Sturdy says Lobbestael needs one thing

PULLMAN – Paul Wulff was succinct Wednesday while watching his defense go through a few extra paces after the rest of the team had finished for the evening. "A lot of ground to make up ..." was all he said. The D's troubles started from the get go in its face off with the No. 1 offense. On the first play, Marshall Lobbestael fired a long-distance thing of beauty to Jeshua Anderson.

Anderson bobbled the ball before bringing it under control and sprinting to the end zone. Lobbestael then victimized the defense with a TD pass to Daniel Blackledge.

Offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said he likes what he sees in the 6-3, 199-pound Lobbestael and that there's no secret to what the lad needs to get better.

"He just needs reps, and that's it ... He's got some game time under his belt, so it's better than coming in completely cold," Sturdy said. "He just needs reps. Obviously Oregon's team speed and things of that nature are a little quicker than what he had last week, that's just a fact. He'll have to adjust.

"He's got all the tools necessary to be a real good quarterback. He's well on his way to having a great career...the more reps he gets, his development is going to continue to move forward. It'll be a little different for him this week, because he's preparing this week to be the starter, and last week he was preparing to be the third guy, so it's a whole different process," Sturdy said.

He added, "Last week kinda happened. He went in and did a great job and executed. Now it's just different. Now it's, I'm the starter, and I'm preparing for a game, so we'll see how he handles it."

Lobbestael is making the most of the opportunity. Twenty minutes after practice ended, he was still on the field firing passes to Brandon Gibson with walk-on receiver Jeffrey Solomon playing defense.

AT LINEBACKER, WHERE injuries have taken a toll, Myron Beck, Louis Bland and Greg Trent took most of the snaps with the first team. Ken Dunn, normally a starter, took snaps with the twos as he works his way back from an ankle injury that sidelined him last week. Freshman Tyree Toomer also took turns with the twos. The Cougar coaching staff declined to comment on the planned starting lineup for this Saturday.

On offense, there was some good news on the injury front. Lineman Andrew Roxas was in pads and took some snaps with the first-team. "He has a shot (at playing against Oregon)," said Wulff. "He hasn't gone full speed in 3 or 4 weeks … so we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

Roxas was positive about his first time back in the trenches. "It felt great, just getting back into the rhythm of things." He also talked about his relationship with Lobbestael. "We spend maybe too much time together. It's cool, he's a good guy and I think he's going to do well Saturday. He works hard...he's been preparing pretty hard, so I think he'll be ready."

• So if disaster struck, do the Cougars have a fourth-string quarterback behind Lobbestael, J.T. Levenseller and Dan Wagner? Sturdy answered the question cryptically: "It's a work in progress. I'll leave you with that." At least four other Cougars – defensive backs Xavier Hicks, Kevin Frank and Eric Block and linebacker Kevin Baffney – turned in some notable quarterback play in high school. In fact, Baffney and Block each won state titles.

• Offensive lineman Micah Hannam injured an ankle in practice but staff didn't believe it was serious.

• Wulff said the practice generally went well Wednesday. "It was a grind practice. It was one of those deals where they had a long practice and they worked hard at it, and they got through with some improvement," he said. "It wasn't as spirited emotionally as it was yesterday, but I think we got work done...there were some signs they were improved. Today was OK. We were a little more sluggish today, but we were hard on em today, there were a lot of mental things we asked them to do. It was OK."

• The Cougars rank No. 82 nationally in total offense. Oregon ranks No. 7. The Cougs are No. 97 in defense, the Ducks No. 59.

• With an average of 42.85 yards per kick, Cougar punter Reid Forrest ranks 24th in the nation.

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