Let's start with the news before getting into the analysis. While no official timetable has been set, Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel may be out four to six weeks with a broken clavicle. You can read more on the injury over here, at SB Nation Seattle.
Now for the analysis. About an hour before the game, Marshall Lobbestael was told he would be starting. Tuel came out to the field early, as he always does, to throw and warmup. The team went back into the locker room, coming out again in full pads for team drills. Tuel was conspicuously absent.
We were told he had a stomach virus and was receiving medication in the locker room, and a determination on whether he would play would come later. The team returned to the field again and Tuel was in uniform with the captains at midfield. Though Lobbestael started the game, Tuel was ready to go -- "begging" the coaches to get into the game, in their words.
Head coach Paul Wulff said Tuel was ready to go after the first series, but the coaching staff held him out. They then sent him into the game after the second series. He is, after all, the starting quarterback and unquestioned leader of the team. Talking to the players and coaches, there was no doubt he was ready to play, even with whatever was ailing his stomach.
This was a fluke injury, plain and simple. He fell awkwardly as he was running down the sideline. It had nothing to do with being sick or weak in any way. Ill or not, he was going to break his collarbone -- no added burst would've saved him.
But this could've been prevented. The coaching staff has preached self-preservation. It's been a huge point of emphasis, and the coaches want Tuel, and all of the quarterbacks, to simply throw the ball away. But if you know Tuel, you know he's competitive and wants to pick up that extra yard, perhaps to the detriment of his own health.
The play was a double post, with Jared Karstetter and Marquess Wilson each running the route. It was well-covered and the play quickly broke down. Tuel was flushed from the pocket and it became a scramble drill, and not a good scramble drill. One player is supposed to go long, one comes back and another rolls with him. It didn't happen.
But this wasn't the fault of the wide receivers or anyone else. In fact, there's little fault involved here -- not with the coaches, offensive line or Tuel, to a degree. Yes, he should've thrown the ball into the corporate tents, but how many times has he done that before? It's just not how he's wired.
This also isn't the end of the world. Lobbestael is a fifth-year senior who knows the offense better than anyone. As maligned as he's been, he showed well today, and threw a wonderful ball. It might be a step back in terms of production and versatility, but the offense didn't just fall off a cliff.
Tuel will be back; there's little doubt at this point. But please, don't point fingers at everyone and vent. This is football and fluke plays, causing fluke injuries, happen. Tuel was healthy, given the OK by the doctors and was insistent that he was fine before being inserted into the game. He's the starting quarterback. Just because it was Idaho State doesn't mean he should've been held out. After all, hindsight is always 20/20.