Instant celebrity for new Coug scout team QB

PULLMAN -- On Monday morning, Peter Roberts was just another WSU freshman in a fraternity who thought his football playing days ended last fall at Woodinville High. On Monday afternoon, he wandered over to WSU's Rogers Field practice facility to scratch his football itch, and then spent a sleepless wondering. Tuesday afternoon in the IPF, he was readying himself to face the Cougs' No. 1 defense.

Roberts was one of 29 WSU students who attended an open tryout for scout team quarterback for the injury-plagued, depth-challenged Cougars.

After narrowing the list of candidates to four on Monday, the WSU coaching staff prolonged the agony for the survivors by announcing that one or two students would make the final cut … but their names would not be made public until they were posted outside the football office at around 9 a.m. Tuesday.


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"I did not sleep well last night," Roberts said.

Alas, the sleepless night proved worthwhile when Roberts walked down the hall at Bohler Addition and discovered that he was the one tryout participant selected to join the Cougars.

"When I saw my name on the paper, I was like, ‘Wow -- I made it,"' Roberts said.

Roberts is no slouch as a quarterback -- he passed for over 1,600 yards according to the Seattle Times and made the All-Kingco second team last year -- but he received no football scholarship offers. He considered walking on at Central Washington or another small college, but settled on WSU because of the architecture school.

Roberts' football "retirement" ended abruptly -- and happily.

"This was a chance for me to put those pads back on and get out there and throw the ball around," he said. "Ever since that last (high school) football game, I've missed it like crazy."

Roberts is under no illusions of grandeur about his role on the Cougars. The scout team quarterback tries his best to emulate the quarterback of WSU's upcoming opponent -- period. Coach Paul Wulff made it clear he has no plans to use Roberts in a game, and he's not guaranteed a spot on the team beyond this fall.

Roberts said that suits him just fine.

"It doesn't matter if it's scout team," he said. "I'm still on the team."

Not only that, but Roberts became an instant celebrity on campus.

"People just come and talk to you: ‘Are you Peter Roberts?' And it's, ‘Yeah,'" a smiling Roberts told a small mob of reporters after his first practice Tuesday afternoon.

Starting quarterback Marshall Lobbestael said Roberts "looked good" at practice. The newest Cougar said he found the college game -- even in practice -- far more challenging than high school football.

"It's twice as fast," he said, "and you have so many more people looking at you. You have to perform 110 percent every single play, so the pressure is enormous."

Roberts was given a light practice load Tuesday, but he said, "It was a little hard getting used to everything. Coming in halfway through the season, all the guys know what they're doing and I'm kind of blank.

"It's hard to get the cadence down and all the basics. Once I get those, it should flow a little bit better."

"It's the first day -- I'm sure he's swimming right now in the head," Lobbestael said. "He must think our calls and lingo on offense is really crazy, but he did good with it. He tried hard."

Roberts said he won't soon forget his first practice as a college football player -- and not just because NFL legend Mean Joe Greene dropped by practice to scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"My phone has just been blowing up," Roberts said. "All my friends back home have been calling me.

"It's been a great day."

Wulff thinks Roberts will have an even better day in two weeks when he runs through the Martin Stadium tunnel for the first time at WSU's game with USC.

"I'm assuming he'll get a heck of an ovation at our next home game," Wulff said.

SEVERAL INJURED COUGARS who missed the UCLA game rejoined the team for practice but running back Chris Ivory and offensive lineman Steven Ayers remained sidelined.

Quarterback Kevin Lopina returned to practice in non-contact drills Tuesday. Wulff and football trainer Bill Drake said they believe Lopina may be able to play at Stanford on Nov. 1 following WSU's only bye week. Lopina suffered a fractured vertebrae in his back during his second start Sept. 20 versus Portland State. Wulff said "we'll wait and see" how the starting quarterback job will be handled once Lopina regains full health.

Tyson Pencer, a freshman offensive lineman who is redshirting, underwent shoulder surgery last week. Drake said Pencer should be ready for some or all workouts by spring practice.

WULFF, CITING STIFF winds, moved practice into the Cougs' Indoor Practice Facility (IPF) for the first time this fall.

LEADING THE PAC-10 is Cougar wide receiver Brandon Gibson, with 36 catches and 460 receiving yards.

WULFF SAID THE ailing hips of center Kenny Alfred may have led to some of the low snaps to Lobbestael in shot gun formations at UCLA. "He's playing in a lot of pain," Wulff said.

THE COUGARS' league-leading 49 penalties included a rare sideline interference call last Saturday against UCLA. Wulff said an official bumped into a coach kneeling on the sideline and that the sideline interference penalty was a point of emphasis this year.

WASHINGTON STATE STILL has 2,000 tickets left for USC and the final home game, the Apple Cup, Nov. 22 against Washington. At least nine Cougar games will be televised this season, generating slightly more than $1 million for WSU.

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, noting that rain was forecast last Saturday in Pasadena, said a "Palouse-like downpour" might impact the game. For the record, Pullman's average annual rainfall is slightly less than in Pasadena. A light rain fell throughout the first half Saturday.

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