SPOKANE — There were periods when Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael wondered if he would ever get meaningful playing time again.
A fractured collarbone suffered by starter Jeff Tuel in the season opener has thrust Lobbestael back into the center of the WSU offense.
No problem for Lobbestael. He carved up Idaho State for 230 yards passing Saturday, and now is preparing for UNLV this weekend.
Lobbestael was thrown into the starting job as a freshman in 2008 when the two quarterbacks above him were injured and he played well before a knee injury ended his season. He also started three games in 2009 before Tuel earned the job midway through his freshman year.
Last season, Lobbestael languished on the bench, throwing just 15 passes in six games.
“When it first happened, I didn’t have the best attitude,” said Lobbestael, a fifth-year senior from Oak Harbor.
But with time came maturity and Lobbestael accepted his role as a backup, preparing for each game whether he played or not.
“I felt that being comfortable with myself and my role on the team helped me a lot,” said Lobbestael, a psychology major. “It’s not about one, two and three and who is better. It’s about how can I help the team win.”
Lobbestael actually had to step in twice on Saturday. Tuel woke up that morning with a stomach virus, and Lobbestael was told about an hour before kickoff that he would start.
He responded by completing his first six passes and directing WSU to a 14-0 lead against overmatched Idaho State.
Tuel felt well enough to go in, and the coaching staff agreed.
“He’s our leader,” coach Paul Wulff said. “I felt he was going to play a couple of series and then we’d get him out.”
It didn’t work out that way. On his fifth play, Tuel was flushed out of the pocket and ran right. Rather than slide to safety, he ran out of bounds and was tackled.
“We tell him all the time about not taking unnecessary hits,” said offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. “Jeff is a very, very competitive person and will not back down to anybody.”
Tuel got up and ran one more play, completing a pass that set up a WSU field goal.
But it became clear that Tuel had injured his left clavicle, and Lobbestael went in again. He went on to finish 14 of 19 for 230 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. The Cougars piled up 590 yards against the Bengals, and their 64 points were the most since they scored 77 against Southwestern Louisiana in 1997.
Tuel is expected to be out six to eight weeks, but Wulff doesn’t expect to have to make many changes on offense to accommodate Lobbestael.
“He doesn’t have to be the whole offense,” Wulff said. “We have enough weapons around him now to offer a balanced attack. There will not be a major change in terms of what we do.”
Wulff said Lobbestael went through a difficult period when he lost his starting job to a freshman. But he remained committed to WSU football.
“He was hell-bent on being part of the change and bringing us back to a competitive program,” Wulff said.
Lobbestael is aware his starting stint is likely temporary.
Still, he’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing.
“I don’t think I change now,” he said. “I just have to stay within myself, just relax out there and be one of the 11.”
It appears Washington State has found a running game this season. Rickey Galvin rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns, while freshman Marcus Mason had a 65-yard touchdown run. The team rushed for 289 yards and averaged 8 yards per carry against Idaho State … Washington State is 1-0 for the first time in Wulff’s four years as head coach.