Questions at quarterback

THE COUGARS didn't just lose a game on Saturday. They lost three players to injury, two starters and a special teams standout, for Idaho. They lost some confidence in their ability to catch the football. The running game was ground to a halt for the second straight week. Oh, and there's also the small matter of who'll be under center when the offense lines up Saturday. Coach <b>Bill Doba</b> discusses all this and more -- including how the decision to make the change at quarterback unfolded.

So, will it be Josh Swogger or Alex Brink?

There hasn't been a decision made on the starting quarterback for Idaho, coach Bill Doba said Sunday night.

"I don't know," said Doba. "They're meeting with coach (Timm) Rosenbach. I haven't got all the grade sheets in yet, they're still working on that too. Both of them had plusses, and both of them had some minuses."

When will they make that call? Not anytime soon, apparently. "We'll talk about that as a staff and we'll talk to the kids first and make that decision later in the week...If there's a clear cut one, I'll let you know."

Doba went on to say he had no timetable for when an announcement would be made, in part because of the questions both players will have to field after one is named starter..and the other is not. It probably also wouldn't hurt for Idaho to have to prepare for both.

Doba reaffirmed he doesn't want a two quarterback system, saying he continues to want one guy to step up.

For those wondering how the decision came about to insert Brink at quarterback, coach Rosenbach called down to Doba and said he'd like to bring in the redhsirt freshman. Doba then gave Rosenbach the go-ahead.

When asked what he had told Swogger after the game, Doba said he hadn't had a chance to talk to him too much but did tell the co-captain to "keep his chin up" and that it certainly wasn't all on Swogger.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE GAME, Doba had said Swogger's velocity was at least partly why some of those balls were dropped. But after watching game tape, it didn't appear as big a factor as he originally thought.

"That ball really isn't that hard to catch. It didn't look (like too much velocity) on tape, like it did during the game to me -- I was surprised when I watched the tape this morning. We've just got to catch it. And there's times you've got to zing it or its going to get picked." Doba did say some of Swogger's throws were a little off-target and that had an impact as well.

Given the week of practice leading up to the game, there wasn't any indication the receivers would have problems catching the football.

"Its starting to become an issue where they're playing not to drop instead of just relaxing and catching the football," said Doba. "They caught 'em well in practice but we've got to just relax and play -- right now we're playing not to make mistakes."

DOBA CONTINUES TO feel the team is close to getting the running game going.

"And we're so close on the run at times. We've got the guy blocked but he gets a hand out and trips him, or the hole is inside and he bounces outside...there were three or four chances where we could have had big runs."

There are no planned changes on the offensive line. "No. I don't think so. Not just yet."

AFTER COMING OUT of the New Mexico game relatively unscathed, that damned injury bug bit -- and bit hard -- on Saturday.

Steve Cook (sprained knee) is "very doubtful" for this week and possibly for Arizona as well the following week. Doba said early indications are Ropati Pitoitua suffered a high ankle sprain. It isn't know how long the defensive tackle would be out but he's almost certainly out for the Idaho game barring a miraculous recovery. "They think its a high ankle sprain and that just kind of depends on the guy sometimes.. (almost) rather have a break than that high ankle sprain," Doba said.

Brian Winter, just put on scholarship Thursday after being a walk-on the last four years, and who has played a big role on special teams this year, has a fractured fibula. He is out for 3-4 weeks. "He's a good kid. He earned it (the scholarship.) He got it the old fashioned way," said Doba.

Both Will Derting and Hamza Abdullah had their casts temporarily removed for treatment and exercises. They'll be casted again on Monday. This routine of removing the cast, treatment and then re-casting, will probably continue for another 4-5 weeks for the two defensive captains.

Odell Howard and especially Aaron Johnson both drew praise from Doba for their play in place of the injured Cook and Pitoitua. Good thing, as they'll be the starters at defensive tackle this week. Bryan Olson could see some time there as well. Given the number of quality defensive ends the Cougs have, Doba said they could also move Braidwood inside; an idea the coaches considered before Pitoitua went out and seized the job this fall. "We'll have to shuffle that line a little bit, " Doba said.

Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring) wasn't able to get warmed up Saturday, he remains doubtful for next week as well.

Also drawing praise from Doba was true freshman Michael Bumpus. "I thought he did a great job on punt returns. He let the ball bounce a couple times, we'd like to see him go up and catch those but for a freshman in that arena, I thought he did a nice job," said Doba. Bumpus had 6 returns for 61 yards and would have had more yardage had a penalty not forced a re-kick.

LOOKING AHEAD, coach Doba drew a parallel to 2003.

"We're right where we were a year ago," Doba said forcefully.

"We're 1-1. (Like the defeat at Notre Dame), we just lost to a team we felt we could have beaten...Last year we sucked it up and went on to have a good season. And thats what we plan to do this year."

Still, this isn't last year's team. Doba and the coaching staff had to set the tone after the defeat.

"They're a little bit younger than the team was a year ago. Some of the kids, we had to explain to them how to behave after a loss. (For some of them) it might not mean quite as much as it does to a senior when he knows this is his last go-around."

Doba also made sure this loss will be put to bed by Tuesday, and that the team will move forward. The message appears to be: Take an education from it, and then come back strong.

To that end, the team worked hard Sunday and paid rapt attention in the meeting. Doba also left little doubt he believes this team will come back just fine.

"(Sunday) they ran really, really hard. It was a solemn mood. And I told them; 'I'm hurting -- and they should be too. But I won't be Tuesday.' And neither will they.."

Cougfan Top Stories