Kegel takes over at QB as Cougars open the Doba era

Updated: August 30, 2003, 2:37 AM ET

SEATTLE -- Bill Doba finally is taking over his own team.

Same goes for Matt Kegel.

Washington State's new coach and new quarterback will step into the limelight together Saturday night when the Cougars travel across the state to open against Idaho at Seahawks Stadium.

"I'm having a great time," said Doba, the longtime defensive coordinator who took over when Mike Price left for Alabama after 14 seasons. "I'm undefeated and unscored upon. It can't get any better than that."

This year has been a new experience for Doba, who has learned how to deal with reporters and shake hands with boosters. He also discovered how offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller and line coach George Yarno invest their time.

"Until this year, I've never seen the offense practice in 25 years of coaching," Doba said. "It's fun to see how Levenseller works, to watch him and Yarno put together a game plan."

Kegel waited three years for his chance to take snaps.

He spent three seasons behind Jason Gesser, who set 14 school passing records and surpassed the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and Jack Thompson to become Washington State's career passing leader.

Kegel admits he's not Gesser. Then again, who is?

"There's no way to replace a player like Jason," said Kegel, a senior. "He was a tremendous competitor, a never-say-die player. He was a winner, but that was an attitude for a lot of players on our team.

"That is definitely one thing that wore off on me," Kegel added.

It's been a productive fall camp for Kegel, who is working with seven returning offensive starters. In his final tuneup last weekend, he completed 14 of 21 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns in Washington State's last scrimmage.

"He's doing good," Doba said. "When Matt's got time to prepare, he's very good."

This isn't exactly a debut for Kegel, who is Leaf's cousin.

Kegel has played in 25 games over three seasons, starting twice. As a redshirt freshman three years ago, he threw for 252 yards and a touchdown in a 33-27 victory at USC when Gesser was hurt.

"I've been waiting a long time for this opportunity, and now it's my turn to go," Kegel said. "I feel great about my situation. I couldn't ask for a better team or better coaches."

Idaho staged a duel for the quarterback's job this fall. Coach Tom Cable decided on sophomore Michael Harrington over returning senior Brian Lindgren, a first-team All-Sun Belt performer last season.

"The decision was made, really, based on the ability to go out and lead this team," Cable said. "Everyone is pleased with where we're at. It was a great battle. Both kids handled it great."

The schools have a long history, with the Cougars holding a 65-17-3 series advantage. The campuses are separated by only eight miles, yet the teams will trek across Washington for this edition of the rivalry.

Washington State beat Nevada 31-7 last year at 67,000-seat Seahawks Stadium, attracting a crowd of 63,588. School administrators said about 90,000 graduates live on the west side of the Cascades.

"It's a chance for people in Seattle to drive a few miles and see the Cougs," Doba said. "On Labor Day weekend, about 80 percent of our student body is over there anyway, and Pullman's dead. It's hard to get a good crowd on Labor Day weekend."

Cable said the Vandals are excited about the trip.

"It's a great opportunity for our program to play in Seattle," he said. "We've got a large alumni base there. It gives the players and program a chance to play in an environment we don't usually get to, an NFL stadium."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index