Tuel's status for UCLA remains questionable

When WSU hosts UCLA on Saturday, both teams might feature backups at quarterbacks. Also, Wulff discusses the situation at left tackle and provides clarity on defensive end Kevin Kooyman's status.

A quarterback never seems too far removed from the limelight.

But for the Cougars and the UCLA Bruins, the position is receiving even more attention because of injuries.

When the teams meet at 2 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium, both might be forced to play backups. That is because WSU true freshman Jeff Tuel suffered a subluxed right kneecap in the second quarter of Saturday's 48-7 loss at Arizona.

WSU coach Paul Wulff said during his Sunday news conference that he might not know until Tuesday whether Tuel will be able to play.

"He's sore, but there's very little swelling," said Wulff, adding that Tuel had an MRI on Sunday afternoon.

UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince was knocked out of the Bruins' 24-23 win Saturday against Washington on a helmet-to-helmet hit by linebacker Donald Butler during the second quarter. Prince has 212 passing yards when he scrambled and took the blow by Butler.

HE WAS REPLACED by senior Kevin Craft, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 159 yards in addition to a touchdown and an interception.

"The guy has proven he can make plays," said Wulff, referring to Craft. "He's played football for a long time, has taken hits and knows the deal. They don't miss a beat when he plays in my mind."

If Tuel is not able to play, the Cougars likely will turn to sophomore Marshall Lobbestael. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against Arizona.

"Marshall did OK for the limited opportunities he had," Wulff said. "He missed a couple of throws he could've hit."

BUT SOME OF that is a result of timing, which Wulff repeatedly has said his quarterbacks have not received enough of from their offensive line. WSU allows a Football Bowl Subdivision-worst five sacks per game.

Redshirt freshman left tackle Tyson Pencer suffered a high ankle sprain against the Wildcats and Wulff said he is wearing a protective boot and likely will not play against UCLA. Junior kicker Nico Grasu (pulled quadriceps) also is out.

Sophomore Steven Ayers, who started the season at that position before moving to guard and suffering a ankle injury Sept. 26 at USC, likely will replace Pencer. Wulff said true freshman Alex Reitnouer remains a possibility as well.

"With our team right now, we're playing some guys there that physically have had some tough matches," he said. "If Steven Ayers can come back this week, we should be more physical there."

SIMILAR TO THE offensive line, the Cougars also have had several injuries in the secondary. But most of those players have returned, which is not the case in the defensive backfield.

Wulff at least hopes to have junior safety Chima Nwachukwu back this week. Nwachukwu suffered an ankle injury Oct. 31 against Notre Dame and did not play against the Wildcats. He also thinks redshirt freshman safety Jay Matthews, who suffered a shoulder injury against Arizona, will be able to play against UCLA.

Wulff hoped that redshirt freshman safety LeAndre Daniels, who has not played since suffering a broken leg Sept. 12 against Hawaii, might return this season. But he said Daniels may not be able to do anything more than practice toward the end of the season. Wulff said Daniels has done some "light jogging" in the HydroWorx pool, which is an underwater treadmill.

FOR SEVERAL WEEKS, Wulff has hinted that senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman might be out for the season but stopped short of saying it. That changed Sunday as he said Kooyman, who has not played since the season opener against Stanford, will redshirt.

Kooyman and sophomore linebacker Louis Bland tore the posterior cruciate ligament in their knees during spring ball. Bland played some this season, but the injury became worse and he now is done for the year.

With that in mind, Wulff said it would be risky to bring Kooyman back. He said "it's time to let it firm and tighten down" and there is no need for surgery. Kooyman still has a redshirt year available as he played as a true freshman in 2006.

WSU COLOR COMMENTATOR Jim Walden said during the broadcast against Arizona that he felt the defense looked tired. The Cougars surrendered 471 yards of total offense, but the Wildcats' production slowed in the second half after they pulled their starters.

WSU only has played one home game -- a 27-14 loss Oct. 10 against Arizona State -- since its 30-27 overtime win Sept. 19 against Southern Methodist. Five of its last six games have been on the road.

"That's a pretty good stretch for any team in the country," he said.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats were coming off a bye week.

"They were fast and rested," Wulff said. "It was not a good combination for our team at this moment."

He said the coaches reduced practice time last week to compensate somewhat, and that they will do that again this week. He said the Cougars did some light weight lifting Sunday morning and watched game tape, but did not take the practice field.

Cougfan Top Stories