PULLMAN – You would think losing your starting quarterback to a broken collarbone would present a challenge in a football team’s preparation for its next game.
But that hasn’t been the case this week at Washington State, where the Cougars’ Jeff Tuel will miss about the next two months after fracturing his clavicle in the opener against Idaho State.
“The quarterback situation has not really changed a lot, just a few things schematically, so that’s not the issue,” coach Paul Wulff said this week as the Cougars prepared to face UNLV from the Mountain West Conference.
With fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael, and possibly redshirt freshman Connor Halliday, ready to step in, Wulff feels pretty comfortable.
No, there’s been one thing bugging Wulff. A gastro-intestinal bug.
The virus, which causes internal distress for at least 24 hours, has made its way through the school, and the team. Ten of the 47 players listed in the two-deep missed at least one practice, a couple missing two days.
“The issue has been more trying to get a quality practice in when you’re down a lot of bodies,” Wulff said.
If there is a silver lining to the rash of injuries the Cougars experienced in Wulff’s first three years, it showed itself this week.
“We’ve had a lot of practice at practicing shy a lot of bodies,” Wulff joked. “We’ve figured it out.”
But figuring out what UNLV (0-1 after a 51-17 defeat at No. 8 Wisconsin) will do against Lobbesteal and the Cougars offense today is a little harder.
“It’s early enough in the season, they have to figure out what we’re going to do as an overall offense first,” Wulff said, “before they make any kind of adjustments.
“I’m sure they’re not as concerned (with) Marshall running as much as Jeff, which is a fact, but I don’t know that’s going to change a lot of the things we do.”
If the Rebels try to stack the box and slow a WSU running attack that averaged 8 yards a carry in last week’s 64-21 defeat of Idaho State, Wulff sees that as a positive.
“There may be times that, if we’re threatening enough in the running game, that they’ve got to load up the box,” Wulff said, “and force our quarterbacks, whoever is in there, to beat them.
“But I don’t have a problem with that. I hope they do. They’ve got to defend our receivers and our quarterback combination.”
That combination was effective last week. WSU had 11 different players catch passes. Lobbestael and Halliday, playing all but two series of the game, combined to complete 20 of 32 passes for 297 yards and three scores.
And the really good news? Halliday missed just one day, Monday, from the virus and Lobbestael got through the week healthy.