Has Gary Rogers ignited QB controversey?

AUBURN – While brief, quarterback Gary Rogers gave the Cougar faithful the most eye-popping launch of a career this side of legendary Jack Thompson at Minnesota in 1976. In the one series coaches had pre-ordained for the third-year sophomore from Mukilteo, he was nothing less than extraordinary. As a bookend to starter Alex Brink's woes, could another QB controversy be brewing on the Palouse?

After last year's never-ending fan debate -- Brink vs. Josh Swogger, who is now the starting quarterback at Montana -- Cougar head coach Bill Doba clearly has no appetite for another one.

But it's hard not to speculate given what transpired at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Entering the game a little more than halfway through the third quarter, Rogers completed five straight passes, the last of them producing the Cougars' second and final touchdown of the night when he found tight end Cody Boyd alone down the middle.

The drive covered 90 yards. Along the way, Rogers hit four different receivers: Michael Bumpus for nine yards, Brandon Gibson for nine, Jason Hill for ten and Boyd twice -- his only catches of the evening -– for seven and 50 yards.

Suddenly, the would-be -- and, as it turned out, subsequent -- rout was off. The Cougars had pulled to within 26-14 of the No. 4 team in the nation and the momentum, also aided by some resurgent work by the Cougar defense, was turning crimson.

To put the enormity of Rogers' work into perspective, consider the following.

• The Cougars took possession of the ball at their own 10, with the Auburn defense and more than 87,000 vocal fans smelling game, set and match.
• Six of the Cougars' previous eight possessions lasted no more than four plays.
• Rogers came into the game having thrown a whopping five collegiate passes (completing two) – all against USC last year when the game was out of reach.

As scripted by the coaching staff as part of the game plan, though, the 6-7, 234-pound Rogers returned to the sidelines after the lone series, and didn't come back until mop-up time.

Asked if he considered leaving Rogers in the game after his perfect work, Doba was straightforward. First, he said, the plan all along, as both quarterbacks knew, was for Rogers to get one series. And second, leaving him in would have sent Brink -– making his 17th career start -- a harsh message he has no interest in sending.

Rogers, too, was straightforward about his time at center stage.

Talking about the scoring aerial to Boyd, he said, "I was in shotgun. I noticed they had a single safety I dropped back, looked to the left and found Cody wide open. I just didn't want to miss him."

Asked if he thought there now will be whispers of a quarterback controversy, he said, "I have no idea. I'll leave that up to the coaches."

It was a tough night for Brink. He completed 11 of 24 passes for just 67 yards. He threw one TD pass – a 2-yarder to Hill that put WSU ahead 7-6 in the first quarter – and had one ball intercepted.

Former WSU head coach Jim Walden, working as the Cougars' radio color commentator, said after the game that he thought Rogers showed outstanding poise and leadership – more so than Brink.

Auburn's cornerbacks played bump-and-run and stuck to the Cougar wide receivers like flypaper taking away the deep ball.

The Cougars' longest pass play besides Boyd's TD catch was only 16 yards. Said Hill, "Their scheme was better than we thought. We weren't able to adapt to it. They played with a lot of safety help, and the middle was wide open. We just didn't hit it early in the game."

On defense the Cougars hung tough with a bend-but-don't-break attitude keeping the game close despite the Cougar offense's lack of production.

Auburn's offense had the ball on the Washington State side of the field five times in the first half but only came away with four John Vaughn field goals and one touchdown.

Fatigue reared its ugly head in the fourth quarter, though, and Auburn's pack of running backs smashed through the Cougar line and ran the clock down while adding a few scores.

"Our tackling was inconsistent. We did make them kick field goals," said WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey. "Our kids continued to fight. We had their effort the entire night. We have to take things that were good and build off them."

WSU's leading tacklers were Eric Frampton (7.5), Greg Trent (6.5) and Mkristo Bruce and Scott Davis with six tackles each – plus one sack each. Defensive tackle Aaron Johnson, playing much of the second half with a deep bruise on his hip and back, had two sacks.


Alex Brink was sacked on three of the Cougars' first four snaps -- a shocking development in light of the fact the Cougs surrendered just 18 sacks all of last season, the best protection rate in the Pac-10.

WSU's streak of 15 straight games with a 100-yard rusher came to an end. The last time the Cougars did not have a 100-yard rusher was October 2004 against USC when Jerome Harrison fell just short with 98 yards. Woolridge had 86 rushing yards before leaving the game early in the second half with a deep thigh bruise. Derrell Hutsona (6 carries, 36 yards) and Dwight Trady (four carries, 12 yards) filled in for Woolridge.

Auburn outgained WSU 484 yards to 274 and held a seven minute advantage in time of possession. Perhaps most interesting from a statistical perspective was the number of touchbacks on kickoffs. Seven times the Cougs couldn't return the ball.

Cody Boyd's 50-yard TD reception was the longest of his career, surpassing a 39-yard catch against Grambling last season.

Were it not for two drops – by Derrell Hutsona and Michael Bumpus -- in the game's waning moments, Gary Rogers would have completed 7 of his first 7 passes. As it was, he finished 6-for-9, covering 83 yards.

Jason Hill increased his school record for touchdown receptions to 26 after catching a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

The Cougars' string of five consecutive wins in season-openers was snapped. The Cougs had defeated Nevada, New Mexico, and next week's opponent, Idaho, three times. WSU is now 1-6 lifetime against teams from the Southeastern Conference.

Auburn's Kenny Irons gained 223 all-purpose yards, a career high. He finished with 181 yards on the ground. WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey was impressed. "He is as good as he is billed. He is a damn good back. He has my Heisman vote."

Auburn kicker John Vaughn kicked a career-long field goal -- twice. His 44-yarder in the first quarter broke his previous long of 43 yards in 2004. In the second quarter, he boomed a 52-yarder.


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