It’s hard to believe the WSU football team is a third of the way through the 2011 season. At 3-1, the Cougars have their best chance to reach a bowl game since their 6-6 2006 campaign. Before players and fans cramp up from patting themselves on the back, let’s step back a moment for a position by position offensive report card through the first four games.
Quarterbacks get an A+. There isn’t a better story this college football season than the emergence of Marshall Lobbestael. After Jeff Tuel went down with a broken collarbone against Idaho State, few believed Lobbestael could effectively replace him. That night, members of Cougar Nation drank themselves into a state of inebriation familiar only to writers and rock stars. Ok, maybe that was just me.
Tangent aside, Lobbestael ranks among the best quarterbacks in the country. He is completing 63.4 percent of his passes and has tossed 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. In last week’s 31-27 win against Colorado, “The Lobster” orchestrated two clutch fourth quarter drives to seal the most important win for Cougar football in recent memory.
With Tuel ready to return, it will be on Head Coach Paul Wulff to effectively manage two of the conference’s best quarterbacks.
Running backs get a B+. Through four games, redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin is averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Not too shabby for a guy who lasted just one play in 2010.
While Galvin has shown explosiveness, Carl Winston leads the team in carries with 35. Winston looked great hitting holes in last weekend's win against the Buffaloes. For the first time in his career, he consistently reached the second level of opposing defenses, then made guys miss. Look for the junior to get even more touches as Offensive Coordinator Todd Sturdy continues to add balance to the Cougar offense.
Wide receivers get a B+. Wide Receivers Coach Mike Levenseller wasn’t lying this offseason when he said this was one of the most talented receiving units he had ever coached.
Former Freshman All-American Marquess Wilson clearly doesn’t believe in sophomore slumps. He’s already racked up 520 yards and five touchdowns to go along with his 21 receptions. At this point, Wilson’s speed and agility make him the best deep threat in the conference.
Also, senior Jared Karstetter has remained consistent in the face of double teams and zone coverages. The Ferris High School alumnus leads the team in receptions with 22 and has arguably the best hands among a talented array of receivers.
The unit received a B+ only because a few key drops cost them in their 42-24 loss to San Diego State.
The offensive line gets a B. It’s only fitting the offensive line come last. After all, the hardest workers rarely get the credit they deserve. The past two seasons, the line has faced harsh criticism. Sacks and groundball snaps were the norm as the Cougars ranked among the worst rushing teams in the country.
Give all the credit in the world to Offensive Line Coach Steve Morton for what looks like the most improved line in the conference. The Cougars are averaging a respectable 140 rushing yards per game while the offense is 10th in the country in scoring.
None of that would be possible without controlling the line of scrimmage.
Coaching gets a B. It is very early to decide the fate of Wulff, but all indications in 2011 lead me to believe he will be granted a contract extension. Orchestrating a five or six win improvement would win him the respect of doubters and a Pac-12 Coach of the Year nomination.
As long as he never chooses to squib kick again to end a half, his loudest critics will quiet down for a while.