. I think we're fast, I think we're smart and we're a year older and stronger. We got a little bit of swagger and confidence and we're going to start building on that."

"It's crazy and it's good to have a smile on my face and it's good to see my teammates with a smile on their faces," Alex Hoffman-Ellis said. "We're just enjoying ourselves out on the field because we're doing what we're supposed to do."

The Cougs are now 2-0, the first time they've started off the season with two wins since 2005. Wulff said the most fun he's having right now is coming from seeing the excitement and how happy the players are with the early success. Wulff then talked about something else, something he's been working on since the moment he arrived on campus.

"These players love each other, and that's what makes us different," Wulff said. "When you have great programs you have that continuity and you develop that trust. You develop that family, you develop the intensity and attitude."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • The temperature at kick-off was a scorching 91 degrees, and it was at least 10-15 degrees hotter on the field. The gametime temp signified the hottest game played at Martin Stadium since 1998 when the Cougs faced off against Illinois (92 degrees).

  • Redshirt freshman DE Jordan Pu'u Robinson saw action in the first quarter, his second straight game. Robinson has been practicing on and off for the last few weeks, but his surgically repaired knee looked to be at full strength on Saturday.

  • Lobbestael fired four touchdowns in the first half. It was the first time a Cougar QB has thrown four touchdowns in a half since 2004 when Josh Swogger did so against Idaho.

  • There were no injuries reported following the win on Saturday. C Andrew Roxas appeared to have suffered an ankle injury, however SID Bill Stevens confirmed that Roxas was fine, and was able to return to the game.

  • The Cougars have scored a combined 123 points in their first two games of 2011. It's the most points they scored in a two game set since 1907 when the Cougs put up 132. WSU defeated Blair Business College 86-0 and Eastern Washington 46-0.
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