CARSON, CA - It's unfamiliar territory for Washington State Cougars players: a postseason collegiate all-star game. Former WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel made the most of his time on the national stage Saturday, playing in four drives for the National team in a 34-0 rout of the American team in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center.
Tuel had a perfect day passing, finishing the day eight for eight with 64 yards and a touchdown pass to Rice Owls tight end Luke Willson. But it was Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist who was named the game's most valuable player. Crist had nearly identical passing numbers but added a rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
"I don't think it's what we did today. (Tuel) has been prepared through college to come in and throw the ball," said National team head coach Dick Vermeil. "We tried to give him some time and pass protections so he could throw well. But he threw well all week so it wasn't a surprise he did that tonight."
In Tuel's first two drives under center, he found himself in a lot of familiar situations. He worked from third and long on a couple of occasions and was also under duress on numerous occasions. Tuel did what he does best though and escaped pressure all but once.
Perhaps most importantly for Tuel, he showed he can work under center and not just in the shotgun which he operated in frequently during his time at Washington State and almost exclusively his senior season. In fact, the first play from scrimmage featured an excellent play action fake from Tuel and roll out for a 15 yard completion to Norfolk State's Xavier Boyce.
Tuel wasn't made available to the media afterwards but Crist, a player who has a lot in common with Tuel in terms of injuries and other difficulties in his collegiate career, said something that could've easily come from Tuel as well.
"Adversity gave me a unique perspective," said Crist. "Nothing that gets thrown at me I can't handle."
Jeff Tuel is a player who has dealt with catastrophic injuries, a coaching change, demotion to back-up and endured some of the worst years of football in school history. The fact that Tuel was even in a collegiate all-star game after everything he went through at Washington State speaks to how talented a football player he is.
On a beautiful night in the Southland with scouts and a national audience watching, Jeff Tuel looked like the quarterback we knew he could be. At the best time to put a complete game together, he did just that and showed, even after years of adversity, he's as poised as ever.