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Take Five: Getting to know Washington State

Cougars hoping for another outstanding offensive performance after losing starting quarterback Jeff Tuel early on in their season opener

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AP FILE PHOTO

Washington State fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael will start at quarterback in place of standout junior Jeff Tuel, who suffered a collarbone injury in last Saturday’s opener against Idaho State. UNLV and Washington State kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.

It’s been a long three-plus seasons for Washington State under Paul Wulff, who entered the 2011 campaign with a 5-32 record at the helm and an unsightly 2-25 mark in Pac-10 play.

The program, however, showed some significant signs of life last season, defeating Oregon State late in the year and playing the likes of Stanford, Cal and Washington all to within 10 points. That momentum carried over into a 64-21 drubbing of lowly Idaho State in their season-opener last weekend in Pullman, Wash.

Given UNLV’s ability to move the ball last weekend against 11th-ranked Wisconsin, the Rebels will make the trip up north with plenty of steam of their own on the offensive side of the ball. But, at the same time, neither team’s defense looked particularly sharp in the opening weekend.

It’s a shame this one isn’t televised, because Saturday afternoon could potentially feature a shootout, with UNLV after its first road win under second-year coach Bobby Hauck and Washington State trying to get another victory under its belt before hitting a brutal stretch in its 2011 schedule.

Here, now, is a closer look at UNLV’s second opponent of the season.

    • Marshall Lobbestael
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      In Lobbestael … we trust?

      Washington State will go with fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael at quarterback this week, as the 6-foot-3 righty will make his sixth career start. It’s not a move that Cougars head coach Paul Wulff made by choice, as junior starter Jeff Tuel was lost last week to a broken collarbone.

      Tuel threw for 2,780 yards and 18 scores a year ago and seemed primed for a big season. Instead, he only threw two passes last Saturday, and no one quite knows how many more he’ll throw this season.

      Lobbestael has played here and there over the last three seasons, and in his career is 141-of-281 (49.3%) for 1,517 yards, nine touchdowns and 12 picks in 19 games. Against Idaho State, he was a stellar 14-of-19 for 230 yards, two scores and no interceptions.

      The biggest difference between Tuel and Lobbestael appears to be arm strength, but even though Idaho State’s defense is far from intimidating, he’ll likely come into Saturday with plenty of confidence. UNLV’s defense wasn’t very intimidating itself a week ago at Wisconsin, and if it can find a way to change that, they have a chance to rattle Lobbestael.

    • Marquess Wilson
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      Still, offensive weapons are aplenty …

      If Lobbestael can get the ball into the hands of some of the guys around him, however, UNLV's defense could have a tough time improving on its patchy performance from a week ago. Two guys to keep an eye on are a pair of 6-foot-4 receivers — sophomore Marquess Wilson and senior Jared Karstetter.

      Their size definitely provides some potential match-up issues, and they're both productive. Both had solid season debuts last week after combining for 117 catches, 1,664 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago. They'll also mix it up in the backfield, with four different backs carrying the ball at least six times against Idaho State behind a line that consists of four seniors.

    • Alex Hoffman-Ellis
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      Defending the home turf again

      Idaho State did manage to total 453 yards of offense against Washington State last weekend, but a good chunk of that came in the second half with the game already out of hand.

      The Cougars' defense also sacked ISU quarterbacks six times. It appears that, again, WSU will be a tough defensive team at home. The Cougars were blown out at Martin Stadium last season by national powers such as USC and Oregon but held their own against some other quality Pac-10 competition. They managed to hold Cal to 20 points and Arizona to 24.

      Like UNLV, Washington State is young on defense, with only one senior starter — outside linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who had a 67-yard score last week off of an interception.

    • Paul Wulff
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      Do or die for Paul Wulff?

      The aforementioned 5-32 overall record at Washington State for fourth-year coach Paul Wulff deserves at least a minor asterisk, as he took over a program in 2008 that was about as depleted as any in a BCS conference.

      He's made them competitive to this point, but the wins likely need to start coming in against opponents they should be able to beat — such as UNLV. The Cougars have to get the wins where they can, because the upcoming schedule is far from friendly. Their next four games are at San Diego State, at Colorado, at UCLA and home against Stanford.

    • Washington State Offensive Line
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      The x-factor

      It has to be that veteran offensive line of Washington State's. The Rebels' pass rush was absent last Thursday and is in dire need of a confidence boost. With an emergency starter in the game at quarterback, UNLV might try to get a bit more aggressive up front with its pass rush.

      Lobbestael has shown in the past that when under duress, he is mistake-prone. If the four seniors up front can keep the heat off of him, he has a chance to move the ball like he did last weekend.

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    1. Why in the heck is this game not televised?

    2. Does anyone have a link to the game?

    3. I dont think there are any cameras at this game

    4. PAC 12 TV deal with their own network is not launched until next year. Listen to the game on Sirius and XM - something that you wont be able to do with a Rebel game normally during conference. You wont have to listen to MTN announcers who went to BYU and other schools not even in this conference. The blame the game is not on TV has more to do with UNLV than it does WAZZU. The PAC 12 deal is a lucrative TV deal with online viewing of all games next season. Too bad it does not kick in for today.

      Oh by the way - Bill Moos - the UNLV first choice for AD is at WSU after Oregon stopped him from coming to UNLV. Yes - Wulff is dead man walking if he does not beat UNLV and get to a bowl game with a big name proven winning coach in the wings. Too bad game is not for recruiting bragging rights as neither team recruits Nevada well.