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Starters dominate WSU spring game


COUGARS

We've finally put together our story concerning Washington State's spring football game, won by the first-string groups on both sides of the ball, 21-0, an outcome that shouldn't be a surprise. For the unedited version of our story, and some notes, read on.
••••••••••

• Here's the story ...

PULLMAN – In Paul Wulff's mind, there's no question about the Washington State University quarterback situation.

It's just that his answer hasn't been as clear as most Cougar fans would like.

But asked after WSU's spring game Saturday if there's no question sophomore Jeff Tuel heads into fall as the No. 1 quarterback, Wulff gave as definitive an answer as he has all spring.

"Ya, he's running with the ones, there's no question," Wulff said. "And he's doing well, there's no question. We want to bring both those guys along, we're going to need them both, they're both going to need to play for us, there's no question."

Tuel and Marshall Lobbestael spent the spring battling for the highest profile position on any college football team, starting quarterback.

Saturday before an estimated crowd of 1,000 at Martin Stadium, Tuel ran the No. 1 offense for three quarters. Lobbestael, a junior, was in charge of the second group before taking over the starters for the final 12-minute, running-clock period. The Crimson group – starters – outscored the Gray 21-0.

Facing the second-string defense, the 6-foot-3 Tuel, who started five games last fall, led two scoring drives – one of them capped by his 16-yard screen pass to Logwone Mitz – and completed 11 of 16 passes for 129 yards.

Lobbestael, facing the top defense all but the fourth quarter, was 4 of 11 for 27 yards and one interception – an acrobatic diving, tip-to-himself pick by cornerback Aire Justin on the game's fifth play that ended with Justin concussed and unable to continue.

Against the second string defense, Lobbestael, who has started six games in two years, led the offense on a four-play, 60-yard scoring drive, 51 one of them covered by a Chantz Staden run.

For the spring's three scrimmages, Tuel was 25 of 41 (61 percent) passing for 297 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Lobbestael was 17 of 31 (55 percent) for 165 yards, two scores and three interceptions.

Asked if he is the Cougars' guy under center, Tuel answered with the skill of a seasoned veteran.

"Every quarterback should feel like they're the guy," he said. "If I'm in there, then I feel like it's my team and my offense to run."

The Cougars' top offense ran well against the defense's reserves, with Staden averaging 8.6 yards a carry and Mitz another 5.9. The starting offensive line – missing tackle Wade Jacobson, out with a leg injury – blocked well, with two standing out – though one wasn't from a lineman.

The second was right guard B.J. Guerra's kick-out that of linebacker Omari Guidry that freed Staden for a 9-yard, fourth-quarter scoring run, his second score.

"It feels good," Guerra said of the block in the open field. "Not the recognition part, but knowing you did your job. You helped your teammate out and you helped your team score."

The first came in the second quarter on a 4-yard Mitz run, but it brought the most oohs when replayed on the scoreboard. That's because it showed linebacker Andre Barrington knocked flat by Tuel, who was wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey.

"I don't think Andre saw me coming, really," Tuel said, "because I didn't try to hit him that hard. But he probably wasn't expecting a yellow jersey to hit him. It may have been a little cheap, but, it's instincts I guess. It's hard not to.

"I feel bad," Tuel added, then laughed.

But the defense had their moments, as well, especially newcomer Brandon Rankin.

The 6-5, 271-pound junior tackle from Shallotte, N.C., used his quickness off the ball to register two sacks, a tackle for loss and, on many plays, disrupt the second offensive group.

"Brandon is going to give us a unique pass rush from the defensive tackle position," Wulff said, "which we haven't had here since, I don't know, probably since (Outland Trophy winner) Rein Long was here (2000-02).

"And his quickness off the ball, he can disrupt some things in the run game and the pass game."

Rankin is part of an influx of defensive talent that helped the starting group limit the No. 2 offense to 13 yards of total offense on 26 plays, a performance that illustrates the hope Wulff and his staff have for the group.

"They're real hyper about this year," Rankin said. "They're feeling real good. Like everybody said, don't worry about the past, just look forward to the future.

"That's where I come in. That's what we're going to do."

•••

• Though Justin suffered the concussion (after getting helped out by the training staff, he was helped off the field, still clutching the ball he had just intercepted), there were no major injuries. Reserve linebacker Arthur Burns sprained his left ankle, but that was it. Besides Jacobson, defensive tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo, cornerback Anthony Houston, safety Jay Matthews, linebackers Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Louis Bland, receiver Gino Simone, running back James Montgomery, center Andrew Roxas, guard Steven Ayers and tight end Zach Tatman were injured and could not play. Of course, some of them have been injured all spring. ... With Justin out, Nolan Washington took his place at corner with the starters. ... The offense was hit with three penalties, two illegal procedures and a delay of game. The defense had one, a defensive holding call that probably saved a long completion. ... There were three turnovers: Justin's interception, a fumbled handoff between Carl Winston and Lobbestael, and Jeffrey Solomon's fumble on the last play of the game. ... Besides Staden's 51-yard run off right end – he juked Adam Coerper and Guidry into colliding – Mitz had a 33-yard run. The longest pass completion was between Tuel and Jared Karstetter on a post pattern over the middle. Karstetter went up and caught the slightly high throw for a 23-yard gain that led to Staden's first score, a 1-yard run. ... Senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman had a sack and helped on one of Rankin's. ... Nico Grasu kicked all three extra points. ... The Cougars will finish up spring practice with a full-pad practice at 6 a.m. Monday. What are they trying to accomplish? "We'll try to accomplish a good practice, we better," Wulff said. "We want to come out, we'll be in full gear. We've still got some things we need to get installed and some things we can make sure the players are prepared to run by themselves over the summer." ... Tuel and Lobbestael will be in charge of the offense in those summer drills. "Usually me and Marshall get together some plays we want to run, try to coach the new guys we've got coming in on the fly, just try to get as much done as we can," Tuel said.

•••••

• That's it for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow morning with our last post for a while. With spring football over – well, it was supposed to be – it's time for a vacation. It actually starts tomorrow, but we'll give you links to WSU coverage one last time before taking two weeks off. Until then ...




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Vince Grippi





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