PULLMAN – It seems hard to believe, but just six quarters ago Alex Brink appeared to be on his way to becoming a star quarterback who’d lead his team to big point totals week in and week out.
But now talk shows, newspaper columns and message boards are abuzz wondering how long he’ll be the starter at Washington State University.
“Because of the position I am on the team and the situation we have, I’m going to take some criticism when we lose and probably even when we win,” Brink said. “I’m man enough to take that criticism and know that I need to get better, and I need to get better if we’re going to win.
“I listen and take it for what it’s worth. And a lot of it is worth nothing to me. Some of it, the criticism and the stuff that comes from my coaches and people like that that I need to listen to to get better – that definitely means something to me.”
Brink has appeared to be more relaxed on the practice field this week than he was in the past, most notably last week when both he and the entire Cougars team seemed off-kilter following the loss at Oregon State.
As the sophomore noted, he has some positives working in his favor. Two of them, in fact, showed up at practice on Wednesday in the form of wide receivers Jason Hill (quadriceps) and Chris Jordan (hip flexor). The two starters missed last week’s game against Stanford and perhaps it’s no coincidence that the passing game struggled in their absence.
Hill and Jordan didn’t have to come off the field during practice and it appears they’re both in good position to play against UCLA, barring any setbacks.
Brink has also enjoyed the fierce support of his coaching staff, which on multiple occasions in the past 12 days since Oregon State have fended off any suggestions that the quarterback’s play has been lackluster.
“I don’t feel like he’s doing a poor job,” offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller said. “Statistics, positive and negative, don’t always bear out with what you see when you go in and look at video. So I don’t feel any differently about Alex than I did a couple weeks ago.”
Brink said this has been a new challenge for him, as his role as starter has never been such a hot topic. Last season after Josh Swogger was injured and Brink stepped in, true freshman Gary Rogers was moved up to second string for the final five games of the year. With things running smoothly early this season, it seemed preposterous that anyone would suggest a change. Now, Brink has been exposed to the flip side of being a major-college quarterback.
“It’s hard for me to say that it’s part of the game that I’ve played, because I’ve never been in the situation,” Brink said. “But, you know, we have played six poor quarters of football. Now our season is kind of hanging in the balance and we’ve got a big obstacle on Saturday that we’ve got to overcome.”
As expected, defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua, a vital piece of WSU’s defense, was in practice for the first time since suffering a broken leg on Aug. 25. The Cougars plan to evaluate today how Pitoitua rebounds from his first practice, and head coach Bill Doba has suggested the sophomore could see as many as 10-12 snaps Saturday. … Two other Cougars who had missed Tuesday’s practice were back: punter Kyle Basler, who spent more than 24 hours in a hospital because of an intestinal issue (being called flu-like symptoms), and linebacker Steve Dildine, who had been resting a sore hamstring. … Tight end Cody Boyd was not in practice, however, after injuring an ankle on Tuesday. His status for the weekend is uncertain.