Happy Thursday Coug Nation. I guess it's true, as someone commented yesterday, that we are entering the dreaded "dog days" of fall camp. The weather is hot, the players are roughly halfway through camp, feeling fatigued/beat up, and they know that they still have a ways to go before camp winds down. It's a mental challenge, and only natural that the players might appear a little ragged right about now. Per Grippi, the most players to miss a practice thus far - ten - occurred yesterday, and the intensity took a drop. It was mentioned from the Seattle Times that UW's recent practice had a ragged, fatigued look to it, so probably a lot of programs right now are dealing with a juice-drop. Wulff concurs:
“Early in practice we got them woke up and they did some good things,” Wulff said. “But we kind of fizzled. Our intensity level dropped. And so a lot of things, we weren’t real crisp in what we were doing on both sides of the ball.
“We had a good tough day (Tuesday) but we need to respond off of that. We didn’t. … They realized it, but we have to grow. If we learn from this, it’s a good learning lesson. If we don’t learn from it, obviously it wasn’t.”
What can you do, but press on? Kind of like running up a huge hill, and you are struggling about halfway through it. Do you look at the finish line and feel a little overwhelmed by what's in front of you? Or should you just put your head down and focus on the next step? The answer is obvious, but it's easier said (or written on a blog) than done!
I know this was from Tuesday, and it yet AGAIN touches on the QB situation (I know, I know), but it's a pretty good read in case you missed it. Kevin Lopina at least has a swagger/chip on his shoulder about what happened last year and the villagers who are massing at the gates, pitchforks in hand. But about last season....
“It happened,” Lopina said. “It’s not like I didn’t complete any passes (87 of 153 for 57 percent). I completed a lot of passes, we just couldn’t get it in the end zone. Even in the run game, we struggled.”
You know what? He's right. The running game was a struggle last year, from beginning to end. The offensive line was patchwork, from week one until the latter part of the year. The QB's were battered beyond anything we've seen in Pullman. It was a DISASTER.
Knowing all that we know about last year, all the on-the-field/off-the-field issues that crippled this team from the day Wulff took the job, how can we REALLY forecast what is going to happen this year? How do we really know what he is capable of? Do you know how many passes Lopina threw last year in game situations before he was knocked out vs. Portland State? 50. 50 passes as a healthy QB before the injury took so much out of the tank. Those 50 passes were his first-ever NCAA passes as well. Is it really fair to judge a QB off his first 50 passes as a healthy QB, in a brand new system with so many new skill-position players in every direction, even if he is an upper-classman?
Look, Lopina by all accounts is a great guy. I talked with someone over the weekend who met him when he played at De La Salle, and was extremely impressed by the young man. The quote was that he "talked like he was an attorney" as a high school senior, and was a real leader of that team. And we all remember last year, when he chose to step forward from the ranks after the 58-0 Stanford wipe-out and call out the quitters. And hell, the guy overcame fractures in his vertebrae to give everything he had down the stretch in a lost cause of a season. Wouldn't it have been easier for him to just say "you know, I'll just take the rest of the year off, let the injuries heal, and we'll go get 'em next year!" Instead he gets out there as soon as he possibly can, probably too early according to a lot of people, and guts it out.
I know the whole QB situation is causing some angst right now, but I'm coming around on Lopina. He is out there in camp earning this job, and that much cannot be denied. I want to see what a healthy Lopina can do, with a year's experience under his belt, along with a bigger, stronger O-line, a deeper core of running backs, and a bunch of young receivers who at least now have the first-year yips out of their system. If he emerges from camp as the starter, so be it. Let's rally around him and hope he proves the coaches right with an on-the-field performance that returns this team to the victory column. Sound good?
ENJOY YOUR DAY, as always, AND GO COUGS!