PULLMAN – There is still little resolution to Washington State’s quarterback situation.
After throwing two interceptions in the first 8 minutes of Saturday’s game against California, WSU sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday was benched for the second consecutive week in favor of senior Jeff Tuel.
Coach Mike Leach said early in the week that Halliday would be the team’s starter going forward, citing a need to choose either one player or the other and let them take the starter’s reps going forward. But Halliday has thrown five interceptions in his last four quarters of play, and entered the game completing just 53.6 percent of his passes this season.
Tuel completed 30 of 53 for 320 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns, both coming in the second half as the Cougars stayed within striking distance before losing 31-17 to the Bears at Martin Stadium.
“I’m fine with it,” shrugged Tuel, when asked if he was OK with coming off the bench. “Obviously, it’s not the ideal situation, but I love to play the game and when my number is called I’m going to go out and do what I do … and just enjoy it.”
Tuel connected with sophomore Isiah Myers eight times for 108 yards and freshman Brett Bartolone seven times for 44 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“We marched the ball pretty consistently and, of course, our mishaps would be penalties we couldn’t overcome, there were some dropped balls and things like that,” Leach said. “I thought (Tuel) played a pretty smart game.”
Still, WSU was unable to finish off several promising drives deep into Cal territory.
“We really just stopped ourselves,” Tuel said. “We shot ourselves in the foot in the red zone.”
WSU star receiver Marquess Wilson exited in the second quarter after taking an illegal high hit in the end zone from Cal defensive back Avery Sebastian. Wilson, who had four catches for 87 yards, was later seen on the sidelines in full uniform but without his helmet. Freshman running back Teondray Caldwell left and didn’t return after taking a hard hit to his head area on a first-quarter carry. He returned to the sidelines wearing sweats.
Defensive back Nolan Washington left the game with an apparent left knee injury.
Leach does not comment on injuries.
Finally, a bit of publicity for Leach.
The first 10,000 fans through the gates at Martin Stadium last night were treated to a Leach bobblehead doll.
Leach – or someone close to him, since Leach said this week he hadn’t seen the doll yet – used his Twitter account throughout the week to promote the giveaway, tweeting pictures of the doll from various locations around campus, including a photo from the WSU Bear Center.
“I would like to meet the caveman that invented a bobblehead, because it’s obviously been around a long time,” Leach said earlier this week. “… Somebody gave me a Billy Martin bobblehead. Shoot, if it’s good enough for Billy Martin, it’s good enough for me. It’s flattering, I just don’t know how somebody would have thought of such a thing.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t the first time Leach faced California in his head coaching career.
The first was a 45-31 victory over the Golden Bears in 2004, Leach’s fifth season as coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Cal entered that game with a No. 4 national ranking and a 10-1 record, its only loss coming against eventual national champion Southern California. Many thought the Bears were worthy of a BCS at-large bid that season.
The rhythm of the game’s first quarter was frequently interrupted, with three official reviews in the first 5 minutes and 40 seconds of game play.
The first, ruled a completion by Halliday to Myers, was upheld. The second, which was ruled an incomplete pass in the end zone on the field, was overturned after it was determined that Cal defensive back Steve Williams had intercepted the ball and controlled it with one foot in bounds before stepping out of the back of the end zone.
And the third, a 40-yard completion from Halliday to Wilson down the middle of the field, was upheld after it was determined Wilson controlled the ball long enough before releasing it upon rolling on the ground.
The officials also reviewed a fourth play in the second quarter.