A second or two.
That’s about all it takes for a quarterback to read a pass defense on any given play.
It’s also all the time Greg Hibbard needs to make a counter move as Pacific Lutheran University’s starting free safety.
Hibbard, a Capital High School graduate, is the ideal blend of speed (runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds) and intelligence (holds a 3.99 grade-point average) for a safety.
Even after Hibbard finished third on the team in tackles (59), and was selected second team all-Northwest Conference in 2012, Lutes defensive coordinator Craig McCord said he believes the statistics and accolades don’t begin to tell the whole story about Hibbard.
“He’s one of the smartest, savvy players we’ve ever had before,” McCord said. “He has a commitment to be excellent.”
McCord’s statement is illustrated by a play in last week’s 42-21 victory over Lewis & Clark.
The Pioneers took the football first, and drove to the PLU 13-yard line. On second down, quarterback Keith Welch thought he had a receiver wide open in the end zone for a touchdown, and gunned a pass in that direction.
Hibbard read it perfectly, and raced over to make his first interception of the season to stop the scoring threat.
“I just saw what was there and cut into his route,” Hibbard said. “We studied what (Welch) likes to do and I just used that information.”
McCord used the interception as an example of Hibbard’s true value to the PLU defense.
“He’s like a player/coach out there for us,” he said. “He has an understanding for the game and what it takes to succeed – it helps us having a player like that. I tell him that he could be a coach if he wanted to.”
“He’s just been able to understand the things in front of him,” said Dorothy Hibbard, Greg’s mother. “Even when he was little, you could see him figuring (something) out.”
Hibbard is fortunate to be playing football after suffering a traumatic leg injury as a child.
When he was 6, he was involved in a car accident that shattered the femur bone in his left leg. Doctors cautioned Hibbard’s parents, Rich and Dorothy, that the fracture could result in amputation.
“The doctors were telling us they weren’t sure he would walk again,” Rich Hibbard said. “I was only worried about him walking with a limp or one leg being shorter than the other.”
After two successful surgeries and intense rehabilitation, Hibbard was back to full health 18 months later – even joining the Barron Park Striders, a private track and field club in Olympia.
“You couldn’t stop him when he was allowed to run again,” Rich Hibbard said. “I was amazed because he looked faster. ... Now he’s using his gifts in college.”
PACIFIC (5-0) at No. 17 PACIFIC LUTHERAN (4-1)
12:30 p.m., Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
The series: PLU leads, 28-8-3, and is on a 16-game winning streak. The Lutes won last season in Forest Grove, Ore., 41-23. Pacific’s last victory came in 1972 – 9-7 – in former coach Frosty Westering’s first season.
What to watch: If it’s disruptive defense you want, you’ve got it here with these two teams. The senior-dominated Boxers are physical and aggressive up front – much like No. 2 Linfield – and lead the Northwest Conference in sacks (18) and forced turnovers (15), including 11 interceptions. Linebacker Alex Willeford (six sacks) and defensive end Sean Bangs (four) are the league’s sack leaders. Critical to PLU’s success Saturday is not only protecting quarterback Dalton Ritchey (87 of 157, 1,077 yards, nine TDs) in the pocket, but giving him enough time to allow downfield routes with receivers Kyle Warner (29 catches, 512 yards, six TDs) and Kellen Westering to develop. Getting tailbacks Niko Madison (career-high 183 rushing yards last week against Lewis & Clark) and Kelly Morgan to run wide successfully should help negate the onslaught of pressure. ...The Boxers’ passing offense ranks sixth nationally in efficiency (184.46 passer rating) but is facing its toughest test against the Lutes, who rendered Lewis & Clark star Keith Welch to being a checkdown quarterback last week. PLU has 16 sacks, second in the conference.
What’s at stake: It is conference-only games from here on out in the regular season, and the Lutes badly want to move into second place behind Linfield with a win – and stay there.
TNT pick: PLU, 27-17.
CASE WESTERN RESERVE (1-3) at PUGET SOUND (1-3)
1 p.m., Baker Stadium, Tacoma
The series: First meeting.
What to watch: Case Western Reserve? This was the schedule spot initially reserved for George Fox, which was supposed to join the Northwest Conference this season. But the Bruins delayed their debut a year, so the Loggers now welcome this perennial University Athletic Association (UAA) powerhouse from Cleveland as a non-conference replacement. From 2007-11, the Spartans lost just six games – but are enduring a down season in 2013. They run a quick-passing offense out of multiple formations with quarterbacks Erik Olson and Billy Beecher, who have combined for 647 passing yards and two touchdowns. ... The Loggers would like to see quarterback Braden Foley (86 of 140, 913 yards, 10 TDs) be smarter with the football – throwing away passes instead of forcing them to covered receivers. He has thrown six interceptions in his past two games. A bright spot out of last week’s 56-14 loss at Pacific was the run blocking.
What’s at stake: With games against Linfield, PLU and Willamette remaining, this might be the last real winnable game left on the schedule. It comes at home. And devoted fans are thirsting to see a victory.
TNT pick: UPS, 36-33.