Cougar Notebook: 'Ocho Rojo' is all the buzz

PULLMAN -- Washington State tight end Tony Thompson, whose dad Jack "The Throwin' Samoan" Thompson was blessed with the greatest nickname in WSU history, came up Saturday with a catchy new moniker for quarterback Marshall Lobbestael. And by all accounts, the name has swept through the Cougar locker room like wild fire.

Ocho Rojo. That's Spanish for "Eight Red."

And that's Lobbestael's new handle, courtesy of Thompson. It's a takeoff on Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson's recent announcement that he was changing his name to his jersey number, Ocho Cinco (or 8-5).

Lobbestael, the second-year freshman from Oak Harbor, wears number 8 (ocho). We're not sure if the rojo (red) refers to his carrot-top hair or jersey color.

Or perhaps it's a reference to the fact the former Washington state high school player of the year was red-hot on Saturday, completing 9 of 12 passes for 149 yards and two TDs. His work earned him Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Regardless, reports from Cougar players are that it's a name that will stick.

IF KEVIN LOPINA ISN'T ready for action this weekend against Oregon, one question rises to the fore: Who will be Lobbestael's understudy? Do the Cougs go with second-year walk-on, and part-time punter, Dan Wagner? Or do they, if their hand is forced, burn freshman J.T. Levenseller's redshirt?

Asked right after the Portland State game who he would go with if Lobbestael followed Rogers and Lopina to the infirmary, head coach Paul Wulff said Wagner would get the call.

Both Wagner and Levenseller have some serious numbers on their resumes.

Wagner, from Jesuit High in Portland, missed all of his prep junior year with a broken leg but came back as a senior in 2006 to lead Jesuit to a 13-0 record and the Oregon Class 6A championship. He completed 65 percent of his passes for more than 1,900 yards; had 19 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Levenseller was 23-2 as a two-year starting quarterback at Pullman High, and led the Greyhounds to the 2005 2A state title with a 14-0 record. In his two years at the helm he passed for more than 3,000 yards, fired 27 TDs and rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

COUGAR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN Vaughn Lesuma, well known for his loyalty (family members are asked not to wear purple in his presence), and friendly demeanor (he was one of CF.C's favorites to talk to when being recruited by the Cougars in the fall of '06), offered up some heartfelt passion after Saturday's win over Portland State. His remarks focused on Gary Rogers and the hold-your-breath injury he suffered as a result of A late hit in the third quarter.

"Seeing that, it's personal, so we got fired up as a unit. We said, this is just a joke. They're (PSU) not even competing. We wanted to have a good, clean competitive game and some guys are trying to be dirty. We took that as an offense. And we went out there and hammered three in a row (TDs) at them."

Lesuma, formerly a left tackle, played for the first time at left guard in the game. In his place at left tackle was Joe Eppele, the big Canadian who made his first-ever start. Eppele got off to a rough start, getting flagged for a holding penalty on the Cougs' first offensive snap. But by game's end, Lesuma was singing his praises: "He did a great job."

Lesuma, a senior, also had praise for the work of walk-on center Chris Prummer of Renton, who took over for starter Kenny Alfred once the game was out of reach.


Lobbestael also had high praise for the guys in the trenches. "There were plays where I tried to act calm, but the line knew that I hadn't gotten many snaps and they were ready to do anything they needed to protect me."

Senior tight end Devin Frischknecht, who teamed with Lobbestael on a 53-yard scoring aerial, said he liked what he saw in the young signal caller. "He doesn't just look for the tight end, he looks for any receiver. He's obviously a good quarterback. He showed it today."

Frischknecht's TD catch came after he spotted something in the PSU defense. "It was open all night. I just went off to the coaches, and said, It's open. Marshall came in and he threw it right to me. Once I caught it, I knew I was going to score a touchdown...they just couldn't bring me down, I guess."

THE OH-SO-CLOSE AWARD Saturday had to go to Cougar cornerback Tyrone Justin, who snagged what appeared to be spectacular interceptions in both the first and third quarters. Both times, officials ruled that the ball touched the ground. Replays showed that the officials clearly blew the first call. And the second one? . "I scooped it, I had it, I thought I had it," said Justin, a second-year freshman from Van Nuys, Calif. "It looked like I had it on tape ... That's how it goes! I wish I could have it back. That was an interception. I'm gonna get it next time."

Sophomore linebacker Hallston Higgins, making his first-ever start, had a dream beginning to his first college start. He intercepted a PSU pass on the first play of the game. "It kinda felt like it came straight to me. It was great. I couldn't have planned it any better, how it happened. I'm just glad I caught it, and I tried to hang onto it."

Note: You can hear additional comments from Higgins, Lobbestael, Frischknecht and Brandon Gibson via the audio clips linked below.

Fellow linebacker Greg Trent also had an interception Saturday. And like Higgins, it was the first of his career, Unlike Higgins, it look Trent 33 starts to get his hands on the ball. Trent said it brought back memories of interception drills during the Cougars' summer workouts, when tight end Tony Thompson promised Trent he would get his first interception this season despite the middle linebacker's inability one day to hang on to a couple throws in the drills.


• Kickoff for Saturday's game with Oregon is set for 3:15 pm. The Ducks are favored by 19 1/2. It will be Homecoming in Pullman. FSN will be broadcasting the contest and The Village Pub in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood will have its 28 flat screens tuned in and great $5 drink and food specials on the menu.

• Be sure to check out KJR-AM Radio's weekly "Crimson and Gray" podcast with Jason Puckett and Jason Gesser. The hour-long program airs each week and goes on-line every Wednesday at midnight at .


Marshall Lobbestael --

Devin Frischknecht --

Hallston Higgins --

Brandon Gibson --

Cougfan Top Stories