October 2, 2009

Game Preview: WSU perspective

At the beginning of the 2009 season, the big question - well, one of approximately 15 questions, all of which could be categorized as "big" - revolved around who would be the quarterback for the Washington State University football team? All three incoming candidates [not counting fourth stringer Dan Wagner from Portland's Jesuit High School who saw some emergency spot duty last year when the Cougars could not manage to keep any of their quarterbacks out of the hospital] had their value as well as their drawbacks. Redshirt senior Kevin Lopina had the experience, redshirt sophomore Marshall Lobbestael had the arm strength and true freshman Jeff Tuel had the mobility.

Since Lobbestael had missed time while recovering from knee surgery, Lopina had most of the reps from spring ball through fall camp and it was Lopina who got the starting nod in Wazzu's first two games of the season against Stanford and Hawai'i. While Lopina was not flashy, he did manage the game well against the Cardinal and threw his first collegiate touchdown pass in that game. But against Hawai'i, Lopina did not progress as much as head coach Paul Wulff would have liked.

Consequently, it was Lobbestael's turn to get the starting reins, beginning with the game against Southern Methodist in the third week of the season. Lobbestael was less than spectacular against the Mustangs and it took two big defensive plays - a pair of interception returns for touchdowns - to get the Cougars back into the game, at which point, Lobbestael did help engineer a drive to tie the game and send it into overtime where Nico Grasu won it with a 39-yard field goal after another big defensive play - safety Chima Nwachukwu's pick of a Pony pass in overtime - gave him the opportunity.

While it was not a sterling performance from Lobbestael, a win is a win is a win, as the saying goes. So Lobbestael received the starting job again last week against USC. But through a quarter and a half of play with a combination of Lobbestael making poor passes and the offensive line making poor blocks, Wulff decided it was time for a change. Down 20-0 against the Trojans midway through the second quarter, with USC's first-string defense still in the game, Wulff put in Tuel.

If Duck fans and well-wishers did not happen to catch the late night game because they were too busy celebrating the twin joys of thumping California and their coaching staff's decision to wear normal-looking football uniforms again, the first thing they need to know is that Tuel finished the game behind center against the Trojans.

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