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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cougar QB benefiting from bevy of options in powerful offense

    To open 2005, Washington State went with Alex Brink over senior Josh Swogger, the previous year’s starting quarterback, and the then-sophomore responded with 24 touchdown passes.

    But 13 interceptions amid a litany of ill-conceived throws suggested Brink had strides to make in his decision-making.

    When he started this season struggling equally against Southeastern Conference powerhouse Auburn and NCAA Division I-A afterthoughts Idaho and Baylor, Cougars coaches weren’t afraid to throw in fan-favorite backup Gary Rogers for a series or two to teach their leader a lesson.

    “”I wasn’t playing very well, and I think it was good for me to sit down a little bit and kind of think about what was going on,”” Brink said in a teleconference Tuesday. “”Early in the year, when I sat down some, those things helped me, and it made me a better player. Since those games, I’ve been pretty consistent, which I’ve been happy with.””

    In Brink’s last two starts, both key Pacific 10 Conference victories against then-No. 16 Oregon and UCLA, he’s completed 79 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdowns.

    His 28 completions in a 37-15 win Saturday over the Bruins set a Pac-10 season high, and his 405 passing yards fell a yard short of No. 9 USC quarterback John David Booty’s conference season-best total, also earned Saturday, against Oregon State.

    For his efforts, Brink was named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week.

    “”A lot of things go into that,”” he said. “”The receivers making the catches they did, it helped me out. The protection I got and the way we ran the football, it was what really got me that player-of-the-week award.””

    Indeed, while Washington State is averaging 25.8 points per game, nearly eight fewer than it did last season, the Cougars’ attack is prospering behind a horde of playmakers around their quarterback.

    Brink has five dependable options in the passing game alone: wide receivers Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus and Brandon Gibson and tight ends Jed Collins and Cody Boyd.

    Hill and Gibson combined for 207 receiving yards and three touchdowns against UCLA, while Collins rushed for a score and caught another in Washington State’s 34-23 upset of the Ducks.

    Bumpus’ 6.11 receptions per game rank second in the Pac-10, and Boyd led all pass-catchers with 72 receiving yards in a 36-10 victory over Stanford on Sept. 23.

    “”I feel real lucky to have the weapons that I have,”” Brink said. “”You’re talking about three receivers who are three stars who are on your team, a couple of tight ends that can play anywhere (in the country). If you have those five guys, and then the depth at running back, just in general, offensively, it makes my job a lot easier.””

    Washington State went to a committee approach at running back to replace Jerome Harrison, who led the conference a year ago with 1,900 rushing yards. The returns thus far have been worthy.

    The trio of freshman Dwight Tardy, junior Derrell Hutsona and sophomore DeMaundray Woolridge have combined for 1,258 yards and 5.3 yards per carry.

    Hutsona, the team’s second-leading rusher with 403 yards, suffered a high ankle sprain against the Bruins and will not play this weekend, Washington State head coach Bill Doba said in a teleconference Tuesday.

    Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said the Wildcats will still have plenty to worry about personnelwise.

    He called the group of Hill, Gibson and Bumpus one of the conference’s best trio of wideouts, on par with USC’s combination of Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and Patrick Turner.

    “”Then you throw in those two tight ends, who are catching balls left and right, (and) they’re really throwing the ball around exceptionally well right now,”” Stoops said. “”That’s going to be the true test for us, is our pass defense.””

    The game’s marquee matchup will be between Hill, one of the conference’s best deep threats with seven touchdown receptions and a long catch of 71 yards, and whoever guards him.

    Junior cornerback Wilrey Fontenot said he wants to redeem himself for what he considered a poor performance against Hill in the teams’ last meeting two years ago.

    Even so, Stoops said he aims to assign junior cornerback Antoine Cason to the job.

    “”They’re both all-conference, All-America-type players,”” Stoops said of Cason and Hill. “”That’s how we have to play. We’ll play to our strength, and they’re going to play to theirs. We just have to be smart and get (Cason) some help at critical times.””

    Cason said he plans to approach Hill just as he did Jarrett, the Pac-10’s career receiving touchdowns leader whom Cason held to four catches for 36 yards and a score in USC’s 20-3 win at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 23.

    Cason said the two receivers are pretty similar in having good size and aggressive natures, but that Hill appears a little faster on film.

    “”I’m going to go in there with the same attitude as I did against Jarrett and try to shut him down as best as I can,”” Cason said. “”I feel I’m capable of doing that.””

    As for stopping Brink, who’s on pace to set a career high in passing yards?

    “”Get some interceptions, and he’ll be a little more cautious of looking (No.) 5’s way,”” Cason said, referencing his uniform number. “”We just have to play hard. He’s been playing pretty good, they’ve won some games. We just have to go in there and get some interceptions.””

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