PULLMAN – On the bus ride from Seattle back to Pullman in the dark of early Sunday morning, Washington State football coach Paul Wulff pulled out his laptop.
It was time to watch a film. Game film.
He knew the ending wasn’t uplifting. But another viewing might give him some deeper insight about the plot twists during Oregon State’s 44-21 victory at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.
No such luck. After shutting down his computer, an emotionally drained Wulff felt the same way about the defeat.
The WSU defense had its chances but let them slip through its fingers. The Beavers made all the plays they needed to make. The Cougars couldn’t get off the field on third down.
And Jeff Tuel wasn’t available.
Whether the junior quarterback will be anytime soon is still to be determined.
Tuel started, was 11 of 13 for 127 yards and had a hand in two touchdowns before taking a series of tremendous hits just prior to halftime. He didn’t return, suffering from pain in his left clavicle, site of a fracture that cost him the first five games of the season.
“He’s sore,” Wulff said Sunday night. “We don’t know exactly how it is, but we do know it’s aggravated and it’s sore. They have x-rayed it, nothing was (broken) on the x-ray at this point.”
Tuel, who fractured the bone on Sept. 3 and was cleared for contact on Oct. 12, will consult with the medical staff and more tests will be taken, Wulff said. A final determination will have to wait for the test results.
But the season marches on, with No. 7 Oregon on tap in Eugene this Saturday. Fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael would be the starter in Tuel’s absence.
“Maybe that’s why Marshall got to play early, because he was going to be needed for this football team throughout the year,” Wulff said. “I believe Marshall is mentally ready to go and we’ll move forward with (him). He can do a lot of really good things.”
Lobbestael took over for Tuel for the season’s first five games, saw late action against Stanford and went into Saturday night having passed for 1,634 yards, with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions on a 65.4 completion percentage.
Facing extreme pressure from the Beavers in the second half, he was 10 of 20 for 105 yards with an interception.
None of that mattered, however, as the Beavers scored eight of the first nine times they had the ball. A couple of those drives were kept alive by personal foul penalties on upper-body blows that were described by referee Michael Batlan as occurring after the play.
Asked about that nomenclature, Wulff didn’t really have an explanation.
“I felt confused out there too with what was going on,” he said, adding he disagreed with some calls, naturally, but didn’t want to go further to avoid getting in trouble with the conference.
Having lost three consecutive games, the Cougars (3-4 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12 play) are in danger of an eighth consecutive non-winning season. Losing to the Beavers, 1-5 coming in, didn’t help.
“We’ve got to keep finding ways to grow,” answered Wulff, in part, when asked how his team could bounce back from such a tough defeat. “That’s how it is, just taking the present moment, and trying to address what we need to do to take a step forward each week.”