PULLMAN – Whether Washington State has freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel available for Saturday’s home game with UCLA has yet to determined.
“He’s sore today, but (there was) very little swelling, which is a real positive,” coach Paul Wulff said Sunday. “He had to get an MRI today to see if there was anything going on more than they anticipated.”
Tuel, who is still on crutches, was injured in the second quarter of the Cougars’ 48-7 loss to Arizona on Saturday, a defeat that dropped WSU’s record to 1-8, 0-6 in the Pac-10.
The freshman was trying to scramble when linebacker Xavier Kelley caught him from behind. As Tuel went down, he slightly dislocated his kneecap, suffering what is known as a subluxation, in which the kneecap is pulled laterally from its usual path.
“It’s just wait and see,” said Wulff, who expects to know the MRI exam results today. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow and on Tuesday.”
Since taking over as the starter five games ago, Tuel has completed 71 of 121 passes (58.7 percent) for 789 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.
If he can’t go against UCLA (4-5, 1-5) on Dad’s Weekend, sophomore Marshall Lobbestael will step in as the starter.
Lobbestael was 7 of 11 for 103 yards in relief of Tuel on Saturday and is 56 of 116 for 578 yards this season. He started two games earlier this year and has thrown three touchdown passes – including a 64-yarder to Jared Karstetter for WSU’s only score against UA – and five interceptions.
But quarterback isn’t the only area of injury concern for Wulff this week. The Cougars lost two safeties Saturday and played the second half with Myron Beck, who has played mostly linebacker this season, filling in deep.
Wulff is hoping usual starting strong safety Chima Nwachukwu will be able to return from his sprained ankle.
“We think Chima has a good shot at coming back,” Wulff said. “We think Jay Matthews will be back, so with them and (starting free safety) Xavier (Hicks) and the ability of Myron to play there, we’ll be OK.”
Matthews suffered a shoulder subluxation against UA and missed the second half.
Kicker Nico Grasu (quadriceps pull) and left tackle Tyson Pencer (ankle sprain) will probably miss this week, replaced by Kevin Rooney and Steven Ayers, respectively.
Wulff admits his team is tired after playing five of the past six games on the road, all losses and all against schools that were ranked at some time this season.
“That’s a pretty tough stretch for any team in the country,” Wulff said.
He canceled on-the-field practice Sunday and expects to hold shorter sessions this week.
“They were a little relieved, sure,” Wulff said of the time off. “It’s what they need right now. We need to come back on Tuesday and have a good, solid practice.
“It won’t be long, but it needs to be a crisp practice.”
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