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A ray of hope in the darkness that is this season



About 2.5 quarters into the game on Saturday, I was all set to write a post about how, despite winning comfortably, I really didn't feel any better about this team going forward.

The passing game continued to look depressingly out of sync, as Kevin Lopina and Gary Rogers still were throwing passes to the other team far too frequently and combined to go just 13-of-28 with three interceptions.

Additionally, we still were making way, way too many other mistakes, from the excessive penalties (10 for 120 yards in the end) to the complete and total inability of the offensive line and running backs to protect their quarterbacks in the face of a blitzing FCS team.

And, of course, we had lost our top two quarterbacks -- the second to an injury devastating enough to require immobilization and an ambulance. (Thank goodness he turned out to be OK, or at least as OK as you can be with a broken back.)

Then Marshall Lobbestael started carving up the Vikings. And suddenly ... improbably ...for the first time this season ...

There was some light. A lot of it.

It wasn't so much that Lobbestael was having tremendous success throwing the ball -- after all, let's be honest about the state of that defense after being physically manhandled for about 35 minutes -- it was how he was doing it.

Think about all of the complaints we've had about Rogers and Lopina, and think about what Lobbestael did on Saturday:

  • He made a regular practice of progressing through reads and not staring down one receiver -- that included his first pass, the TD to Jeshua Anderson.
  • By my recollection, he did not force a throw into tight coverage even once. (But I could be wrong. At the very least, though, if he did force any balls, they didn't result in interceptions.)
  • He made every kind of throw there was to make, and made them in the correct situations. He threw over the top with touch. He threw underneath with just enough zip. He executed the short dump-offs with touch, and reached back for some flat-out heaters.

Again, I recognize the tired defense might have made those windows a little bit bigger than they had been early on for Rogers and Lopina. But that just deosn't tell the whole story. Before he got hurt, Rogers had not completed any of his four attempts on the drive; Lobbestael then went on to complete his first three passes, and 9-of-12 overall.

By the end of the game, it was undeniable who was the best quarterback on the field -- not because of the results, but because of how those results were achieved. He flat out looked more comfortable in this offense than either Lopina or Rogers had at any point this season.

So what does this mean for the future?

Well, don't expect Wulff to just hand over the reigns to Lobbestael, despite the fact that he displayed more potential and played better in less than one half of football than either of our other quarterbacks had at any stretch at any point in the entire year. Wulff committed to Lopina, and he's going to give him a fair shot if for no other reason than they just can't afford to try and institute yet another version of their offense that plays to the strengths of yet another quarterback. They're probably going to consider it prudent to try and continue to build on the (extremely modest) success Lopina had before his injury, and work in a package that suits Lobbestael.

That said, I'd be pretty shocked if we don't see a pretty fair dose of Lobbestael against the Ducks. And if Lopina keeps throwing interceptions, it'll be sooner rather than later. I'm guessing Wulff's just as frustrated as we are with watching his team get buried by the early mistakes before it even has a chance to stay in a game, and he's not going to want that same thing to happen against Oregon, which truly will bury us if we continue to commit worthless penalties and turn the ball over.

Regardless of how the quarterback situation plays out, though, it does feel so very good to wake up on a Monday morning and not feel like crap about our team.

I can't have unbridled excitement for what's just over the horizon, and I can't say that I feel extra special good about what the rest of the season holds in terms of wins and losses. I can't pretend everything is now OK, that we're now poised for some kind of improbable run through the Pac-10. We're not.

But it is nice to smile for once -- both because of a win and because of what the future might hold.

LATE ADD: Lobbestael just got a major boost in his bid to see big minutes this week -- there's no way Paul Wulff can bench the reigning Pac-10 player of the week, right?

I'm not sure if that says more about Lobbestael's great performance or the sad state of the rest of the conference last weekend.