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Monday, August 25, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 PM

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WSU's Rogers finally gets chance at QB

Gary Rogers is the new Matt Kegel. Or so Cougar fans are hoping.

Associated Press Writer

PULLMAN, Wash. —

Gary Rogers is the new Matt Kegel. Or so Cougar fans are hoping.

Rogers had to wait until his senior year to become a starter. So did Kegel.

In 2003, his only year as a starter, Kegel led the Cougars to a 10-3 record and a win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl. That's the last time WSU went to a bowl game.

"Everybody asks me that," Rogers said of the comparison. "That is the situation I am in right now."

The first look at Rogers will come Saturday, when the Cougars host Oklahoma State in Seattle.

Rogers never met Kegel, who had graduated by the time he arrived on campus in 2004 from Kamiak High in Mukilteo and found himself behind quarterbacks Josh Swogger and Alex Brink on the depth chart.

Swogger initially earned the starting job, but went down with injuries and lost out to Brink. Swogger eventually transferred when Brink became entrenched.

Rogers spent the past three seasons watching his teammate break numerous Washington State passing records without ever leading the Cougars to a winning record.

Rogers considered transferring but decided to stick it out.

"I committed to WSU for a reason, and I knew my time would come," he said. "I really like the atmosphere at WSU."

There was a large corps of fans who called for Rogers whenever Brink stumbled, and there was an even larger corps that thought the backup should get more playing time regardless, just in case of injury.

Instead coach Bill Doba stuck with Brink late into games, and Rogers threw 16 passes last season, completing four. In three seasons, he has completed 24 of 52 passes for 244 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

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That's a pretty short resume for a guy who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 233 pounds.

"It's been a long time waiting," admitted Rogers, who is one credit shy of a degree in sports management.

Carrying a clipboard on the sidelines wasn't much fun, but "I wanted to stay positive and knew my time would come," he said.

He watched a lot of film to stay prepared and took plenty of "mental reps on the sidelines," Rogers said. He was buoyed by mentoring from former Cougar quarterback greats Jack Thompson and Jason Gesser.

His reward for sticking around is that new coach Paul Wulff is instituting a no-huddle offense that is fast paced and fun to operate, Rogers said. It's a quarterback's dream, designed to keep the defense off-balance.

"It's been great so far," he said. "There's a lot of freedom."

Wulff anointed Rogers as the starter, although he has said backup Kevin Lopina will push him.

Rogers also has the Pacific-10 Conference's top receiver last year, Brandon Gibson, as a target.

His personal goals are to win games and catch the eye of NFL scouts.

"Our huge goal is to get to a bowl game," he said.

Rogers admires New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who spent two years riding the bench at Michigan, hired a sports psychologist to help him cope with frustration and considered transferring before becoming a starter.

Brady was the 199th pick of the 2000 draft, and was fourth string before becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks of this era.

"Tom Brady inspires me," Rogers said. "He's a great guy I look up to."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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