Through four games, 1,335 yards, 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions are mind-boggling numbers to start off the season.
Those are the stats of quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who enters this week as the Cougars starting quarterback, for now. Quarterback Jeff Tuel has returned to full practice this week as a full participant, only a month after suffering a broken left clavicle that had many thinking he would be lost for the season.
Monday night following practice though, Head Coach Paul Wulff wasted no time and announced that Lobbestael will remain the team's starter this week, and Tuel may see the field if the situation presents itself. This in my opinion, was a no brainer for Wulff, and although I've been hearing from a lot of people that Tuel should start, I ask that you please hold your horses.
Yes, Tuel is this program's starting quarterback, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will the guy next week against Stanford, but you can't forget about what Lobbestael has done for this team just yet. Lobbestael is an experienced fifth-year senior who has battled adversity time and time again to lead the Cougs offense. Take last week for example. Down 10 points late in the fourth quarter, I'm sure a lot of people, myself included, thought the game had ended and the Cougs record was going to fall to 2-2.
Not so fast my friends. Lobbestael methodically drove the Cougs offense down field with less than five minutes left, and hit Isiah Barton on a 19-yard TD pass to cut the lead to three with 2:35 remaining. The Cougs then got the ball back after a great stop by the defense with less than two minutes left, and Lobbestael was poised in the pocket and along with a great route by wideout Marquess Wilson, helped lead the Cougs to victory.
I feel if the Cougs were to rush Tuel back this week, the offense wouldn't be in the same rhythm, and timing could be an issue between Tuel and the receivers. Another thing people have to remember is that Wulff has stated that Lobbestael is going to see the majority of the snaps this week with the first team offense. At practice on Monday night, Tuel saw limited action during a 7-on-7 drill and was out with the second team unit. So if Tuel were to see only limited work with the first unit wideouts, how could that translate to great rhythm Saturday night.
Tuel will return soon enough and put up savage type numbers for the Cougar offense, but for at least one more week, the ball needs to be in the hands of Lobbestael. Lobbestael is a young man of great character and is a very bright football player. I talked with Lobbestael Monday night after practice, and he was the first to admit that the starting job is Tuel's, and he's excited for the junior to return to the gridiron. Lobbestael puts the team first, and it's refreshing to know that there are still student athletes that care more about their teammates than they do themselves.
I have no doubt that Lobbestael will lead the offense against a very weak Bruin secondary and take advantage of the reads he is given. It will be another close game in Pasadena this weekend, but Marshall has shown this season that he's got crimson in his blood and is ready to face any challenge that is thrown his way.