Tuel Keeps Cougars' Hopes Alive At Stanford

IT WAS FAR from a perfect effort. But on Saturday, Jeff Tuel was the mechanic that kept the Cougars humming along – and close to a win against No. 19 Stanford. Granted, if there were a school record for being sacked the most times in one game, Tuel would be right up there after Saturday's 24-17 loss. But he also kept the Cougars' hopes alive for the first time in weeks.

In just his fifth start in two seasons, the oft-injured Tuel threw for a career high 401 yards and his 43-of-60 attempts were also career highs. His 43 completions were a school record.

"He played pretty well," said coach Mike Leach in a postgame radio interview. "I thought he played tough. I thought he kept drives going."

Tuel's performance was virtuosic at times as he guided the short passing attack – and ran with the ball on several occasions. He also held onto the ball too long at times and was sacked 10 times – five times in the first quarter alone – and took some vicious hits.

TUEL WAS ESPECIALLY dazzling in a pair of passes late in the fourth quarter. He threw a beautiful 42-yard pass to Marquess Wilson on the final drive of the night. That was followed by a 25-yard throw to Bobby Ratliff on fourth-and-23 that landed the Cougars in the red zone and inching toward tying the game.

"Bobby had an incredible catch that extended the drive," Tuel said after the game.

But then came an intentional grounding penalty – and a sack – and backward Tuel and the Cougars went.

"There was a little confusion on the last play," Tuel said. "That's on me. I can't take a sack there."

WHILE LEACH SAID the team needs to play "smarter and older," he praised the offense's improvement.

"We had a lot of first downs," he said. "We kept drives going a little better than we did."

Tuel's effort even drew compliments from the other side of the ball.

"That guy battles," said Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner. "He took some hits and got back up and kept fighting. He doesn't get the credit he's due.

"He's a warrior."

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DESPITE LEADING THE Cougars with nine catches and 100 receiving yards, junior Marquess Wilson was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Instead, freshman Dominique Williams took his place after outplaying him in practice last week.

Williams caught six balls for 79 yards and a touchdown.

"If Marquess wants to play all the time, he's going to have to quit being hot and cold," Leach said.

Wilson now has 184 career receptions for 3,134 yards. Saturday was the 14th 100-yard performance of his career.

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WIDE RECEIVER ISIAH MYERS did not play for reasons Leach refused to disclose. He did say that Myers is not suspended and remains part of the team.

Asked whether Myers missed the game for reasons other than injury, Leach replied, "You can use your imagination."

As for whether the sophomore will practice this week, he said, "I don't have a crystal ball."

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JUNIOR PUNTER MIKE BOWLIN 'S inconsistent performance won him a seat on the bench as Leach subbed in walk-on sophomore Wes Concepcion.

Bowlin's first three punts traveled a total of just 89 yards, the longest of which was a 33-yarder. Concepcion was more successful, averaging 41 yards on each of his two punts.

"He didn't play well, so we benched him," Leach told The Seattle Times. "It's a little bit like receivers – ball flies through air, catch. Well catch, punt. I don't know. You catch the ball, punt it.

"Concepcion came in, punted really well. Right now, if we were playing here in 10 minutes, Concepcion's the starting punter."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Stanford coach David Shaw praised senior BUCK specialist Travis Long, calling him "probably one of my favorite guys in the conference that's not on our team. That guy plays hard."

  • Junior Andrew Furney's 24-yard field goal was the 28th of his career, the seventh most in school history.

  • Junior Deone Bucannon's 10 tackles were the 10th double-digit performance of his career and fifth of the season.

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