He was the last player leaving the practice field Wednesday, which is nothing new for Kevin Lopina. Ask anyone around the Washington State...
PULLMAN — He was the last player leaving the practice field Wednesday, which is nothing new for Kevin Lopina.
Ask anyone around the Washington State football team, and they’ll tell you the starting quarterback might be battling harder than anyone in this disastrous season.
Nothing has come easily.
He wasn’t given the starting job in August. It went to Gary Rogers, the first of five quarterbacks to line up behind an offensive line that made the job a hazardous one.
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Then, after unseating Rogers in early September, Lopina was knocked out of his second start with a back injury that sidelined him for three games.
It would have been longer, but coaches were forced to hurry Lopina back against USC after Marshall Lobbestael was lost for the season with a knee injury.
So today, in the depths of the ruins, there stands Lopina — with no touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, and naturally getting the lion’s share of the blame around campus for one of the biggest disasters in Pac-10 history.
“Honestly, we’re very happy with where he’s at right now,” said quarterback coach Todd Sturdy. “He’s running the offense well. He just really has a great feel for the game and overall understanding of what we’re trying to do here. Not all guys on this team do.”
Lopina has been victim to several factors, including the growing pains of learning a new offense that he seems to have a better grasp of than those around him.
“You know those 10 interceptions are not really all poor choices on his part,” coach Paul Wulff said. “He’s had some things that haven’t always been his fault, in terms of protection breakdowns or a dropped pass for an interception or a receiver not doing the right thing that has caused an interception.”
Coaches say the position will be an open competition next season, but Lopina says he plans on winning the spot in his senior season.
“Hopefully we can continue improving these last three games,” Lopina said. “We put up 28 points. Now if we can just eliminate those turnovers, who knows what we can put up.”
• RB Chris Ivory is out again. He returned to practice this week only to re-strain his hamstring. LB Myron Beck (broken hand) will also miss the game, but he should return next week once doctors are able to put a cast around his hand. Swelling has prevented that.
• CB Tyrone Justin is doubtful and LB Andy Mattingly is questionable, but Wulff said he expects both RB Dwight Tardy and DE Kevin Kooyman to be ready and to start Saturday. TE Devin Frischknecht also is expected to play.