WSU notebook: Apple Cup could be Tuel’s finale

Washington State’s Connor Halliday fakes the pass as he gets ready to hand the ball off to Carl Winston in second half. (Associated Press)

TEMPE, Ariz. – With one game remaining in the season, Washington State still hasn’t found a starting quarterback.

Jeff Tuel, who was knocked out of last week’s game against UCLA with an apparent collarbone injury, started Saturday’s 46-7 loss to Arizona State but was benched after completing 8 of 16 passes for 67 yards with an interception.

So sophomore Connor Halliday took over, but sacks and dropped passes plagued his outing, which ended after 13 completions in 33 attempts. He also threw an interception along with WSU’s only touchdown.

“Jeff was kind of struggling,” coach Mike Leach said. “Of course, he had some help and Connor came in and then I thought he finished the half pretty good, so that’s why he started the second half and then we stuck with him after that.”

“I’d like to have some consistency at the position, but you’ve just got to go with it,” Tuel said. “It’s not our decision to make and you’ve got to try to make the most of it.”

Tuel might play his final game as a Cougar on Friday against Washington. Or he might not. The fourth-year senior is seeking a medical redshirt for the time he missed in 2011, though Tuel said again Saturday he hasn’t heard back from the NCAA and isn’t sure whether he’ll return even if the extra year is granted.

“I’m not going to make a decision just out of emotion or on the tail end of the season,” Tuel said. “I want to make the best decision for myself, so just sit down and think about it and weigh all my options.”

Leach said it’s too early to tell who will start against UW in the Apple Cup.

The Cougars have already set a school record for passing attempts in a season with 571, bypassing the previous record of 525 set in 2007. WSU also set a new record for single-season completions with 330 (previously held by the 2007 team that completed 309).

Blocking out Marquess

Deone Bucannon isn’t much for excuses.

So no, the junior safety said, the circumstances surrounding the departure of former receiver Marquess Wilson – whose allegations of abuse by the coaching staff prompted investigations by the school and the Pac-12 – are not to blame for the Cougars’ loss on Saturday.

But it’s possible some players were distracted by it.

“Everyone knows the Marquess thing, yeah, that takes a toll,” Bucannon said. “People see what happens. That’s a distraction but it’s not going to stop us from running hard, as hard as we can, and I’m not going to blame this loss on Marquess Wilson for quitting. That’s his personal decision, and we as a team just need to move on.”

Said Leach: “Clearly there’s some distractions to it, and, of course, it’s bearing out for what it is: unnecessary distraction.”

Leach fairly quiet

The final score may have been similar, but Leach’s evaluation of this loss was nothing like his critique of WSU’s 49-6 setback in Utah two weeks ago.

After that game, Leach blasted his team for lacking effort. After this game, he was more complimentary despite the score.

“We ran around hard, but we didn’t execute well,” Leach said. “And then as the floodgates opened we needed to become less frantic and stay within our technique, and we tried to make too much happen, which happens in situations like that.”

Notable

Sophomore receiver Isiah Myers, who missed WSU’s last four games with an undisclosed injury, played and had one catch for 11 yards. … WSU finished with 1 yard rushing, a total diminished by seven sacks and a 17-yard loss on a botched punt snap. The Cougars have finished four games with a negative rushing total this season. Carl Winston led WSU with seven carries for 39 yards.


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