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Mackay visits WSU practice


From basketball to football. The sound you heard was me grinding my gears. Or teeth. I'm not sure. Anyhow, we have the unedited version of my story on the chemistry between quarterback and receivers. Oh, and some notes on this Veteran's Day, including a surprise visitor to practice. Read on.

• After Cory Mackay was injured in an automobile accident last spring, breaking his back and necessitating surgery, the Cougar defensive end said the fact he was in a wheelchair would not stop him from returning to Pullman and resuming his education. Well today, Mackay was on campus, making sure everything is in place for his return for second semester. Despite the cold, damp conditions, Mackay wheeled himself out to practice where he conversed with his teammates and coaches, getting hugs, handshakes and hellos from just about everyone. Maybe his presence also had something to do with the intense nature of practice, who knows? But no matter what, he was happy to be here and his teammates were happy to have him. We talked for a couple minutes and Mackay said he's working hard on his rehab – his upper body is still huge – and he's looking forward to getting back to Pullman. He has an apartment, he said, "near his friends." Then he excuse himself because he wanted to head over to where the defensive linemen were working and "give them some crap." ... A I said, practice was intense, in marked contrast to Tuesday's rather lackluster effort. There were some big hits in drills – Carl Winston was singled out for a great blitz pickup, the pad-pop heard 50 yards away – and some big plays in team sessions. ... Jeff Tuel was in sweats again today and Marshall Lobbestael took a majority of the snaps. ... Chima Nwachukwu came out dressed – the tape around his ankles was impressive – and tried to go. But he didn't last too long and headed back inside. ... Bernard Wolfgramm was padded up but didn't not take part in team drills. ... Jesse Feagin, still sidelined with a broken hand, had an extended family member die this week and is in Los Angeles for the funeral. ... Steven Ayers was moving much better today and looks as if he'll be the starter Saturday. ... Jack Thompson, WSU and World Vision will try to "fill the helmet" Saturday, raising money for tsunami relief in Samoa.

• Here's is the story ...

PULLMAN – Maybe it was Knute Rockne. Or maybe it was his Notre Dame quarterback Gus Dorais.

But back in football's ancient days, somebody had to be the first to say the quarterback or receiver were "on the same page" when describing a big pass play.

The phrase has become as much a part of football as the trap block or the kicking tee. Getting the quarterback and receiver "on the same page" seems to be as important in the passing game as a strong arm or good hands.

So just how hard is it to develop chemistry between receivers and quarterbacks?

"It takes a while," said Washington State wide receiver Jared Karstetter. "I think that's the hardest thing when you're young."

The ability to read each other's minds is crucial in the modern passing game, Karstetter said, because every pattern WSU runs has options depending on where the defenders are and what they do.

The Cougars (1-8 overall, 0-6 in Pac-10 play) have used three starting quarterbacks this season: senior Kevin Lopina, who was the opening day quarterback; sophomore Marshall Lobbestael, who took over in game three; and freshman Jeff Tuel, who earned the job in game five and has kept it since.

But Tuel was sidelined in last week's defeat to Arizona with a slight dislocation of his kneecap and probably will not be available against UCLA (4-5, 1-5) this Saturday.

Lobbestael relieved and hooked up with Karstetter on a 64-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown that was a direct result of both being "on the same page."

A play was called. Lobbestael changed it. Karstetter studied the coverage and signaled a new route. Reading the change, Lobbestael lofted the ball out front, Karstetter snatched it with one hand, shed the defender and scored.

It was Karstetter's sixth touchdown reception – he's tied with James Rodgers of Oregon State for the Pac-10 lead – and third in three games.

"It was a great play," Lobbestael said, "but I have complete confidence, Jeff and I and any of the quarterbacks, we all have complete trust in all the receivers."

That trust is not only built in practice, but after as well.

Most nights, Lobbestael and Tuel remain after, throwing pass after pass to Gino Simone (28 catches, one touchdown), Karstetter (27 catches), Jeffrey Solomon (22), Daniel Blackledge (22, one touchdown) and Johnny Forzani (eight catches, two touchdowns, including a school-record 99-yard score from Tuel), working on, well, there's only one time-honored phrase that describes it.

"We've been throwing with Marsh, Jeff and Kevin pretty much every day since the summer, for months and months," Karstetter said. "So everyone's pretty much on the same page."


• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning as per usual. Until then …

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