Wulff sees Tuel as stimulus to running game

WASHINGTON STATE WAS dubbed "QB U" by Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s because of the arms — and not feet — of quarterbacks such as Jack Thompson, Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf. But for the first time since Jason Gesser, the Cougars have an arm and foot man under center.

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel rushed for a career-high 79 yards in WSU's 31-14 win Saturday at Oregon State. The Cougars, who have ranked near the bottom among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing yards, produced a season-high 221 on the ground against the Beavers.

WSU coach Paul Wulff said during his Tuesday Pac-10 teleconference that will not change when the Cougars (2-9 overall, 1-7 Pac-10) host the Huskies on Dec. 4. He said the coaching staff wanted to limit Tuel's scrambling ability early in the season because it made him more susceptible to injury. Wulff said it was important for Tuel to remain healthy this season — he missed the final three games last year with a subluxed right kneecap — to gain experience.

He said the coaching staff instead used several sets that employed either two tight ends or a pair of running backs early in the season to stimulate the running game. When WSU struggled to move the ball, Wulff said he and offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy opened up the playbook to feature an offense that is closer to what they envision.

They also wanted Tuel, who entered the season with just five starts, to become more comfortable with the offense. Then with OSU's struggles to contain quarterbacks with scrambling ability, Wulff said the coaching staff became more comfortable with Tuel running.

Tuel, who also completed 10 of 15 passes for 157 yards, helped the Cougars end their 16-game conference losing streak. Wulff said the win was important for the team's confidence headed into consecutive bye weeks, but he said the players cannot carry it for too long.

"Looking back doesn't help us," he said. "Hopefully by the time we get there (Apple Cup) it will be something in the distant past."

The victory put Wulff's three-year WSU record at 5-31.

"I said this opening day ... there's so many things we have to get into place before we get wins here," he said. "The wins are going to start happening."

Wulff said that also could be a recruiting boon. Seven assistant coaches are on the road recruiting through Wednesday.

"If I'm a parent and see the progress we're making academically, I think that should mean a lot," he said. "I think that would mean it's a healthy situation."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Wulff said junior linebacker Mike Ledgerwood (concussion), sophomore cornerback Daniel Simmons (shoulder) and sophomore wide receiver Gino Simone (concussion) are the only injured players who have a possibility of returning for the Apple Cup.

  • As previously reported by CF.C, senior running back James Montgomery hopes to obtain a sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA. But Wulff said he is not optimistic that will occur. He said Montgomery elected to redshirt as a freshman in 2006 at California and then had to sit out in '08 after transferring to WSU. Wulff said a sixth year usually comes when a player misses two years because of injuries. Montgomery missed most of last season after suffering acute compartment syndrome in his left leg.

    "I'm sure it's something he wants to look into," he said. "I just don't know the realistic possibility of that happening."

  • The Pac-10 All-Academic team was announced today and Washington State placed a league-high seven players on the list, led by perennial pick Chima Nwachukwu. We'll have the full report out later today.

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