Will Lobbestael or Tuel start at quarterback?

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Paul Wulff announced early this week that senior Marshall Lobbestael would start at quarter Saturday when the Cougars host Stanford in their homecoming game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: Versus). But circumstances have changed and Wulff was not quite as definitive Thursday afternoon about which signal-caller will take the first snap.

Wulff said there is "a high probability" that Lobbestael will start, but he left open the possibility that it could be junior Jeff Tuel. The latter, who suffered a broken left clavicle Sept. 3 against Idaho State, was cleared to play this week. Wulff said he anticipates making a decision between Lobbestael and Tuel on "Friday night or Saturday morning."

"The chances are that (Tuel) will play," he said, adding that the game plan won't change much based on the starter because it was devised before Tuel was cleared. "We want to get through today and tomorrow and assess how he is playing."

Tuel started last year at Stanford (5-0 overall, 3-0 Pac-12) when WSU trailed 31-7 entering the fourth quarter. But the Cougars (3-2, 1-1) scored three touchdowns in the final period en route to a 38-28 loss.

Wulff said that outcome has little bearing on this season, though. He said his team is "a little different schematically this year, particularly on offense," while he feels the Cardinal is a better team than the 2010 version that finished with a 12-1 record and won the Orange Bowl.

"Their team is better than a year ago with the experience they have back," Wulff said.

Junior quarterback Andrew Luck, who has completed 106 of 145 passes for 1,383 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions this season, is the consensus top pro prospect in April's draft. Stanford averages 46.2 points per game, which is seventh among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Its average margin of victory this season is five touchdowns.

"There has not been a remotely close game," Wulff said. "We know there's a great challenge on our hands."

Some teams might have problems playing in a close game for the first time, but Wulff said he does not anticipate that from the Cardinal.

"You would say that, but the difference with their team is the experience they have back," he said. "They've been in those situations. They're going to handle it better than most teams."

  • On the injury front, Wulff said senior right tackle Wade Jacobson (back) and sophomore punt returner Leon Brooks (sprained shoulder), both are out. He said he still is consulting with doctors on Jacobson, and if surgery is required, he will be sidelined for the duration of the season. Wulff said Brooks, who was injured Oct. 1 at Colorado, has not returned punts at practice this week.

    He said sophomore linebacker Sekope Kaufusi (shoulder) is "feeling better all of the time" and is expected to start against Stanford. Meanwhile, sophomore Matt Goetz would start over senior Andrew Roxas (ankle) if the game were played today, Wulff said.

    At defensive end, the Cougars could be forced into using another new starter this week. Junior Adam Coerper (knee) started twice, but has not played since Sept. 17 at San Diego State. Junior-college transfer Lenard Williams (neck), who has started the last two games, was injured during Monday's practice. Wulff said if Williams, whose status might not be determined until game time, is unable to start, sophomore Jordan Pu'u-Robinson likely would take his place with junior Skylar Stormo also seeing plenty of playing time.

  • One of Luck's favorite targets is senior tight end Coby Fleener, who has 255 yards and five touchdowns on 12 receptions this season. Wulff said Fleener and junior tight end Zach Ertz, who has 227 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions, present match-up problems for opponents because they are skilled blockers and receivers. Both players are 6-foot-6 and weigh more than 240 pounds.

    "They're good blockers … and they're all very good at catching the ball," Wulff said. "Some of them run as well as wide receivers. They're very challenging down the middle vertically and in the flats on play action."

  • Wulff said he expects Tuel to need some time to reacclimatize himself after being sidelined for six weeks.

  • Standout Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov suffered a season-ending knee injury last month at Arizona, but Wulff said its defensive system is similar without him.

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