Oct. 20, 2004
Injuries to quarterbacks have become the curse of Cougar football over the past three seasons.
In 2002, All-American Jason Gesser went down in the midst of an emotional battle against Washington, nearly costing Washington State a trip to the Rose Bowl. A year later, an array of injuries took Matt Kegel out of the Apple Cup game and the Cougars out of BCS contention.
This season, sophomore starter Josh Swogger had his season prematurely ended Oct. 17, when team doctors discovered a broken bone in his foot the day after the Stanford game.
Enter Alex Brink. The redshirt freshman made his collegiate debut Sept. 11 against Colorado and nearly ignited a second half comeback. The Eugene, Ore., native completed 12 of 23 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown in that game.
Brink entered the season content knowing his mission in 2004 would be to serve as Swogger's understudy. His promotion to the leading role under unfortunate circumstances came as a surprise
"I was shocked. I knew Josh was dinged up from some injuries, but I didn't realize it was anything as serious as a broken foot," Brink said. "After that, I started getting excited about getting the chance to play."
Swogger, ever the team captain, was supportive of Brink's opportunity.
"Josh was upset, but he wished me good luck and I know he will be there supporting me and supporting the team after he gets surgery and gets healed," Brink said.
Despite posting solid numbers against the Buffs in Seattle, Brink made a pair of costly mistakes; an interception that was returned 51 yards for a touchdown, and a fumble at the Colorado two-yard line with two seconds remaining in the game. Brink also fumbled in the Idaho game.
"I learned from my mistakes in the Colorado game and the Idaho game," Brink said. "I have to protect the football better and make quicker decisions. I feel like I have learned those things. I feel like I'm ready to improve and help us win football games."
Brink, the state of Oregon's all-time leading passer, had to go through some unconventional, and somewhat embarrassing, corrective measures.
"After I fumbled in the Idaho game, Coach Rosenbach had me carry around a football that next week. Some of the guys on the team were trying to strip it from me and take it back to him," Brink explained. "I had to protect the football as I walked around campus. I did well. I didn't give it up. I was very conscious of keeping two hands on the football and protecting it when going through a crowd."
Brink, also a standout baseball player at Eugene's Sheldon High School, understands the expectations involved with quarterbacking at Washington State. In just his second season at the college level, Brink is composed beyond his years and isn't panicked about being thrust in the middle of the chase for WSU's fourth-straight bowl game.
"You have to believe. I have had some playing time. I have made some mistakes, but I've done some good things, too," Brink said. "I know I'm going to learn from my mistakes and I can only get better. My coaches and my teammates around are going to help me prepare and I think we have the people in place to win these games."
Brink also isn't panicked about losing his job to Washington State's newest pseudo-quarterbacks, punter Kyle Basler and kicker Graham Siderius. Basler and Siderius have been forced to digest the Cougar offense from the quarterback's position in case of injuries to Brink and backup Gary Rogers.
"It has been kind of fun. It's refreshing to have some different faces in there," Brink said. "Coach Rosenbach has been trying to teach them some of the basic stuff, some of the run game, the quick passes and stuff."
Brink isn't making picks on who wins the Basler-Siderius quarterbacking controversy, but there is no question about him fitting the mold of recent WSU quarterbacks, signal callers who were willing to put everything on the line to help the Cougs win.
"I'm excited about the opportunity that I have. It's unfortunate that it came under the circumstances that it did, but I guess I can try to go out and do my best and help out my team in anyway I can."
Alex Brink on...
Not putting himself at risk with little to no depth at quarterback... "Coach Rosenbach wants me to protect myself and the football a little more. If I get out and I'm scrambling to get down or get out of bounds, and look to throw the ball away a little more. That is something I will definitely take into consideration considering how thin we are behind me."
Having quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach on the sideline during games... "I think it has been a real improvement. As an offense, he makes a lot of adjustments. He is able to talk to us face-to-face and that is important. He is also able to help the receivers and the offensive line. He helps bring the whole offense together and brings some excitement to the sideline."
The emergence of the running game... "It's really nice. With those guys running the way they are, it has taken some pressure off the quarterbacks. The wide receivers and offensive line has gained some confidence. Hopefully, that aspect just gets better as the season goes along."