WSU football opened its season Saturday with a decisive 65-17 victory against Idaho State. The victory was almost overshadowed by junior standout Jeff Tuel’s broken left clavicle.
After coming down with a stomach illness before the game, Tuel did not come out with the team for warmups, and it appeared he wouldn’t play in the game.
Tuel did come in on the Cougars’ first two series, but came in for one series where he sustained the injury. Head Coach Paul Wulff said Tuel wanted to play.
"He felt ready to go and wanted to play," Wulff said. "He's been our leader and starter all spring and fall camp, and I thought he was going to come in and play a couple of series. He's a big-time competitor and wanted to play."
Coach Wulff said Tuel’s injury may sideline him for four to six weeks.
The Cougars offense showed no signs of rust as they came out on their first drive of the game and marched the ball 58 yards on five plays with senior Marshall Lobbestael under center.
The drive culminated with redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin’s first career touchdown from 11 yards out. Galvin, who missed last year due to injury, said it was a big moment for him.
"I was really excited on my first carry to just get up off the ground and not be injured," Galvin quipped. "That was really big for me."
WSU’s defense would not be outdone by the offense as they forced the Bengals to turn the ball over on downs after linebacker Sekope Kaufusi flew through the line to sack Idaho State’s quarterback Kevin Yost.
Left with a long third down conversion, the Idaho State offense could not convert on third or fourth down.
The WSU offense took no time to strike again on a well-executed two-minute and 16-second drive, which culminated in a 27-yard touchdown strike from Lobbastael to senior Isiah Barton.
On the following kickoff, the Cougs flew down the field as redshirt sophomore Anthony Carpenter knocked the ball loose and sophomore Bennett Bontemps recovered the fumble.
With a short field, Tuel returned to the huddle and led the Cougars inside the 20, which culminated with a 23-yard field goal by sophomore Andrew Furney.
As the Bengals came back on offense, it did not take the Cougars long to capitalize with another big play.
Redshirt senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis dropped back into coverage and picked off Yost’s pass and took it 67 yards to the endzone to extend the Cougars’ lead to 23-0 before the close of the first quarter.
Hoffman-Ellis said he knew from the moment he caught the ball that he was taking it for six.
"It was a situation where I was basically reading the tight end, and he broke straight to the flat and I cut under him. Pretty much as soon as I caught the ball I knew I was going to the house," Hoffman-Ellis said.
After a three-and-out by the Bengals offense, the Cougars offense came out strong with Lobbastael once again running the offense as Tuel went back to the locker room.
Lobbastael executed a nine-play drive with a balanced attack on the ground and through the air. Galvin sealed the drive once again with a seven-yard touchdown run.
After a 51-yard field goal by Furney, the Cougars forced a quick punt by the Idaho State offense and came back onto the field with only 33 seconds remaining in the first half.
On the second play of the drive, Lobbastael lobbed a fade to a wide open Marquess Wilson who caught it in stride and ran into the endzone to give the Cougs a 40-0 lead before halftime.
The Cougars came out of the break with a big lead but came onto the field ready to play. After forcing a three and out on Idaho State’s first possession of the second half, the Cougar offense went back to work.
After starting on their own 25-yard line, the Cougars executed an eight play drive including a couple of long runs by senior running back Logwone Mitz.
Mitz capped the drive with his first touchdown of the season from one yard out.
On the following drive, the Bengals were able to get the ball in the endzone after a five-play, 73-yard drive.
After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against sophomore safety Deone Bucannon gave the Bengals a first down inside the five-yard line, Idaho State’s Jahmel Rover was able to capitalize from three yards out, making the score 47-7.
The Cougars offense did not miss a beat as they came back on the field. Redshirt freshman Connor Halliday took over for Lobbastael and moved the Cougars 55 yards down the field.
On the sixth play of the drive, Halliday hooked up on a fade with fellow redshirt freshman Kristoff Williams from 20 yards out for both players’ first collegiate touchdowns.
As the second team defense entered the game, the Bengals were able to extend the field on a deep pass down the left side of the field. During the play, freshman cornerback Spencer Waseem was forced to leave with a sprained knee.
The Bengals finished off the drive by punching in the ball from the one-yard line on third down with another rushing touchdown by Rover.
In a common theme of the day, the Cougars took little time to extend their lead. In only 14 seconds, freshman Marcus Mason took a carry down the right side for a 65-yard touchdown run to push the game to 61-14.
After a quick Bengal touchdown on a 65-yard pass from Yost to Rodrick Rumble, Halliday led the Cougs back down the field to set up a 30-yard field goal by Alex Gauper.
It was the first time the Cougars’ have scored 60+ points in a game since 1996, when they defeated Cal 63-37. Coach Wulff said his team is primed for a big year.
"I think our football team's confident enough that we have enough football players on this team to be a dang good football team," Wulff said.