PULLMAN – It’s hard to shine in the shadows.
But even the glow emitting from fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael’s outstanding play during Washington State’s first four games hasn’t dulled the contributions made by other Cougars subs.
Though Lobbestael, named Thursday as the Manning Award Player of the Week after his 32-for-49, 376-yard, three-touchdown passing performance in the come-from-behind 31-27 win at Colorado, has earned the accolades he’s received in relief of the injured Jeff Tuel, four others have also stepped in and filled much-needed roles:
• Matt Goetz, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman.
Goetz came to WSU this fall as a transfer from Navarro Junior College in Texas. He started his college career at Texas Tech, but left after one season.
Originally penciled in as a backup to right guard B.J. Guerra, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Goetz moved to center after Andrew Roxas was injured against UNLV. He watched as another JC transfer, Taylor Meighen, played against San Diego State, then moved into the lineup for the Colorado game.
“Considering it was his first career start, he really did a fine job, in that context,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said this week. “The limitation right now is the overall strength. But he’s very athletic, just falls into things naturally, he’s got very good balance, consistent snapping the ball, so I was very impressed with his first game.”
Though Roxas is getting better and made a few snaps in Boulder, Goetz is still penciled in to start Saturday night when WSU (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) faces UCLA (2-3, 0-2) in the Rose Bowl.
• Cyrus Coen, freshman linebacker.
The Cougars brought in four freshman scholarship linebackers this season, but Coen wasn’t one of them. He walked on from Pearl City, Hawaii. But the 6-foot, 205-pound Coen is the only one to make a start this season.
The freshman immediately impressed Wulff and linebackers coach Chris Tormey with his physicality and mental acuity, earning a role with special teams almost immediately. When Sekope Kaufusi didn’t start against Colorado for being late to a team activity, WSU called on Coen.
Though he only played the first series, Coen had an impact. When Travis Long blocked the Buffs’ first field-goal attempt, Coen jumped on the ball. He also picked up a special teams tackle later.
“His athleticism, speed, quickness and toughness have been a pleasant surprise for us,” Wulff said. “He’s got a lot of room for growth, but he’s mature enough to handle the rigors of going to school right now and playing college football for the first time.”
• Matthew Bock, redshirt sophomore defensive end, and Logan Mayes, freshman defensive end.
When starter Adam Coerper went down with a knee sprain, the Cougs had to scramble to fill the spot. Long switched sides of the defensive line and Lenard Williams, a JC transfer, moved into Long’s spot.
But depth was needed. Enter the 6-2, 247-pound Bock, who did not get on the field last season, and the 6-3, 230-pound Mayes, son of WSU’s all-time leading rusher, Rueben Mayes.
Mayes, who began practice at linebacker, was used in pass-rush situations at Colorado and came up with a sack. Bock, who went to high school with WSU basketball star Klay Thompson, offered relief in running situations and, though he didn’t get a tackle, played well enough to earn more time.
“Matt is a hard worker and he’s tough,” Wulff said of the walk-on. “He’s really working himself into helping this football team, which has been great to see.
“He’s doing a good job and he’s getting stronger.”
The play of the quartet is an illustration of one thing, Wulff said.
“You’re starting to see all the signs of (program building), when you start to build depth, when you have injuries, it doesn’t decimate your program,” he said. “We’re still not where we are going to be, but we’re so further along in that area.
“Our depth is growing, our top-end players are playing better, you’re starting to see the signs of a mature program.”