Lobster aims to step it up; is happy for Tuel

PULLMAN -- Marshall Lobbestael, the new top gun on the Palouse, took all but a handful of snaps with the first-team Tuesday during Washington State's first practice since Saturday's meltdown against Hawaii. The third-year sophomore from Oak Harbor said he's aiming to step up his game this week. Meanwhile, the plan for Jeff Tuel on Saturday is unclear.

Lobbestael said it's a different feeling knowing that he will start Saturday in Pullman vs. SMU after coming off the bench against Stanford and Hawaii. "I just have to get ready and start preparing," he said. "I'm trying to step it up a notch this week in my preparations."

Lobbestael has completed 10-of-19 passes for 114 yards, no TDs and one interception. " Not very good," quarterback says. "There were times where I didn't execute and other times certain stuff didn't click fast enough for me but I feel like I have gotten better from Stanford to Hawaii even though I was only in for a little bit. Lobbestael was 2-of-6 for 36 yards in the 38-20 loss to Hawaii.

While Lobbestael was the new man lining up behind center with the first string, true freshman Jeff Tuel – the Pride of Fresno -- was the new face doing the honors with the second unit. Tuel also took a handful of reps with the 1s and saw considerably more work during 11-on-11 drills.

All of the juxtaposition came courtesy of head coach Paul Wulff's decision to bench senior starter Kevin Lopina.

"I'm happy for him," Lobbestael said of Tuel. " It's exciting to play and we all have confidence in him, he works hard … he's got a really good arm and he tried to understand everything which is good for a young guy, he's been preparing really hard."

Tuel's day didn't start out so hot after forcing a pass to receiver Nick Proen that was intercepted by cornerback Daniel Simmons. After the early mistake, however, Tuel didn't force another ball, choosing to either run or check down to running back Logwone Mitz.

Tuel's reaction to his new role with the Cougs is unknown. WSU is not letting reporters talk with him this week.

Asked if he thought Tuel was ready to take the field on Saturday and lead the Cougar offense, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy said, " You're never really ready to go out in your first football game. At some point you have to have the opportunity to go out there and get some things done."

Tuel will continue to see an increased amount of time with the 1's and 2's in practice this week which Sturdy explains won't just allow him to have more reps, but will also give him a better mental feel with certain situations while running the offense. Although Sturdy did not say whether or not Tuel will play against SMU, he did say he's certainly got the tools to do so.

"Jeff's got a lot of ability and potential, let's remember he hasn't taken a snap yet, but we recruited him because he's got a lot of talent , he's definitely proved that since he's been here.

As for Lopina, running back Dwight Tardy said the fifth-year senior is handling the demotion well. "I talked to him, he's a real positive guy and he's all about the team ... If the team wins then that's all that matters, he's taken it really well, he's a team player and a team leader."

ON THE INJURY FRONT, the Cougars were missing several on Tuesday, including WR Gino Simone who suffered a concussion Saturday, left guard Zack Williams had a boot on his right foot following a high ankle sprain. RB James Montgomery was in uniform, but did not practice to rest a sore knee. On defense, LB Andy Mattingly practiced after also suffering a concussion against Hawaii. With LeAndre Daniels suffering a broken fibula, Chima Nwachukwu returned to safety today, and Daniel Simmons moved to cornerback.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Mitz saw more time with the 1's with James Montgomery not practicing, and Dwight Tardy having limited participation during 11-on-11 drills.

  • The offense spent a good deal of time focused on running game, which set up a beautifully executed play-action pass from Lobbestael to WR Daniel Blackledge for a 15-20 yard gain.

  • Although he did not practice, center Andrew Roxas was dressed in full pads. He's redshirting this year and missing all of fall camp with viral hepatitis.

  • Oddsmakers have installed SMU as a 3-point favorite this Saturday.

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