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Originally published September 10, 2011 at 5:16 PM | Page modified September 10, 2011 at 9:52 PM

Bud Withers

Cougars are 2-0 and have fans dreaming again

WSU rocked the Rebels 59-7 to go 2-0, and get its fans to dreaming, no matter that they don't have their first-string quarterback and that they've played two opponents who were completely outclassed.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

quotes Nice win Cougs! Let's hope that both teams are playing for a bowl game at the Clink. Read more
quotes Great effort..Go Cougs! Read more
quotes Credit where credit is due. Nice win and start to the season, Cougs. Read more

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PULLMAN — In midafternoon of a hazy day on the Palouse, it got to 93. No, that's not how many points Washington State ran up against Nevada-Las Vegas in the second football game of the season, it's a weather reference.

But there was some suspense about that, because the Cougars were so dominant, some wilted students departed early for the campus watering holes and statisticians researched those when-was-the-last-time numbers.

WSU rocked the Rebels 59-7 to go 2-0 and get its fans to dreaming, no matter that they don't have their first-string quarterback and that they've played two opponents who were completely outclassed.

The next time the Cougars play at home is Oct. 15, five weeks away, and Saturday had you wondering what the shape of things might be by then, when WSU hosts Stanford. (I'm guessing the temperature won't hit 93 that day.)

Before WSU gets back here, it goes to San Diego State next week, perhaps not knowing what's in store. The Aztecs won a bowl game in 2010, return gifted offensive players in quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman. But they had their hands full at Army on Saturday, winning by three.

Then there's a bye, then road games at Colorado and UCLA.

It gets harder, in other words.

Marshall Lobbestael, the quarterback, was asked how it felt to be 2-0, a state of affairs WSU hasn't known since 2005.

"It sounds great," he said. "Three-and-oh sounds better, though."

What the Cougars have done is demolish a lower-level, ill-equipped Idaho State team and a UNLV club that's not going to persuade the locals in Vegas to pick the Rebels over the stage shows.

But you can only beat what's served up to you, and the Cougars have done that in spades. Saturday, they scored touchdowns on their first five possessions, four on drives of 74 yards or more.

"We haven't gotten a lot of turnovers," reminded Paul Wulff, the head coach, referring to three takeaways in two games. "Tell you what I'm proud of, it's not like teams are handing us the ball."

The Cougars took the want-to right out of the Rebels. Rickey Galvin burst 48 yards over the right side for a score to start it, and Lobbestael hit Jared Karstetter on a little play-action flip for 5 yards for a 14-0 lead.

Lobbestael threw mostly touch passes with great ease, while the WSU receivers regularly traumatized the UNLV secondary.

"I thought he threw the ball really well today," said offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. "He was really on. We're really blessed to have a fifth-year guy. He's standing on a really good foundation mentally."

On the other side of the ball, there was one Vegas series in which WSU safety Tyree Toomer nailed receiver Michael Johnson on a form tackle for a 5-yard gain. Then linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis stoned running back Bradley Randle for no gain. And on the third play, Travis Long sacked quarterback Caleb Herring.

The big question was/is: How will Lobbestael do in place of injured Jeff Tuel? Well, he's got one thing going for him: WSU clearly has an arsenal of weapons to help him in Galvin, Karstetter, Marquess Wilson and slot man Isiah Barton.

"Coach Sturdy did a good job this week of saying, 'We're a different team now,' " Lobbestael said. " 'You just need to be one of the 11.' "

"The poor guy," said Wulff, thinking back to 2008 and 2009. "When he first started playing, he had no supporting cast."

Lobbestael used to press, and on teams with no striking power, the results were usually not good.

Nobody will confuse Lobbestael's arm with Tuel's. But his head, well, he's probably on at least even terms with Tuel, since The Lobster — as WSU faithful have lovingly dubbed the redhead — has two more years in a college program, even if it was mostly hard knocks. He knows where to go with the ball, even if it doesn't always get there quite as crisply as it does with Tuel.

Lobbestael was dynamite, completing 24 of 32 attempts for 361 yards, five TDs and no interceptions.

Once, The Lobster felt he had to carry the team on his shoulders. He only has to do that a little now. A bunch of the Cougars, not only Jeff Tuel, have gotten pretty good.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com




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