The Cougars realize how fortunate they are to have a fifth-year senior and former starter ready to fill the void caused by Jeff Tuel's fractured collar bone. Marshall Lobbestael is just glad he hung around long enough to come to the rescue.
Lobbestael said Tuesday "it crossed my mind" to transfer after last season, when Tuel firmly established himself as WSU's quarterback of the present and future.
But Lobbestael said the idea of transferring "never got past first base" because of his appreciation for WSU and the dedication of former Cougars quarterback Gary Rogers.
The latter saw little action in his first four years at WSU, started as a fifth-year senior in 2008, then saw his college career end early that season due to a spinal fracture.
Lobbestael said that his attitude was not always 100 percent positive when Tuel, a true freshman at the time, replaced him in the starting lineup midway through the 2009 season.
"I was more upset with myself because I wasn't helping the team," Lobbestael said. "I wasn't doing my part. I was upset I wasn't making plays. I was happy for Jeff. He came in and played great for a true freshman. If I had to lose the job to anyone, I'd like it to be Jeff. He's a great guy."
Little-known fact: Lobbestael and Tuel have the same number of wins as the starter. Lobbestael is 2-7, Tuel is 2-15. Of course, both players are surrounded by far more talent this year – particularly at wide receiver and running back -- than in the past.
"Talent-wise, we're a different team," Lobbestael said.
Somewhat lost amidst WSU's 64-point outburst Saturday against Idaho State – the most points scored by the Cougars in a season opener since 1924 – is the fact that WSU held Idaho State to 113 yards and zero points in the first half.
"I definitely think we played great," safety Deone Bucannon said.
Most of the Bengals' 21 points and 453 yards – including 430 passing yards on 54 throws – came at the expense of WSU's reserves, after WSU forged a 40-point lead.
Bucannon, echoing what linebackers coach Chris Tormey told CF.C in an article published on Tuesday, said the Cougars "need to get better with our eyes" on pass defense, but he likes the progress of the defense as a whole.
"We're only going to get better," he said.
"We should be on the attack," linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis said. "We should be the hammer, not the nail."
Like the defense, WSU's offensive line has received heavy criticism for its play in recent years. On Saturday, however, the O-line was dominant.
"Our offensive line did a heck of a job," coach Paul Wulff said.
The UNLV Rebels, who come to Pullman on Saturday (2 p.m., no TV or Webcast) as 14-point underdogs, are not huge on defense. However, the Rebels are decidedly bigger than the Bengals, who started just one player on defense who weighed more than 234 pounds.
The Cougars, who led the nation with 16.5 yards allowed per kickoff return last season, gave up an average of just 15.5 yards on a whopping 11 kickoff returns last week. That ranks 10th nationally.
Andrew Furney handled his new kickoff duties adroitly, and he went 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 51-yarder. New punter Dan Wagner averaged 43.8 punts per kick, and Idaho State's only punt return gained a mere 3 yards.
Veteran special teams coach Dave Ungerer replaced Steve Broussard as WSU's special teams and running backs coach last year.
"Dave Ungerer has had a dramatic impact," Idaho State coach Mike Kramer said.
The increased complexity of high school offenses and defenses, combined with more and more freshmen engaging in unofficial summer workouts with their college teammates, is producing more game-ready freshmen.
The Cougars played nine true freshmen and 10 redshirt freshmen Saturday. Texas played a whopping 18 true freshmen in its opener. Tennessee played 12 true freshmen, and three started on defense.
Redshirt frosh defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole was the only freshman who started for the Cougars.
WSU's receiving depth was on display Saturday, and then some. A whopping 11 Cougars caught at least one pass, (including running backs).
There are too many WRs to point to as "one to watch" beyond the starters and potential developing stars but keep an eye on Bobby Ratliff. He tied Marquess Wilson for the reception lead with four grabs on Saturday.
Kids will be offered free games, prizes and temporary tattoos Saturday from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. during Family Football Weekend at the Mooberry track and field complex next to the Hollingbery Fieldhouse.
Fans of all ages are welcome to gobble down free food (including pulled pork and Ferdinand's ice cream), pose for photos with mascot Butch T. Cougar and obtain autographs from WSU men's and women's basketball players.
A pub crawl, campus art tour, tent party for recent graduates, a tour of athletic facilities and Future Cougar Day also are on tap. For more details, click HERE.
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