Sep. 22—It might have been his first game in a Pac-12 environment for one of Washington State’s smallest players, 5-foot-8 receiver Robert Ferrel, but when it comes to overall experience few players possess a bigger wealth of knowledge.
Ferrel and WSU quarterback Cam Ward connected on 109 passes across the past two seasons at Incarnate Word in San Antonio, so when the senior’s number was called Saturday against Colorado State, he was ready to go.
Ferrel caught three passes for 64 yards against the Rams, including a speedy 38-yarder in stride up the middle in the third quarter.
“I was really excited to get in there and I was glad Cam trusted me enough to throw me that ball because I hadn’t been practicing (much),” Ferrel said Wednesday. “It’s kind of muscle memory, so it felt great to get in there and actually get my feet wet a little bit.”
Ferrel missed most of summer and fall practice with a foot injury, so the game was his first action in a Cougar uniform.
“It was kinda more like a plug-and-go,” Ferrel said. “Me and Cam have pretty good chemistry on and off the field. That’s my best friend probably on the team so it wasn’t too (different) from UIW.”
The Coug Raid offense WSU employs is the same one Ward, Ferrel and offensive coordinator Eric Morris used at Incarnate Word.
So Ferrel said he hopes he can provide a veteran leadership presence in practice and on the sidelines. As far as his role on game days, he just wants to contribute.
“I just want to play my role, whatever that is,” he said. “Whatever coach Morris and Cam want me to do.”
That role potentially could be as a return man on special teams. Ferrel accounted for 270 return yards at UIW, including an 81-yard return in a game against Stephen F. Austin last season.
Ferrel was limited to 15 snaps against the Rams, but should see an expanded role on offense and in special teams as the season progresses.
“I’m excited to get Robby back as a returner because I think that’s what he really specializes in,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said after the CSU game.
On offense, Ferrel plays in the slot along with veteran receivers Renard Bell and Lincoln Victor.
Ferrel said Ward’s growth at quarterback is apparent in his first three games at WSU. He said the sophomore is getting the ball out faster and with better timing and work in the weight room is showing too.
Ward has completed passes to 10 different pass catchers so far this season. He’s completed 65 percent of his passes for 727 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
Three of those touchdowns have gone to sophomore receiver De’Zhaun Stribling, who said the depth in the room is propelling the group’s improvement.
Ferrel adds another piece to that puzzle.
“It helps us a lot knowing that we have competitive depth,” Stribling said. “We have people who can step up and make plays, so that’s just good all the way around. It gets everybody else better (by) pushing each other.”
WSU linebacker Travion Brown is set to return after missing the Colorado State game with an unknown injury suffered late in the Wisconsin game Sept. 10.
Brown is a co-starter at middle linebacker with Francisco Mauigoa.
Three other Cougar starters — cornerback Chau Smith-Wade, strong safety Jordan Lee and Bell — are questionable for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Gesa Field against No. 15 Oregon (Fox).
Lee missed the CSU game with a previous injury and Smith-Wade and Bell were banged up against the Rams.
Ferrel likely would get the start if Bell can’t go.
“I think (Brown) is going to be good to go for sure,” Dickert said. “I think Chau is on his progression and J-Lee is on his progression, so we’re (getting) those guys back ready to go and we’re hopeful Saturday we can see them back out there.”
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, [email protected] or on Twitter @StephanSports.
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