SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A comeback victory at Colorado has Washington State off to its best start since 2006, and coach Paul Wulff is not about to replace his quarterback.
That means longtime backup Marshall Lobbestael will start Saturday’s game at UCLA, even though starter Jeff Tuel has been cleared to play after recovering from a fractured collarbone suffered in the season opener.
Wulff said Tuesday that Lobbestael has played well and will remain the starter until coaches feel there is a better option for the team. He said Tuel, a junior, needs time to practice.
“Marshall is our guy and he’s playing good football,” Wulff said. “We are going to stay with our guy until there’s a player better than him.”
As for Tuel, “we will give him his reps and get him moving forward,” Wulff said. He would not say if Tuel will see any playing time Saturday.
Washington State (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) came from 10 points down late in the fourth quarter to beat Colorado 31-27 last Saturday in Boulder. It was the 500th win in the program’s history. The Cougars play at UCLA (2-3, 1-1) this Saturday, their third consecutive road game.
Lobbestael, who didn’t figure to play much this season, is leading the nation’s fourth-best passing offense at 379 yards per game. The Cougars are averaging 44 points per game, 10th in the nation.
Lobbestael has reached personal passing yardage bests for three straight games, including last weekend’s 376 versus Colorado. He has thrown for 1,335 yards and 13 touchdowns this season in four games, completing 63 percent of his passes.
“I think he’s a fantastic player,” said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.
Receiver Marquess Wilson, who has six career touchdown catches of at least 50 yards, including last week’s game-winner, is the top big play man for the Cougars. Senior receiver Jared Karstetter caught nine passes against Colorado and now has 128 in his career, tied for eighth all-time in WSU history.
Washington State is also averaging 140 yards per game on the ground, led by Rickey Galvin’s 220 yards and 7.6 yard per carry average.
Last year, UCLA ran wild in a 42-28 win over Washington State in Pasadena. The Bruins are averaging nearly 200 yards per game on the ground this year.
“We have got to make them earn some yards on the ground, instead of giving them big plays,” Wulff said. “We’ve got to be a lot better defending the run than we did last year.”
The Cougars defense is much improved. Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who had 12 solo tackles and two sacks against Colorado, is the Pac-12’s defensive player of the week.
Wulff believes the win over Colorado did wonders for his team’s confidence, which had been battered as the Cougars recorded only five victories the previous three seasons.
“We proved we can win on the road in a conference game, coming back late in the game,” Wulff said. “That’s a big growth pattern for us.”
At the same time, the Cougars are heading into the toughest part of their schedule.
“We haven’t accomplished a whole lot yet,” Wulff said. “They are smart enough to know that.’