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Defense, offense trade momentum at WSU


COUGARS

Momentum is a funny thing. For all of Friday’s first practice and for most of the second, the Washington State offense held it. Then all of a sudden the defense grabbed it back. For more that went on Friday and what Paul Wulff is looking for out of Saturday’s scrimmage, read on.

••••••••••

• After the No. 1 offense scored with ease on his No. 1 defense (the crowning blow an explosive run around left end by James Montgomery of some 20 yards, helped into the end zone by a great Daniel Blackledge block), co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball exhorted his top group. And, while the No. 2 offense was marching down the practice field against its counterparts, the No. 1 defense got together on the sidelines and talked. Then they went back out and backed it up. First Western Washington transfer Casey Hamlett made a play behind the line of scrimmage. Then safety Xavier Hicks closed fast and drilled Blackledge for another loss. The tone was set. Though Marshall Lobbestael teamed with Kevin Norrell for a score on the next possession – freshman cornerback Nolan Washington got caught up inside – the top defense came back out and pushed the offense back – Bernard Wolfgramm got into the backfield, Jason Stripling made a stop behind the line and Kevin Kooyman came up with a sack. Then the second defense got into the act, with Louis Bland coming up quick for a loss and, a play later, Lobbestael was touched down by a group as the secondary wouldn’t let anyone get open. And all of the success came with Andy Mattingly, who was held out for an undisclosed reason.

• There were more players who didn’t take part in the afternoon session – Mattingly did everything except scrimmage – including Jeshua Anderson, who tweaked a hamstring during a hard fall in the morning. Tyree Toomer added a yellow, no-contact jersey for the afternoon but still participated for most of the drills. Eric Block and Myron Beck also sat out. … The special team drills featured quite a bit of kickoff return work, with Brandon Jones, Montgomery, Anthony Carpenter and Norrell doing much of the return work. Montgomery and Jones, who both transferred from Cal last season and sat out, showed their speed in getting to the gaps. … There were some changes with the first-team defense, some because a player was sitting out (Joshua Garrett took Mattingly’s Sam linebacker spot) and others possibly for other reasons. Defensive end Hamlett, who filled in while Jesse Feagin was out the past couple days, stayed with the ones in the afternoon while Feagin was running with the twos. … Motivational speaker Bruce Brown spoke to the team following the morning session.

• There is only one scrimmage currently on the practice schedule and that’s Saturday afternoon in Martin Stadium. It is free and open to the public. Wulff was asked what he wanted to accomplish. “We want to make sure we incorporate some special teams in the middle of it, so we get some kind of sense of flow,” he said. “Primarily, just some quality reps. Not a lot. We’re looking for the starters getting anywhere from 12 to 18 reps, twos to get about that same amount and the threes to maybe get 20 to 30. So a little bit more with the threes.” And what happens tomorrow will play a part in the coaches decision-making process when it comes time to designate starters. “Absolutely,” Wulff said. “This will be the first true scrimmage setting. Some guys seem to sometimes appear a little more. … It’s one of those deals. It’s a race. Guys competing to play. Sometimes one guy pulls ahead of another guy and then back comes the other guy. That’s why we practice and hopefully they keep pushing each other because it only makes us better.”

•••

• That’s it for this afternoon, though we will remind you the Cougars will scrimmage Saturday starting around 2:30 p.m. We’ll be back in the morning. Until then …


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