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WSU’s Kooyman feels at home

Defensive leader may play 5th game at Qwest

PULLMAN – If Kevin Kooyman pulls it off Saturday, he will play on Qwest Field’s turf for the fifth time.

That’s probably more than some Seahawks players.

“It’s a good setting, it’s always exciting to play there,” said the Washington State University senior defensive end this week.

He should know. He played one game for Tahoma High as a senior in the NFL facility and is hoping to play his fourth time in a Cougars uniform this week.

“Hoping” is the operative word.

Kooyman banged his knee Wednesday while working against the scout team in practice. Though he was walking fine after practice, he had a precautionary MRI on Thursday and is questionable for Saturday.

If there’s any way, Kooyman indicated Thursday, he’ll be on the field. After all, he doesn’t get many chances to play so close to home.

“I’m pretty excited,” Kooyman said. “It’s always nice to be able to go back to the Seattle area and (play), being that my grandparents aren’t able to come over here. So it’s nice to have them over there to watch.”

When Kooyman came across the Cascades in 2006, the plan was for him to redshirt. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he would have had to gain weight to be considered light for a defensive end. But the plan changed when Lance Broadus and Mkristo Bruce were sidelined by injuries. Kooyman played 11 games.

Since then he has grown 2 inches and added 55 pounds, making him an imposing presence on the right side of the Cougars’ defensive line.

Last year, however, no one was too imposing. After one game, a 39-13 loss to Stanford, Kooyman believes things have changed.

“We made a statement for our D-line and our linebackers,” he said. “We made a good statement about being able to stop the run.”

A week after that statement, though, the Cougars must shift quickly into a higher gear, because the Warriors rarely run.

“There a completely different team,” Kooyman said of Hawaii. “It’s night and day. Going from a smash-mouth team that runs the ball nonstop and now, to a team that’s going to be in the shotgun the entire game.”

No matter what the offense is throwing at WSU, co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball is happy to have Kooyman on the field. Especially with three new starters on the defensive front with him.

“There was a time during the game on Saturday when we had to make a major adjustment in our front,” Ball said. “He did the adjustment perfectly, made the play and explained it to (freshman left end) Travis Long and the others and put it into terms where they understood it.

“He’s just been a great leader.”

Saturday will be Kooyman’s final chance to exert his leadership at Qwest, and that’s something coach Paul Wulff wishes wasn’t so.

“I wish we had Kevin for a couple more years,” Wulff said. “He’s done a great job and we need to lean on him, because he can provide great leadership.”