Cougars have more success when Lopina, the starter, was on field

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PULLMAN — Paul Wulff was purposefully coy about just how — or even whether — he’d apportion time between quarterbacks Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael in Washington State’s season opener against Stanford.

And in the end, the Cougars coach split it virtually down the middle.

Statistically, the offense seemed to operate better under the starter, Lopina, under whose direction all three WSU scores were produced.

But Wulff wasn’t ready to make any specific decisions Saturday evening.

“Both the guys did some good and there are some things we can correct with both of them,” Wulff said. “We got in some situations late in the game where we had to throw it and we weren’t as crisp and the intensity died down a little bit. Those are things we have to get better at.”

Defense adjusts

The Cougars’ defense had just two players start in the same position they played last year — end Kevin Kooyman and free safety Xavier Hicks. And a couple of the switches came in the last week of practice.

Still, considering all the juggling, co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball was satisfied with his defense.

“We knew there were going to be some mistakes made from lack of experience,” Ball said, “but off the top of my head I thought they did well, better than I thought [they would] actually.

“I thought we would have a lot more blown assignments. But they played really well.”

The late switches included moving Louis Bland, who started at the weakside linebacker at the end of last season, to the middle, a place he said he hadn’t played since Pop Warner.

“Middle was fun,” the sophomore said. “I think it fits me pretty good. It’s easy for me to read linemen. … You just kind of read your keys and go.”

Block wall

Sophomore safety Eric Block came up with the game’s biggest hit. And knocked two players out of the game.

Block, playing center field, lowered his right shoulder and caught Stanford receiver Chris Owusu, who was looking back for the ball, in the chest just after the ball arrived on a third-down pass late in the third quarter.

Owusu didn’t make the catch and did not return to the game. But neither did Block, who suffered a stinger in his shoulder and will be re-evaluated today.