It's Lobster time as Cougs down Bengals

HE ONCE AFFECTIONATELY was dubbed "Ocho Rojo" by former Washington State teammate Tony Thompson. While that nickname no longer applies -- Marshall Lobbestael switched from jersey No. 8 to 9 a year ago -- Cougar fans can expect to see a lot more of him after Saturday's season-opening 64-21 win Saturday against Big Sky opponent Idaho State at Martin Stadium.

Lobbestael started in place of Jeff Tuel, who was suffering flu-like symptoms. Tuel came in and then left after one series in the first quarter. It was announced during the second quarter that Tuel, a junior, suffered a broken left clavicle. Tuel, who completed 1 of 3 passes for 4 yards, is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks. He still has a redshirt year available after playing as a true freshman in 2009.

Enter Lobbestael.

"When you have a program with enough experience, you want to throw another quarterback in there and still perform at a high level," WSU coach Paul Wulff said in a postgame radio interview.

He did that on Saturday. The redshirt senior had limited playing time last season, completing 7 of 15 passes for 61 yards. Previously, he might have been best remembered for his performance against Portland State in a 48-9 win. Lobbestael completed 9 of 12 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in that game.

Wulff that he was proud of Lobbestael for remaining in the program after he was unseated as the starting quarterback by Tuel.

"I just love WSU," Lobbestael said. "I want to be a Coug for life. I love the university too much."

Wulff was effusive in his praise of Lobbestael after the game.

"Marshall is a great kid and is a major leader on the team," he said. "He's one of the most respected people on this football team."

He had enjoyed little success since that contest, though. Now that Lobbestael, who connected on 14 of 19 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, appears to be WSU's starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, how he competes against higher-level competition could be the storyline of the season.

Lobbestael believes he -- and the offense -- have matured with experience.

"Every day we talk about turnovers," he said. "They've hurt us in the past. If it does happen, we've got to be ready to flush it and move on."

WSU did not have a turnover Saturday.

"I thought Marshall threw a lot of great balls," Wulff said. "He had a couple that were dropped."

Even against ISU (0-1), which has won just one game in each of the last three seasons, the improvement in the Cougars' offense was apparent. The Bengals hired Mike Kramer as their new coach during the offseason and Wulff expressed concern that he did not know which defensive alignment they would use. Turns out, that mattered not a whit. The Cougs did pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted on offense.

"I was really pleased with how we came out an executed from the opening drive," WSU offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said. "The challenge of this game is we don't really know what we were up against. We had no film -- just some thoughts on what they were going to do."

It took just 91 seconds to prove those concerns moot. WSU (1-0) needed only five plays for redshirt freshman running back Rickey Galvin to score on an 11-yard run.

Idaho State responded by picking up three first downs, advancing to the Cougars' 35-yard line. But Kevin Yost's pass on fourth-and-8 fell incomplete.

AND THAT ESSENTIALLY was the Bengals' final opportunity to keep the score close.

Lobbestael needed just six plays to give WSU a 14-0 lead when he found senior Isiah Barton for a 27-yard touchdown.

The Cougars extended their advantage when Tavoy Moore fumbled the kickoff, which was recovered by sophomore Bennett Bontemps, to give WSU possession at the ISU 30. Sophomore Andrew Furney later had a 23-yard field goal to give the Cougars a 17-0 lead.

Another Bengals' mistake, an interception that was returned 67 yards for a touchdown by senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, gave WSU a 24-0 first-quarter lead.

The Cougars extended that lead to 40-0 at halftime as a 7-yard touchdown run by Rickey Galvin and 61-yard scoring reception by Marquess Wilson were sandwiched by a 51-yard field goal by Furney. Wilson had a team-high 91 yards on four receptions. Tying him for the reception lead was Bobby Ratliff, with four grabs for 46 yards.

WSU outgained the Bengals 327 to 113 yards in the first half. Perhaps more significant was the balance throughout the game. The Cougars, who last year ranked 119th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision team with an average of 2.62 yards per carry, successfully rotated several backs Saturday. They finished with 289 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. WSU also did not allow a sack.

"The offensive line created the holes and we took it from there," said Galvin, who started and finished with 64 yards on seven carries.

The versatility of the running backs perhaps was best exhibited during the third quarter. Senior Logwone Mitz, who 58 yards on eight carries, finished off a series with a 1-yard touchdown run. Later, true freshman Marcus Mason showed why his coaches called him the program's fastest player when he ran untouched for a 65-yard touchdown. Mason had a team-high 88 yards on six carries.

That complemented a receiving game that appears even stronger than last season. Redshirt freshman Kristoff Williams had his first touchdown in the third period a 20-yard pass from Connor Halliday. It also marked the first touchdown pass for Halliday, a redshirt freshman from Ferris High School.

"Kristoff gave me a great edge," Halliday said. "He made a great play."

Eleven players caught passes for the Cougars, including true freshmen Henry Eaddy and Isiah Myers.

The frequent scores regularly kept WSU's defense on the field as ISU had possession for 32:16. Any shutout hopes for the Cougars ended with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Jahmel Rover. But most of the Bengals' scoring production came with their first-team offense competing against WSU backups.

"Our defensive intensity waned a little bit in the third quarter," Wulff said. "That's something we have to fix.

"We've worked hard to get to this point. We're going to keep working hard as a team."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • True freshmen linebacker Darryl Monroe (leg) and cornerback Spencer Waseem (knee) left the game in the second half with injuries.

  • WSU has won 16 consecutive games against Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) teams since 1978. Wulff has won three of those games as the Cougars previously defeated Portland State (2008) and Montana State (2010).

  • This marked the first time the Cougars won their season opener since 2005.

    TURNING POINT OF THE GAME: Bontemps recovered a fumbled first-quarter kickoff by Moore. That allowed WSU to extend its lead to 17-0 on a Furney field goal.

    CATCH OF THE GAME: Wilson displayed his explosiveness with a 61-yard touchdown.

    STAT OF THE GAME: The Cougars produced 590 yards of total offense despite getting deep into the bench early.

    MISLEADING STAT OF THE GAME: ISU finished with 453 yards of total offense, but much of that came in the second half against WSU backups.

    LEADING TACKLERS: Sophomore safety Deone Bucannon had seven tackles to lead the Cougs. Redshirt freshman Tracy Clark and sophomore safety Anthony Carpenter each had four solo tackles. C.J. Mizell had four total tackles, including two sacks.

    NEXT GAME: The Cougars host UNLV at 2 p.m. Saturday in Pullman. Tickets are going fast, according to WSU.


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