We teased you a little bit with our previous post. So we promise we'll begin this one with news about the end-of-practice field goal kicking. But that's not the most important news to come out of the late workout, held at the last minute in Martin Stadium. Read on.
• Oftentimes the Cougars will end practice with some field goal kicking. They did that today. At one point Paul Wulff may have wished he didn't. Nico Grasu's first attempt never got higher than 3 feet off the ground, for whatever reason, hitting into the backside of one of the blockers. And that wasn't the worst kick ... sorry, yes it was. But there were other bad ones. Patrick Rooney had one that looked like a Tiger Woods duck hook. New kicker Blake Dunn missed an attempt by a wide margin. Grasu had one blocked. Finally, after one misguided attempt, one of the players muttered a comment we can't repeat here. But Grasu got it together and boomed his last couple down the middle and well into Martin Stadium's east stands. So I guess whatever jinx may have been transmitted due to our story wore off.
• The lead story in Thursday's Daily Evergreen concerned an outbreak of swine flu on campus. The story stated there have been five confirmed cases of influenza A and there was a 95 percent likelihood it was of the H1N1 variety. So what does that have to do with football? It's hit the football team. "Yes we do," said Bill Drake, WSU's head of athletic training when asked if the football team has the same malady. Two players were not at practice Thursday, including freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel and safety Casey Locker. Both were suffering from flu-like symptoms. Drake spoke to the team after practice, giving the players the usual warnings, including coughing into their elbows, washing their hands, and not sharing anything, all of the typical precautions that keep the spread of the flu under control. With the swine flu, they want any player exhibiting symptoms to stay at home for 3-to-5 days and follow some protocols. They are not going to test everyone, Drake said, because "most likely if you have the symptoms, you've got it." But, Drake said, if the players follow the protocols, more than likely they'll get better in the 3-to-5 day window. Of course, if their temperatures spike or their other symptoms get worse, they'll get more intense care. Despite some earlier scares, the swine flu doesn't seem to be any worse than a seasonal flu. In fact, around campus most cases have been mild. "I just told the team, 'guys, if I had to choose, personally, between the normal seasonal flu that seems to knock people out sometimes 10-15 days, and a 3-to-5 day thing here in August, while the weather's nice, I'd probably chose that one, if I had to choose between the two,' " Drake said.
• With Stanford looming some eight days away, WSU will hold another scrimmage today. Wulff said he's not sure whether the Cougars will go live or just use thud tempo, though he did say they will try to go two quarters and there will be officials. "The length of (the scrimmage) will be determined by how we're practicing," Wulff said. "We want to get some guys back and get some guys healthy. We wanted to get through today's practice, see what our health was before we made any final decision (on Friday)." Wulff hopes all the injured players will be good to go Sunday, when the Cougars start working on Stanford for real. There was good news on that front Thursday, with Jeshua Anderson saying he's sure he'll be back by Tuesday and Jeffrey Solomon telling a coach he thinks he be back by then as well. James Montgomery looks like he'll be available soon as well, as the running back added some cuts to the running he's been doing during practice. Cornerback Brandon Jones was still in a boot. As for the action on the field, middle backer Alex Hoffman-Ellis was running full out with the second unit, tackle Micah Hannam returned and seemed to be OK and no one new came down with anything. Defensive tackles Toby Turpin and Bernard Wolfgramm didn't participate in the scrimmaging, saving themselves for Friday and next week. ... If you're wondering who is starting in what positions, Wulff had this sound bite for you. "It's still a battle," he said. "There are so few positions out here that you could say are locked up. It's an ongoing battle at every spot. I refuse to just lock in and say there's only this guy a starter and that's it. It's not the case. Everybody has to keep competing." That being said, Friday's scrimmage could go a long way in determining who will start at some key spots like quarterback, left tackle and linebacker.
• You could tell guys are still fighting for positions by some of the hitting in the 90-plus-degree heat. Running back Remy Martin came down field with the kickoff coverage unit and exploded into defensive end Casey Hamlett, knocking the bigger lineman to his back. During a scrimmage session Martin, a walk-on playing fullback, unloaded a block that upended safety LeAndre Daniels. And linebacker Louis Bland came up on run and crashed into left tackle Steven Ayers. ... Terrance Hayward came up with a pick during a drill by ripping the ball away from Esa Johnwell. And Myron Beck grabbed a tipped pass out of the air in a 2-minute drill but got ripped for running it back for a touchdown. The situation called for Beck to take a knee and end the game. But the best play of the day was made by Daniels. Taking Chima Nwachukwu's safety spot, the redshirt freshman was blistered by co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball on one play because he covered the wrong man. His next opportunity, with Ball's words surely still ringing in his ears, Daniels picked off a Kevin Lopina pass aimed at tight end Zach Tatman. It takes some fortitude to respond like that. ... The offense had its moments, including a long touchdown catch by Jared Karstetter on a Marshall Lobbestael toss. The offense also scored both times it had the ball in a situational scrimmage starting at the defense's 10. Gino Simone caught Lopina's bullet and Kevin Norrell gathered in one from Lobbestael. ... If you like MMA, you have to read the first note here. ... And if you want to get a Jim Moore fix, there's this feature on B.J. Guerra.
• That's it for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow morning with our usual links. Until then …