T-mobile: OSU defense unable to contain Tuel

Ramblin' Jeff Tuel

IT HAD BEEN a mere seven days since Jeff Tuel's low point. Since he exited through the tunnel at Martin Stadium in the aftermath of the worst complete-passing game of his career. Since he threw for a paltry 92 yards. But this was a new day and a different game -- one in which the sophomore quarterback would have a career-high net 79 yards on 18 carries.

For a team that had been averaging 76.1 rushing yards a game, no less.

But that was before they encountered an Oregon State team fighting a seemingly weekly uphill battle to contain mobile quarterbacks -- one that got them booed by their own fans going into halftime after being outgained by 214-124 hashes by the Cougars.

TCU's Andy Dalton raced for 66 yards in OSU's season opener. On Oct. 16, it was Washington's Jake Locker, who had 60 yards on 12 carries in the Huskies 35-34 double-overtime win. A month earlier, the Beavers beat Louisville 35-28, but allowed Cardinals quarterback Adam Froman to rush for 46 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

AND ON SATURDAY, it was Tuel, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 152 yards and ran for 66 yards in the first half alone -- at one point before a couple late sacks, his rushing tally stood at 90 yards. His effort put the Cougars up 14-0 -- but not without some sacrifice.

He was injured while rushing the ball to the Oregon State 1-yard line, setting up a touchdown by running back James Montgomery to give WSU its first first-half shutout of an opponent since outscoring Stanford 10-0 in 2007. The Cougar medical staff was worried he might have sustained a concussion, and they kept him out the rest of the half.

Tuel was reportedly so desperate to return to the game the training staff had to hide his helmet so he couldn't sneak back onto the field. It was the first time all afternoon that he couldn't escape his adversary.

During halftime, with no concussion symptoms evident, Tuel was cleared to return in the second half and immediately led the Cougars on a 64-yard drive, one that culminated in hooking up with wide receiver Marquess Wilson for a 33-yard touchdown pass to give WSU a 21-0 lead in the third quarter.

"When Tuel's on his game, our offense is awesome," linebacker C.J. Mizell told The Kitsap Sun after the game.

AND IT WASN'T just about the throws he made -- but the ones he didn't.

Leading late in the game, Tuel rolled out and slid, staying inbounds and keeping the clock running. He took the loss -- one of several -- to avoid forcing a throw or taking an unnecessary hit. To help his team -- and get the win.

What a difference a week makes.

"We played hard and played physical," coach Paul Wulff said. "We want to be a physical football team."

Clearly, also playing hard was the defensive line. The Cougars had been allowing 223.1 rushing yards a game entering the contest in Corvallis, but held the Beavers to 97 rushing yards -- 93 of which were borne of running back Jacquizz Rodgers' 15 carries.

Oregon State was held to but 48 plays on offense -- and had 261 yards of total offense, which is the fewest WSU has allowed against a Pac-10 opponent in Wulff's three seasons.

"The D-line is getting after their O-line," Wulff said at halftime. "It's the type of football we're trying to get at."

THREE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN -- Travis Long, Casey Hamlett and Brandon Rankin -- each had two tackles for loss. Hamlett and Rankin each had two sacks, while Long had one.

"That was really fun," Long said after the game. "Kind of the first time I've experienced that in college."

Long, a sophomore, said he warned his teammates that the game wasn't over even though the Cougars led at halftime. After all, they were in a very similar situation last week against California -- and lost their way in the second half.

"They were gaining momentum," he said of the Beavers. "I kept telling them to fight through it."

And they did, aided by defensive coordinator Chris Ball's game plan.

"The kids had to tackle," Ball said. "And the kids did a great job executing it."

Knowing that, for the first time in weeks, his team did exactly what was needed to get the win gave Wulff a feeling of confidence. He said that the win definitely helps in recruiting and that he hopes it will make a difference.

"It's been a tough road to continue to build this football team," Wulff said. "We always knew we were capable of stepping up and playing a good football game."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • WSU ended a three-game losing streak in the series and increased its overall series lead against the Beavers to 48-44.

  • Oregon State had not been shut out at halftime since 2004 against California.

  • The Cougars last Pac-10 road win was a 42-35 victory against Washington in the 2007 Apple Cup.

  • Tuel completed 10 of 15 passes for 152 yards, which was his second lowest yardage total of the season. He has thrown for at least 200 yards in 9 of 11 games this season.

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