While watching Stanford obliterate the Cougars in the second half of Saturday’s Homecoming game, there was sentiment from Section 25 of Martin Stadium that Marshall Lobbestael should have played in place of Jeff Tuel.
Now I’ve been very critical of Paul Wulff’s coaching tenure, but he made the right decision in starting Tuel against the Cardinal.
The last thing WSU needs is a quarterback controversy.
Lobbestael played admirably in the season’s first five games, but his tendency to turn the ball over in critical situations has plagued his career at WSU.
Against San Diego State, he fumbled and threw a pick in the 4th quarter when the Cougars were driving.
Against UCLA, he threw an inexcusable interception when it looked as if the Cougars were ready to march down the field for a win.
The five sacks Stanford racked up against WSU were indeed troublesome. If Lobbestael played the entire game, their total would have been closer to 10.
Additionally, if Tuel had not broken his collarbone against Idaho State in the season opener, WSU would at least be 4-2. They might even be 5-1.
I didn’t agree with Wulff’s decision to criticize Tuel’s performance, regardless of whether he played his best.
He said Tuel looked rusty and criticized the signal-caller for missing a few protection audibles while noting his offense’s ability to get anything going.
It’s interesting to note Wulff’s willingness to criticize his star player in his first game back against arguably the best defense in the country.
Why reprimand Tuel, who went a respectable 17 of 30 for 147 yards, when WSU’s wide receivers dropped at least five passes that could have swung momentum in their favor?
Tuel’s mobility, along with a stellar first-half effort by the defense, kept WSU in the game. There is no reason to think he won’t respond and play better against Oregon State Saturday night at Century Link Field.
In retrospect, he couldn’t have been thrown into a tougher situation, considering the circumstances. Stanford’s defense is fast, aggressive and well-coached. There is little reason to believe WSU could have punished a team so fundamentally sound with Lobbestael behind center.
With six games remaining this season, the Cougars still have an opportunity to make a bowl game despite their recent stretch. Assuming they take care of business next week against a flailing Oregon State team, they will be two wins away from bowl eligibility.
Back to back home games in November against Utah and Arizona State, both appear winnable. Road games against Cal and the Huskies are also critical if Wulff wants to coach through the final year of his contract. This season isn’t lost.
Assuming Tuel rounds into form, the offense should rediscover the rhythm it showed against Idaho State and UNLV. For what it’s worth, my money is still on a 4-2 finish and a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl.