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'Lobbestael time' as catchy as 'Tuel time'?

9/6/2011

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them. The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.

Yes, it's time for inspirational sayings about overcoming adversity for Washington State. With the loss of star quarterback Jeff Tuel for at least six weeks due to a fractured clavicle, it's hard not to hear the "Oh, no! We're doooomed!" rising over Pullman.

Tuel was the cornerstone of hope for the Cougars this year. And now he's out.

For coach Paul Wulff, who's already perched on one of the hottest seats in college football, the job is simple yet extremely difficult to pull off: Exude confidence so his locker room doesn't falter. Profess complete faith in new starting quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, a fifth-year senior who Tuel displaced in 2009. And figure out a way to convince a team that's won just five games over the past three season that it can still have a transformative season.

"All the positions on our football team are vastly improved," Wulff said. "Marshall just has to be one of 11 on offense. He doesn't have to be the whole offense. We have enough weapons around him now that we can still provide a very balanced attack. We'll be in good shape. We'll be able to move the ball and score points."

Lobbestael did just that against Idaho State. He completed his first nine passes and finished 14-of-19 for 230 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. But Idaho State is an FCS school that went 1-10 last year.

Up next: UNLV.

The Rebels are rebuilding and got buried at Wisconsin, but they will send out a lot more talent than Idaho State did. Further, Lobbestael has had the entire week to think about the enormity of his task. He takes over the offense from a rising star with NFL talent with the coaching staff's jobs on the line -- probably needing six wins to ensure they return in 2012.

Of course, Lobbestael has known adversity before. He won the starting job as a redshirt freshman only to blow out his knee. In February of 2009, he suffered through a minor in possession arrest, which the Pullman police department seemed eager to provide embarrassing details about. He then lost the job as a sophomore to Tuel. His career numbers (six starts and mop-up work): seven touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 48 percent completion percentage.

So Lobbestael has had some struggles but he opted to stick around. Wulff praised his growth and maturity and the respect he commands in the locker room.

"He just became such a quality individual, No. 1," Wulff said.

That's great. More important, in the long run, than being a good college quarterback. But, in the short run, the question is whether he can win games for the Cougars.

Said Wulff, "Granted, one really good player [Tuel] makes a big difference on football teams. But Marshall is no chopped liver here."

Or maybe you just take that chopped liver and make Beef Wellington?