The 2011 Apple Cup will be the final game for WSU's seniors, and perhaps none of them exemplifies the struggle this group has went through more than the man who will be starting at quarterback. It's been a career full of rare ups and mostly downs for Marshall Lobbestael. He came in on a high, earning Pac-10 player of week in his very first appearance. Just weeks later he was knocked out for the season with an knee injury against Oregon State.
Marshall played the next season as a part-time starter and was mostly ineffective. He lost his starting job to the freshman Jeff Tuel in 2009 and could very well have transferred to another school to find playing time as others have done before him. He didn't. He stuck it out with WSU, the only FBS team to offer him a scholarship out of high school.
In 2010, Marshall sat on the sidelines watching the sophomore Tuel become a Cougar fan favorite. Lobbestael didn't see the field much at all, throwing just 15 passes after throwing ten times that many the season before. Coming into 2011 it would seem to be much of the same.
But 2011 changed things for Marshall Lobbestael. Maybe nothing is different for him personally, but now Cougar fans have had the chance to watch him perform well on the field. Even more important, they've had the opportunity to see the kind of selfless human being Marshall has become.
Lobbestael's numbers are impressive this season. Completing almost 60% of his passes for 2240 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. He brought home a Manning Award after leading the come-from-behind win over Colorado. He had the Cougars on a high they hadn't felt in years, and he had every right to think he had deserved to stay in as the starter, Instead, he said this:
Wait until you see this offense with Jeff. I'm not ragging on what I've done or a lack of confidence in me, but I'm excited to see what he can do this year. Everyone else should be too, that's all I'm saying...he's the starting quarterback of this program. He's won the job, he's maintained it. I can't wait for him to get healthy, like I said. He's a great player. There's a lot of things he has to offer this team that's made him a quarterback at such a high level. He established himself last year and he knows, and everyone knows, he can continue to grow. I'm excited for him to come back. And I know the rest of the team is excited too because we love watching him and playing out there with him.
Marshall had just led the offense to some of its best performances in a while, and all he wanted to do was praise Tuel and talk about how it could be even better. This sort of extreme team-first quality isn't something that you often find. Lobbestael was supplanted as the starter when Tuel returned. But as Tuel was knocked out again in his second start back, Marshall was again the man in charge.
He struggled over the next few games, as WSU faced some defenses that were major mismatches for the type of game that Lobbestael plays best. By the third series against Arizona State, Marshall had lost his position to a freshman for the second time in his career. One would expect someone to mope at least a little bit after that happens, especially during their senior year with precious few games left to play. But not Lobbestael, his reaction was a little different. (click the jump for more).
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Lobbestael was as excited about Connor Halliday's success as if he had thrown the touchdown pass himself. This in a game where he had started and knew he would be pulled if he wasn't moving the offense. He didn't play after the third series, but all he cared about was the team. As an added bonus, he provided the internet with a double-quarterback-fist-pump and one of the best .gifs of the year.
Marshall is as true a Coug as you will find. It has been a cherry-on-the-top to see him have on-field success this year. Hopefully he has one more great performance in him against the Huskies today, because we know he would enjoy a victory over the hated rivals in his final game more than anyone.