Much-anticipated X-ray provides good news

JEFF TUEL

THERE WAS NOTHING positive about Saturday's outcome in San Diego for Washington State's football team. But coach Paul Wulff received some good news about an injured player he expects back in a limited role this week. He discussed that, the team's bye-week plans and much more during his Sunday teleconference.

The Cougars (2-1) won't practice Monday, but Wulff said he thinks junior quarterback Jeff Tuel will "be cleared to start throwing a little bit this week." Tuel, who suffered a broken left clavicle Sept. 3 against Idaho State, had an X-ray Sunday.

"(It was) very good," Wulff said. "The bone hasn't moved or shifted."

He said tabbing a return date for Tuel would be "speculation" at this point, but added that he still feels his signal-caller is at least three to four weeks away from coming back. In that best-case scenario, Tuel could return Oct. 8 against UCLA or the following week versus Stanford.

Tuel is not the only WSU player who needs time to heal. He said starting defensive end Adam Coerper likely suffered a sprained medial-collateral ligament in his knee that will sideline the junior for two or three weeks. Redshirt freshman tight end Aaron Dunn (quadriceps) and senior center Andrew Roxas (ankle) also are recovering for injuries. Wulff said both are questionable for the Cougars' Pac-12 opener Oct. 1 at Colorado.

"We would like to get Aaron back," he said. "Our depth at tight end is thin."

For those reasons and more, Wulff said he is happy the bye week has arrived.

"This is a good time," he said. "We're at a quarter stretch and we're a little nicked up. It's a good time to reevaluate the first three games."

Wulff said he is not concerned that WSU will play nine consecutive weeks after the bye. Last year, the Cougars played 11 straight games before the Apple Cup.

"We're very capable of handling the nine-game run," Wulff said.

He and the coaching staff will consider some position adjustments in the aftermath of Saturday's 42-24 loss. Wulff said no players have been singled out for a position shift yet.

"We're still mulling over a few things," he said.

WULFF SAID ONE emphasis during practice will be handling close games. WSU rarely has played in contests decided in the fourth quarter under Wulff and with the exception of a pair of late-season losses last year against California and Washington, Wulff was hard pressed to think of any games during his era that fit that description.

The Cougars surrendered 28 unanswered points, including 21 in the final period, in their loss against the Aztecs.

"We're going to work on it," Wulff said. "Obviously, it will have a lot to do with the last quarter of practice.

"We're going to be in the fourth quarter of ballgames. It's an important part of the growth of this team."

Wulff said watching game tape did not shift change his opinion on WSU's play during the final period.

"We didn't respond really well and handle the fourth quarter really well," he said. "We made too many mistakes. There were some momentum things that we couldn't comeback from."

Wulff said there were aspects of his team's play earlier in the game that he liked, though. The Cougars led 17-14 at halftime.

"I thought we were relatively physical," Wulff said. "We held them to 53 yards rushing in the first half. We hurt ourselves by allowing some third-down conversions."

He said he even liked some aspects of the second half. After SDSU took a 28-24, WSU drove to the Aztecs' 25-yard line before senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael lost a fumble.

"There were moments there where we responded and drove the length of the field (before turning it over)," Wulff said. "We moved the ball. We just shot ourselves in the foot at times."

The loss ended the possibility of the Cougars starting with a 3-0 record for the first time since 2005.

"We're all mad," Wulff said. "We don't like to have a game in our hands in the fourth quarter and lose."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Wulff was asked about his assessment of the three chop-block penalties assessed against his team after reviewing game tape.

    "I really felt a couple of them -- I didn't agree with the call," he said.

    "We don't spend a lot of time on it. Those things aren't in our control as coaches and players."

  • SDSU sophomore Ronnie Hillman finished with 191 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. Wulff said Hillman is a "better player than I even thought."

    "I don't know if we'll face a better player this year," he said. "He's a slippery guy and has great balance."

  • Wulff said all of his assistants will be present for practices this week. But when the Cougars are not on the gridiron, he said as many as seven coaches will be on the road.

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