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Wulff says Lopina will start Saturday

Lobbestael also will play in opener against Stanford

PULLMAN – The identity of Washington State University’s starting quarterback in the season opener against Stanford?

Coach Paul Wulff answered that question Sunday. It will be senior Kevin Lopina.

But the Cougars’ No. 1 quarterback is still to be determined.

“No one has separated themselves,” Wulff said of the ongoing quarterback competition between Lopina and sophomore Marshall Lobbestael.

So, Wulff said, “both will play” Saturday as WSU opens the Pac-10 and 2009 football season at Martin Stadium.

“Kevin Lopina will take the first snap of the game,” Wulff said. “That’s all that means. He’ll play at least a couple series and then we’ll rotate Marshall in there.

“We’re going to give those guys an opportunity to prove it in a game and so you’ll see both guys get the opportunity to play.”

Lopina and Lobbestael learned of the decision Sunday in an early afternoon meeting in offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy’s office.

“(Sturdy) said I was going to start the first drives,” Lopina said, “and it depends on how I do. He said Marshall’s going to play – that’s fine, he deserves it, we both had a really good fall camp.”

But when it was pointed out to Lopina if he leads WSU to a touchdown on every possession it would be tough to take him out, he laughed and said, “It would.”

“Hopefully we can do that,” he added, “but I’m pretty sure, regardless, Marshall will play.”

Lobbestael didn’t sound as positive.

“If I end up getting in, I’m going to try my best and execute what we’ve got going on during the week,” he said. “But if not, I’m going to do whatever the team needs me to do.”

“If somebody’s got a hot hand, he’ll stay in the game,” Wulff said. “Whoever’s in there, we need them to do well.”

Wulff said he has been through this before. He recalled in 2003 not being able to choose between two unknowns (his word), Erik Meyer and Skyler Allen.

“In practice, you couldn’t tell the difference,” Wulff said. “Got them in a game, and there was a difference.”

Meyer went on to set Eastern Washington University records and eventually sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Lopina said Sturdy called the quarterbacks into his office a week ago and told them “you guys got to step up, someone’s got to pull away.”

“But when he told us that, we both stepped up,” Lopina said, “and we both got better. It was good competition. … Sturdy’s true to his word. If I’m playing well, or Marshall’s playing well, he’ll probably just let it roll with that.”

As the Cougars began preparation for Saturday’s game, Lopina and Lobbestael rotated running the offense, just as they’ve done most of fall camp.

“They both deserve the opportunity to play and prove it on game day,” Wulff reiterated.

“They’ve both earned that. They’ve both improved. They just need to go out and play.”