Facing a second-and-goal from the Stanford 5-yard line on the Cougars’ initial second-half drive, quarterback Kevin Lopina looked to the right side of the formation. There was 6-foot-4 wide receiver Jared Karstetter. Across the line in man coverage was 6-2 cornerback Richard Sherman. A jump ball. So Lopina threw it high and short, Karstetter won the battle and WSU had six points – and Lopina had his first collegiate touchdown toss.
The very next play. The Cougars kicked off to the right side of the field, with the ball coming down at the Stanford 15. Wide receiver Chris Owusu, who already had a 63-yard touchdown catch, gathered it in. He sprinted back to the middle, found a hole and was gone. The return took away the momentum, killed the crowd noise and expanded the Cardinal lead to 29-10.
A pat on the back
The last time Louis Bland played middle linebacker he wasn’t even a teenager. But not having manned the spot since Pop Warner didn’t stop Bland from being the anchor of the Cougars’ run defense. Bland, who professed his comfort with the position after the game, is a playmaker, one of those rare guys who almost always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Saturday it resulted in a game-high 10 tackles.
The obvious answer is the special teams play, what with a 59-yard punt return and a missed field goal added to the kickoff return. But the offensive line, which showed an ability to run block, especially early in the game, has to shore up its pass protection.
Three unanswered questions
• Will the two quarterback system survive? Coach Paul Wulff said Sunday night that he was undecided. The film had been graded but the decision would have to wait. Even though Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael had pretty equal statistics, it seemed the offense moved with more efficiency with Lopina at the controls. But why decide now? By waiting, Hawaii may have to spend time preparing for two quarterbacks with different MOs.
• Are the Cougars really better? Every player who made the trip to the postgame interview room seemed to think so. So did Wulff and his staff. But leave it to center Kenny Alfred to really explain how we can know its so. “I can’t think of one guy who isn’t totally excited and totally ready to get to practice on Monday,” he said. That wasn’t the case last year.
• How important are the next two weeks? The Cougars have six home games this season. After the SMU game in two weeks, they will be halfway done wearing the crimson jerseys. It’s imperative for WSU to come out of the stretch with two wins entering the meat of its Pac-10 schedule.
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