As Coach Paul Wulff and his staff engineer a resurgence of Washington State Cougar football, there are a number of bright lights at the end of the tunnel. Though the Cougs came out on the short end of the score last Saturday night against No. 7 USC, several young players displayed their potential as top notch college football players.
Cougar Nation enjoyed their first look at highly touted true freshman Jeff Tuel at quarterback late in the first half against the Trojans. Coach Wulff planned to red shirt Tuel this year to give him time to mature physically. One thing that wasn’t planned for was rapid progress made by the young man from Clovis West HS in Fresno, CA. Tuel earned the attention of coaches and teammates from the moment he set foot on Rogers Field to warm up for the initial fall camp practice.
It’s the talent and potential of Jeff Tuel that has him penciled into the starting lineup against Oregon this weekend down in Eugene. True freshmen starting at quarterback for any Pac-10 team is unique. Such an occasion is extremely rare at Washington State.
Tuel will be just the second true freshman to start a football game at quarterback for WSU in school history. That’s pretty rare.
The only other player to start at quarterback for the Cougs as a true freshman is legendary Drew Bledsoe. Nineteen years ago, Bledsoe earned the start against Oregon State in the seventh game of the season. Tuel’s start this coming Saturday against the Ducks is the fifth game on the 2009 schedule.
The passing numbers Tuel put up in two and half quarters against the outstanding defense of USC were respectable. He completed 14 of 22, or 63.6% of his pass attempts for 130 yards with one interception.
Tuel’s mobility significantly contributed to his performance against the Trojans. To say the Cougs offensive line unit has been challenged this year would be like casually mentioning that IHOP may have pancakes on the menu. Coach Harold Etheridge has worked overtime to maintain and improve the performance of the OL in the face of injuries that have shelved three starters. A scrambling quarterback can help an inexperience OL unit improve on-the-job.
Family and friends of Tuel were on hand in the front row of the LA Coliseum to witness Jeff’s debut as a Coug. Not only did they support him enthusiastically, their faces were beaming as the beginning of a new rallying cry went up from the Cougar fans at the game.
When it comes to the ability to get a job done, Jeff Tuel won’t draw any comparisons to the inept star of the vintage sitcom “Home Improvement” beyond the obvious. Tim Allen’s character was the star of a do-it-yourself television program called “Tool Time”.
It remains to be seen if Jeff will repair a misfiring WSU offense, but my bet is there will be “Tuel Time!” cries sent up by Cougar Nation for years to come.
During post game interviews late last Saturday night, an obvious question to Tuel was, “What did you think when you heard some of the crowd roaring their approval with each first down, ‘It’s Tuel Time!’?”
“I’ve heard it a few times. I’ve honestly been called that in high school. I’ve heard it all, so whatever is fine with me. That actually started (when) my high school baseball coach sophomore year called me that. Then it kind of dropped off a little bit, but it’s back again. I don’t mind at all. I like it.”
Washington State football fans would certainly like to strain their voices in the coming games with a new mantra for a new era.
“Tuel Time!” “Tuel Time!”
Originally published in Lew's column on Examiner.com