PULLMAN – For the first time in six years, Washington State will take a 1-0 record into the football season’s second game.
The Cougars will also not take their usual starting quarterback.
Those were story lines 1 and 1A to come out of Saturday’s 64-21 undressing of Idaho State, a member of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, a level below WSU.
Now Paul Wulff and the Cougars move on – and move up in class, with UNLV coming to town Saturday.
Though the Rebels were 2-11 last season, their first under coach Bobby Hauck, and opened with a resounding 51-17 defeat at No.11 Wisconsin, they will present a sterner challenge. A member of the Mountain West, UNLV is rebuilding, with 16 players seeing their first collegiate action against Wisconsin.
“(They have) good speed on offense at running back and receiver,” Wulff said in his Sunday media call, prior to spending the evening watching the Rebels. “Bigger on their defensive line than we would have anticipated. Well-coached and structurally, they’re sound.”
That includes starting quarterback Jeff Tuel.
“With Jeff, we’re going to wait two weeks now and probably re-X-ray it in a couple weeks and see how it’s looking, and probably go from there,” Wulff said, adding Tuel’s clavicle fracture was not displaced and surgery was not needed. “We’ve probably got more huddling up to do probably tomorrow to dictate exactly what the plan will be moving forward.”
The Cougars also lost backup linebacker Darryl Monroe (Achilles tendon tear) and special teams player Travion Smith (torn ACL) for the season.
But other than those injuries, and a couple minor breakdowns, Wulff was pleased.
The Cougars’ offense was balanced, with 36 rushing attempts netting 289 yards and 35 passes resulting in 301 yards. That’s something WSU wants, but doesn’t expect the rest of the year.
“We want to be balanced, we want to be able to run the ball as we throw it, that’s not going to change,” Wulff said. “Now there’s going to be things that dictate differences. Some teams are going to line up X and O wise and try to take away one or the other, the bottom line is you want to be good enough to take advantage of what they do give you.”
The starting defense was tough in the opening half, gave up one scoring drive in the second then watched most of the remainder of the game.
And the special teams, mainly untested going in, satisfied Wulff, with only a blocked extra point to mar the ledger sheet.
“Those are solid numbers,” Wulff said of first-year punter Dan Wagner’s 43.8-yard average and 38-yard net. “I thought the operation on our field goal unit was good – we had the one breakdown where a player didn’t go out on an extra point … and that led to the block. Other than that, our snapping was solid and our kicking was good.”
All will have to be even better Saturday. One guy Wulff doesn’t seem worried about is quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who will replace Tuel.
“We knew going (into Saturday) if anything happened drastically with Jeff we were going with Marshall, based on his experience,” Wulff said. “He’s going to be our guy right now.”