Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Washington State
By Ted Miller
Washington State Cougars
Record: 3-2, 1-1
It started as a win-or-else season for Washington State coach Paul Wulff, and while the Cougars already have more wins than they did in any of Wulff's previous three seasons, he's not out of the woods yet.
The Cougars' season started horribly when talented QB Jeff Tuel fractured his clavicle in the season-opener against Idaho State. That could have crushed hopes before things got started, but backup Marshall Lobbestael came off the bench and has been outstanding. It helped the Cougs eased into the season with two easy games: Idaho State and UNLV. Stomping both helped build early confidence and allowed Lobbestael to get into a rhythm.
But then Washington State fell apart in the fourth quarter at San Diego State, and it seemed possible that the Cougs would sink when the degree of difficulty on the schedule went up. But then, at Colorado, they posted a spirited fourth-quarter comeback, which was capped by a 63-yard TD pass from Lobbestael to Marquess Wilson. That 31-27 victory seemed to indicate this team was different.
In game five at UCLA, however, the Cougs again faltered in the fourth, this time surrendering an eight-point lead in the final frame of a game they seemed to be controlling, having knocked out Bruins QB Richard Brehaut.
In year four of his tenure, Wulff's Cougars are vastly improved. But are they going to be good enough over the second half of the season to ensure he gets a fifth year at his alma mater? That might require three victories and bowl eligibility.
Offensive MVP: QB Marshall Lobbestael. The Cougars backup QB ranks 17th in the nation in passing efficiency. He's completed 64 percent of his throws with 15 TDs and four interceptions. He averages 314 yards passing per game, which ranks 11th in the nation.
Defensive MVP: Alex Hoffman-Ellis. Ellis leads the Cougars with 34 tackles, including six tackles for a loss and two sacks. He also has an interception, which he returned 67 yards for a TD.