Cougs celebrate 2008 Apple Cup win
PULLMAN -- Jeff Tuel, who has stood up for his Washington State teammates plenty of times on the football field, stood up for his coach in the interview room on Monday.
Jeff Tuel was effusive in his praise of Paul Wulff. Speculation among media and fans has been that Wulff's job may be on the line as the Cougars prepare for Saturday’s season finale against Washington at Martin Stadium (4 p.m., Versus).
“He’s a smart coach,” said Tuel, WSU’s sophomore quarterback. “He’s good at rallying our guys, get ’em going. He’s real good in that sense. We’re real close to him. He’s a real players’ coach. Everyone is real close with him and respects him.”
Tuel said players are well aware of the criticism Wulff has received from fans and media for guiding WSU to just five wins in three years as coach.
“It’s something, as players, we don’t need to worry about,” Tuel said. “We’re here to play football. We need to keep our mind off of that. We’ve got enough on our plates… It’s got to be tough, any man that receives that much criticism … he’s fighting it strong.”
In their most recent game, the Cougars put together their best all-around performance under Wulff, a dominant 31-14 win at Oregon State on Nov. 13. But Tuel said the Cougars were clearly focusing on the present when they returned to campus Sunday after enjoying a break for the holidays.
“We had a team meeting yesterday and guys were hootin’ and hollerin’, yellin’,” said Tuel. “Here we go. It’s war. We know it. We’re ready to play. We’ve had enough rest. It’s ‘go time’ for us. Everyone’s fired up.
“The high from the Oregon State game has worn off a little bit,” Tuel acknowledged. “It should. We don’t need to dwell on it, whether it’s a win or a loss. It’s not something where you want to live in the past.”
TUEL SAID HE was unaware of the ferocity of the Apple Cup rivalry between WSU and Washington until Wulff and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy paid a visit to his Clovis, Calif., home during his senior year in high school.
“They were telling me guys won’t even drink purple Gatorade,” Tuel recalled. “I knew then it was a serious rivalry.”
Later, Tuel said, “I happen to like purple Gatorade. That’s my favorite one.”
So, have you quit drinking purple Gatorade?
“Yes, I have,” Tuel said with a smile.
TUEL SAID “it was a little rough” watching from the sidelines last year when the Huskies drubbed a shorthanded, injury-riddled WSU squad 30-0 in Seattle. Tuel sat out with a knee injury.
“All people care about is the Apple Cup, it seems like,” Tuel said. “It seems like no matter how your season’s going, if you win the Apple Cup, it was a great year.”
Having grown up in Tucson, Ariz., and Clovis, Tuel said he’s still learning how to properly despise the Huskies. (UW safety Nate Williams, pictured above on the ground, told the Seattle Times this week, "We hate them and they hate us just as much, so I'm excited for it.")
“I guess I really should feel like I hate them to my bone and my core, just because everyone does,” Tuel said. “But I guess I don’t like them because it’s the in-state rivalry.”
Tuel said he’s never played a game in snow, but he’s occasionally practiced in snow in both his seasons at Washington State. The weather forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 31 degrees with a 20 percent chance of snow, and Tuel said that’s just fine with him.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I’m fired up about it.”
Tuel was unconcerned about going three weeks without a game.
“We’re re-charged,” he said. “We’re healthy. We’ve got our legs back.”
The Cougars announced that less than 5,900 seats are still available for Saturday’s game. The Huskies returned more than 1,000 of their allotted 4,800 tickets.
Athletic director Bill Moos said he’s “encouraged” about preliminary support he’s received from school officials regarding the football operations building he wants to build. It would house coaches offices, meeting rooms, a football-only weight room, etc. If a new structure is not built, Moos said he’s explored the possibility of taking over the tech/computers building attached to the south side of Martin Stadium. Tens of millions would have to be raised for either move, since the tech/computers facility would require a new building. “We are way behind in our (athletic) facilities at Washington State,” Moos said.