COUGARS • UPDATED: 6 P.M.
A quick note to share something we've learned: The identity of WSU's new starting quarterback. True freshman Jeff Tuel will start Saturday against the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. We have more on the link.
• Here's our short story ...
PULLMAN – Washington State University true freshman Jeff Tuel will start at quarterback against Oregon on Saturday, Cougar coach Paul Wulff said Monday.
Tuel will become only the second true freshman to start at the position for WSU, joining Drew Bledsoe, who made his starting debut against Oregon State in the seventh game of 1990.
Tuel, from Clovis, Calif., appeared for the first time as a collegian last Saturday against USC.
Playing almost all the final 39 minutes of the game, Tuel completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards and one interception. He also ran nine times for 51 yards while being sacked four times. WSU lost 27-6, dropping its record to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in Pac-10 play.
Oregon (3-1, 1-0) is ranked 16th in the nation.
• And here our first look at Oregon ...
Washington State at Oregon
Time: 6:15 p.m. (PDT) Saturday. TV: None
The records: WSU (1-3, 0-2 in Pac-10); Oregon (3-1; 1-0)
Last week: Oregon defeated Cal, 42-3
WSU lost to USC, 27-6
Last time: Oregon defeated WSU, 63-14, in Pullman last season.
The line: Oregon by 31
What it means for WSU: It's not often you build momentum with a loss but that's just what the Cougars did last week. By playing tough at USC, WSU showed it is capable of competing against the better teams in the Pac-10. But that's something the Cougars need to keep proving each week. By turning to true freshman Jeff Tuel as the starting quarterback, WSU is trying to win this year while simaltenously working to improve the attack in the future. There probably isn't a tougher place for Tuel to make his debut than Autzen Stadium, but if he handles the crowd and pressure, the Cougars know they are set for the next few years at the position.
What it means for Oregon: The Ducks just pushed themselves back into the national consciousness with their dominating win over Cal, reappearing in the rankings at No. 16 this week. More importantly, Oregon is now in the Pac-10's driver's seat, considering the Ducks get USC at home. But an upset loss to the Cougars would ruin their Pac-10 chances and even a close win would cost them in the rankings. Oregon must prove the steps it's taken since the Boise State debacle and the close home win against Purdue are real. Only a big win Saturday will ensure that.
Key matchup: Oregon middle linebacker Casey Matthews vs. WSU running back Dwight Tardy.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Matthews leads the Ducks in tackles with 35. But a lot of that has to do with Oregon's aggressive scheme, which keeps linemen off Matthews and allows him to get upfield and plug gaps. For the Cougars to run the ball, and they will want to take pressure off Tuel in his first start, not only will the rebuilt WSU offensive line – three starters will probably sit out – have to do its best to get to the second level, Tardy will have to make Matthews miss once in a while. The senior, who has led WSU in rushing each of the last three seasons, is averaging 3.7 yards per attempt and has rushed for 161 yards in four games.
• That's it for tonight. FYI: The TV for Saturday could change because the Oregon Sports Network is broadcasting the game. As far as anyone knows right now, it's not being broadcast in Eastern Washington. We'll be back in the morning. Until then …