Jeff Tuel inching closer to return

COLLEGE COACHES DO not simply have the option of trading prospects for a veteran that could enhance their bowl prospects. But it appears that Washington State will be able to add a high-caliber player to its offense -- without sacrificing anything -- as soon as Saturday when it plays at 7:30 p.m. at UCLA (TV: Root Sports).

Coach Paul Wulff said Sunday that junior quarterback Jeff Tuel's latest X-ray revealed that his fractured left clavicle, sustained Sept. 3 against Idaho State, is "continuing to heal." He said Tuel will practice in full pads this week.

And he said there was a possibility that Tuel will start against the Bruins (2-3 overall, 1-1 Pac-12).

"I would leave that open," said Wulff, adding that decision will be made based on medical opinions and how Tuel feels after practice this week.

Tuel's return could buoy an offense that did not impress Wulff in Saturday's 31-27 come-from-behind win at Colorado.

"We didn't play really well on offense," Wulff said. "We didn't execute very sharply. We've got to play a lot better."

Some felt that with better execution, the Cougars (3-1, 1-0) could have produced 50 points.

"Offensively, we were below standard," Wulff said. "We need to play better."

The exception was the two drives before senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael took a knee to run out the clock. On those possessions, Lobbestael found Isiah Barton following a lengthy drive and Marquess Wilson on a big fly for touchdowns.

BUT FOR THE most part, Wulff felt it was the defense that put WSU in position to win.

"We were in a ballgame in the fourth quarter," he said. "Our defense made some key stops when we needed to in the fourth."

Buffaloes running back Rodney Stewart finished with 132 yards on 26 carries, but Wulff said that was deceptive. Stewart had a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter, discount that and he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

"If you take that out, I thought our defense did a good job," Wulff said. "He's one of the all-time great running backs statistically at Colorado."

He was particularly pleased with junior defensive end Travis Long, who blocked a field goal in the first quarter and also had eight tackles -- two for loss -- and senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis. The latter had a game-high 14 tackles and two sacks. Wulff said a pair of sophomores -- safety Deone Bucannon and linebacker Sekope Kaufusi -- also played well.

One area that was a concern was the 10 penalties for 125 yards. Wulff said he did not agree with some calls, while others were easier to excuse because his team was playing aggressively.

But not all of them.

"There's some things that were in our control that we have to fix," he said. "It's easy to be critical of the ones that weren't intelligent."

Wulff said the breakdowns provide plenty to focus on during practice this week.

"We need to play better," he said. "We need to keep growing. We've got a big week of work in front of us."

NOTABLE NOTE:
  • With the exception of sophomore punt returner Leon Brooks (sprained shoulder), Wulff said the Cougars left CU in good shape from an injury standpoint.

    Brooks' injury required true freshman Henry Eaddy to return a late punt. He signaled for a fair catch.

    "Anytime someone is going out to catch their first punt, that's a concern," Wulff said. "But he handled it well."


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