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WSU turns to Lopina


COUGARS

We have a story or two to share with you, but we also have some news that came out of practice Wednesday night. Read on.


••••••••••

• I asked coach Paul Wulff after practice who was going to start at quarterback against Oregon State and he said senior Kevin Lopina. With Jeff Tuel not practicing yet this week – and there is no guarantee he’ll be ready next week – Lopina has earned the starting spot. “He’s done a good job,” Wulff said. “He’s throwing the ball well, he’s fresh, his body feels good, and it’s very refreshing actually. He feels good physically. He’s given us a great spark.” That’s a rarity at Cougar practices right now, news about someone feeling fresh. Lopina started the first two games, was relegated to the bench, injured a calf, recovered, ran the scout team for a couple weeks and then came off the bench last week to supply whatever spark WSU had. … Jason Stripling hasn’t been at practice this week and I asked Wulff about his statement that Stripling would be suspended for a quarter Saturday. How could a guy play if he wasn’t practicing? He can’t, actually. “He’ll be suspended indefinitely,” Wulff said. There was no elaboration on what changed. Also, I don’t know if Stripling will go through Senior Day ceremonies, though I’m trying to find out both. … Without Stripling, the Cougars are down to five healthy linebackers who have seen action this season: Andy Mattingly, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Mike Ledgerwood, Myron Beck and Joshua Garrett. Sam Tennant, who hasn’t played this year, will also be in uniform on Senior Day. … The defensive backfield welcomed back cornerback Shane Thomas from his knee injury, but then lost Anthony Houston midway through practice with an injury to his right leg. Houston had to be carted off the field. “It’s the most I’ve ever been around,” Wulff said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries but I don’t know what to say anymore than guys step up and guys have to play,” Wulff said. “The guys that are out there are playing hard. They are doing their best to play well.” … The three captains this week, as voted by the Unity Council: Zach Enyeart, Reed Lesuma and Alex Hoffman-Ellis.

•••

• Here’s our story for tomorrow’s S-R …

PULLMAN – Playing college football isn’t easy. It’s a tough grueling sport that demands dedication year-round. Summer sweating is followed by the bruises of fall. Winter conditioning begets spring practice.

It’s worth it, however, because of those 12 fall Saturdays. Thousands of people cheering your every move. The adulation of fellow students. Occasional face time on television.

But what if there isn’t that glory? When you do all the same work from Sunday through Friday, and then watch as others make the plays on Saturday. When you’re a scout team player, a backup who rarely sees the field. What’s football like then?

This Saturday, when Washington State University hosts Oregon State, it’s senior day at Martin Stadium. The Cougars will say goodbye to 15 seniors, many with familiar names.

Kenny Alfred. Xavier Hicks. Andy Mattingly. Dwight Tardy. Tony Thompson. Kevin Lopina.

But there is also a handful of players who will be introduced most in attendance won’t recognize. Colin Huemmer. Casey Thometz. Andrew Kreutz. Reed Lesuma. Sam Tennant.

This is their lone moment in the spotlight.

Lesuma will represent the group in the lineup against Oregon State. He was called into offensive line coach Harold Etheridge’s office Tuesday and told he will be starting at left guard.

“It actually came as a surprise,” Lesuma said Wednesday. “He told me, my last home game here, senior night and everything, they’re giving me the opportunity to start. I was real excited about that.”

The first person, off the field, he told was wife Terri. The two were married last December in Salt Lake City. But the next was brother Vaughn.

Lesuma came to WSU in 2007 with his older brother, a two-year starter at left tackle. Unlike most Cougars, Reed didn’t play youth football. There wasn’t much opportunity in Fiji. But when the family moved back to Hawaii, Reed played a little as a high school senior.

Two years of junior college football – one as a redshirt – preceded his trip to Pullman. He’ll graduate in December and move on to the University of Hawaii where he’ll work toward a master’s degree in psychology.

Three years of practice has yielded a handful of offensive plays, most during his first season. This year he’s been on the extra point and field goal teams, but has yet to play on the line of scrimmage.

So why stick around?

“I love it,” he said. “I just enjoy being out here with my teammates, the O-line. Just improving and getting better. Helping the team get better. Anyway I can improve this team, whether it be playing or not.”

Those teammates voted Lesuma as one of their captains this week.

Tennant won’t be starting Saturday but he has the same attitude. In his five years at WSU, the Pullman High graduate has played in seven games, almost all on special teams.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had an impact.

“I just come out here and try my best,” he said. “It’s my job to make the team better on the scout team or whatever I’m doing.”

Tennant, who missed the Greyhounds State 2A football title by one year, knows what’s expected of him each practice.

“I’ve been out here every day, working hard, not taking a day off,” he said. “I haven’t missed a practice due to injury or illness. So I think being a consistent player out here has helped the team out.”

During the season, Tennant and others run through position drills before heading over to the scout team. They read cards, see how they are supposed to perform in the opponent’s scheme and try to deliver a good look.

Most scout team players are building a foundation for their career. Others, like Tennant, are playing for the love of the game and their teammates.

“I enjoy it, it’s a good sport, lots of teamwork,” Tennant said. “It’s a lot of fun testing your abilities against other people.”

Tennant says he was “born and raised a Coug.” And, if he had to make the choice again, he would still walk-on at Washington State.

That attitude and work ethic is appreciated.

“These guys have shown a tremendous amount of perseverance,” coach Paul Wulff said. “I’m very proud of them and their work and their ability to hang tough and keep going.”

•••

• You’re not done with us yet. We have a short advance for tomorrow’s basketball game. Here it is …

PULLMAN – The Washington State University Cougars will risk perfection tonight in Beasley Coliseum when they host Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in a non-conference basketball game starting at 7.

The Cougars are not only 2-0 this season, but have never lost a November game on Friel Court, posting a 35-0 record since the facility opened in 1973.

In the Summit League’s IPFW, the Cougars will be facing what their first-year coach Ken Bone calls “a typical Indiana” team.

“They’re very solid,” Bone said. “They’re very, very solid on the defensive end, and they do a great job of screening out on the boards. Very disciplined, the execute their offense well.”

The Mastodons are 1-1. They lost their opener 75-46 at Wisconsin without leading scorer Deilvez Yearby, who had 20 points in 15 minutes of their 86-57 win over Madonna on Tuesday. IPFW will head up U.S. 195 and face Gonzaga on Friday night.

Sophomores Klay Thompson (22 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) and DeAngelo Casto (17 points, 5 rebounds) lead the Cougars.

•••••

• That’s it for tonight. We’ll be back in the morning. Until then …


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