A stomach virus that quickly turned into a broken collarbone. A season full of hopes of a return to a bowl game to a season filled with some big question marks. All it took was one rather innocuous tackle on a third and five for Wazzu quarterback Jeff Tuel to be lost for at least a month and his non-throwing shoulder in a sling.
Almost immediately after, I saw the crosshairs of blame aimed squarely at one person: head coach Paul Wulff. People were more than happy to scream to the hilltops that Wulff was directly responsible for Tuel's injury and that he and he alone had cost this team the season.
Forgetting of course that there's no way Wulff could've possibly known that Tuel was going to suffer a catastrophic injury. Forgetting of course that Tuel is the team's starting quarterback and, when healthy and able to perform, should be on the field no matter the opponent. Forgetting of course that Wulff made the same decision 119 other coaches in the FBS would've made.
I guess my biggest problem is with the crowd saying that redshirt senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael should've just been left in the game when we knew Tuel had a touch of a stomach virus. In hindsight, we could all say that. But the first person to admit to me that they were incredibly angry that Tuel was put in the game, regardless of the score and opponent, I'll call a dirty liar and throw off the nearest bridge I can find. Plus, Tuel was lobbying, practically begging to get into the game and if you're Wulff, you're not going to keep your team's unquestioned leader off the field if he is healthy and ready to go.
Besides, Tuel needed live work against an opponent that can actually hit him. Even if the Patriots are playing the worst team in the NFL to start the season, they aren't going to keep Brady on the bench if he's able to go. They're going to put Brady out there and once the score reaches 40-0 as it did at halftime against Idaho State, they'll throw the backup out there. But Tuel needed to be in there to get some work done. It's an incredibly tragic accident that he suffered a catastrophic injury. But ask Wulff if he would've made the same decision again if he'd known exactly what he knew at the time Tuel entered the game and I guarantee you he'd do it again. Because it's the correct decision to make. You don't keep the leader of your team and probably the most competitive person on the roster on the bench if they're begging to go in and you know whatever bug was bothering them is under control.
Now we can move onto Lobbestael. To say his career up to this point at WSU has been a disappointment would be an understatement. When we found out the extent of Tuel's injury on Saturday, I was incredibly worried. Maybe up to half the season with the Lobster at the helm. But then I got to see the highlights of Lobbestael tossing the pigskin around and my worries were assuaged somewhat. I'm not here to tell you he's as good as Tuel. He's not. And I'm not going to tell you he's a starter in the Pac-12. He's not (and frankly no back-up quarterback should be because that's what they are, a back-up). But Lobbestael has come leaps and bounds in his two years sitting behind Tuel. He scanned the field better. His improvisation on the little flip to Galvin was fantastic. His strength on that long touchdown toss to Wilson was far superior to the 2009 version of Marshall. Sitting behind Tuel has allowed Lobbestael to learn from a better quarterback and be able to pour over the playbook and work on his skills without having to worry about starting in one of the premier football conferences in the country.
It's true, Lobbestael isn't Tuel. If he was, he'd be the one starting and Tuel would have a healthy collarbone. But you can't deny that the current Lobbestael is a vast improvement over the Ocho Rojo (or Nuevo Rojo but I refuse to let the old nickname die) of old. Without their star quarterback, it's going to be tougher for this team to win to be sure. But the entire roster, including Lobbestael is unquestionably better. I don't care if it's just Idaho State. They put up 64 points on Saturday. I'm relatively certain (without checking of course because, well, I'd have to make a couple extra clicks or crack a book) that's more points than any Tony Bennett team ever scored. It's going to be tough to win. But the Lobbestael of today makes me a whole lot less uneasy than the Lobbestael of two years ago.
Of course, if he telegraphs a pass for a pick six against UNLV, I'm going to crush my phone and throwing my computer off a bridge.
Last Week: 10-2
I really don't think this is going to go well for Arizona. Like, at all.
Oklahoma State 49, Arizona 21
This is a tough call to make. Both are very good teams and this is their first big test. I'll nod to our conference cohort on this one.
Arizona State 24, Missouri 20
Holy Sac State Batman! Wow is Oregon State bad. And I've been saying that for a while. SO TRY LISTENING TO ME MORE!
Wisconsin 62, Oregon State 14
Bahahahahaha! Duke has a football team? Oh really, they won how much last year? Oh, well. Still, it's Stanford.
Stanford 42, Duke 10
I have a feeling Oregon is going to take some frustration out in this one.
Oregon 48, Nevada 17
To be clear this is a NON-conference game. Yeah, I know. Makes TOTAL sense to me too even though the game was scheduled years ago.
California 34, Colorado 17
Remember when everyone said how good Washington's defense was? Then they forgot that their secondary is really bad? Closer than it should be again.
Washington 34, Hawai'i 31
Both of these teams looked pretty "meh" in their opener. Nod to the team with more Matt Barkley than the other.
USC 24, Utah 17
UCLA actually came back against Houston. But I don't think they'll be that good all year. And they're extremely bipolar in their talent. Bad one week, good the other. Closer than many think.
UCLA 21, SJSU 14
The line for this game is at -14 in most Vegas books. It must've been at least 3 seasons since WSU was favored by that much and I think they deserve it. The offense looked spectacular on Saturday and although the defense didn't look great, it was mainly in the secondary. And UNLV loves to run. Folks, for the first time in recent memory, come Saturday at about 5 PM, WSU football will be on a winning streak.
Washington State 35, UNLV 14
Obscure Pick of the Week: The original state versus old dudes in wigs. Put your money on the white haired fellas.
Washington and Jefferson 21, Delaware Valley 10
Dunderhead of the Week: Mother Nature. It's supposed to get close to 100 in Centralia on Thursday. Where was this weather earlier in the summer? I think it was spring until about July 22nd and just now we're getting to the warmth. If we extrapolate based off that line of thinking, it'll be about 70 at Thanksgiving and finally snow in the mountains around Valentines Day until Labor Day next year. Yep, sounds reasonable.
And, of course, John Buccigross.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
The 2011-12 athletic season is here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer and volleyball, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.