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Defense makes big plays in WSU scrimmage


COUGARS

We said this morning that today’s scrimmage was like a midterm exam. It won’t kill the final grade but it was a good way to judge what needs to be worked on. It’s over now and the film will show … well, you have to read on to find out just what, and access our story.

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• Not to go all negative or anything, but the one thing coaches don’t ever want to happen in scrimmages – or anywhere for that matter – is a major injury. Well, there may have been one Saturday. Defensive end Jordan Pu’u Robinson, a redshirt freshman, came up to stop Carl Winston on his fourth play of the day, got caught in the pile and yelled in pain. The backup had his right knee examined, was helped to the sidelines and taken to the training room. No word yet, but Robinson knee will go through the usual examinations. Also, backup safety Jamal Atofu, another redshirt freshman, suffered a sprained right knee, the severity of which still to be determined. Otherwise, there didn’t seem to be any more of note. … Those who didn’t participate Saturday included Jared Karstetter, Gino Simone, Bernard Wolfgramm, Brandon Rankin, Aaron Gehring, Timothy Hodgdon, Andrew Roxas and Tyson Pencer. … Asked if not having Simone and Karstetter – the two top returning receivers in catches and yards – affected him, quarterback Jeff Tuel said it shouldn’t have. “I’m real comfortable with those guys and I have a lot of confidence in them,” he said. “But there’s no excuse. We shouldn’t miss a beat when those guys aren’t in there.” Besides, the freshmen stepped up. “Marquis Wilson makes plays, catches the ball,” coach Paul Wulff said. “Kristoff Williams, those guys did some good things.” If you want to know how well, check out the stats below. … Nico Grasu and Andrew Furney each attempted four field goals to end the day, with both hitting their first three from 40 or 47 yards. They each tried a 50 yarder, with Grasu’s long enough but left and Furney’s coming up short and right. … Finally, the one area that concerned Wulff was the intensity, especially early. “I thought we were a little emotionally flat,” he said. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball felt the same way, saying the defense started slowly. But a LeAndre Daniels interception, even though it was called back due to offsetting penalties, seemed to fire up the defense. Two plays later Kevin Kooyman broke through, sacked Tuel and the first group was rarely tested the rest of the day. … The second offense actually did well at times, especially on its first possession. Marshall Lobbestael led them 70 yards down the field, hitting seven consecutive passes including the touchdown throw to Williams. … Reid Forrest tried two punts in coverage drills, hitting them both 53 yards. The first rolled dead that far, the second covered the distance in the air. … That’s it in the way of notes, though I will relate that former Cougar quarterback Jason Gesser was in attendance and talked with Tuel after the scrimmage.

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• Here are the stats from the day …

RUSHING: Carl Winston (7/5); Leon Brooks (5/20); James Montgomery (5/20); Rickey Galvin (5/19); Logwone Mitz (3/11); Jeff Tuel (2/-4); Chantz Staden (1/-3); Marshall Lobbestael (1/-4); David Gilbertson (1/-5).

PASSING: Marshall Lobbestael (9/10/69/1/1); Jeff Tuel (3/9/27/0/1); Connor Halliday (3/5/56/1/0); David Gilbertson (2/2/18/0/0); Dan Wagner (0/1/0/0/0).

RECEIVING: Marquess Wilson (6/51); Kristoff Williams (3/26 TD); Isiah Barton (2/29); Carl Winston (2/14); Austin Ehlo (1/28 TD); Jeffrey Solomon (1/11); Daniel Blackledge (1/7); Blair Bomber (1/4).

SACKS: Kevin Kooyman (1); Steven Hoffart (1); Casey Locker (1); Kalafitoni Pole (1).

INTERCEPTIONS: Nolan Washington (1); Anthony Carpenter (1).

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• Here is the unedited version of our story that will appear in tomorrow’s S-R …

PULLMAN – If Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff was looking for improvement out of his defense in its first scrimmage, he saw it.

If he was looking for consistency from his offense, he was sorely disappointed.

Such is the case in intrasquad scrimmages. The Cougars held their first of the 2010 season Saturday before about 100 people at Martin Stadium and the No. 1 defense shined from almost the first play.

“The defense really came out and stepped up,” said senior running back James Montgomery, who carried five times for 20 yards in his first game-type action since last year’s lower leg injury.

“They showed us we really need to bring up our intensity level because they brought it to us, just making big plays left and right.”

Those big plays included two interceptions, another pick nullified by penalty, four sacks and four crunching hits, two from freshman C.J. Mizell.

The first string offense gained 64 yards on 27 plays and turned the ball over twice – interceptions by redshirt freshmen Nolan Washington and Anthony Carpenter.

“I think when you are not successful as you would like to be, you can almost learn more than when you are successful,” said starting quarterback Jeff Tuel. “Sometimes these types of days give you a lot to learn with.”

If that’s the case, Tuel may be overloaded. The sophomore starter was just 3 of 9 passing for 27 yards and one interception.

Backup Marshall Lobbestael, mainly running the No. 2 offense, completed his first nine passes for 69 yards. That including a 10-yard touchdown pass to freshman Kristoff Williams, who went high in the back of the end zone to snag the ball, then got a foot down before tumbling to the ground.

But even Lobbestael misfired while running the starting offense. Carpenter intercepted Lobbestael’s 10th, and final, pass, stepping in front of tight end Skylar Stormo in the middle.

“We just didn’t string a lot of good plays together at times,” Wulff said of an offense that gained 229 yards – all but 59 of it through the air – in the hour-long scrimmage.

“We didn’t run the ball a lot today,” Wulff added, noting it was by design. “We needed to get those receivers some reps. We needed to throw the ball, because that’s a position that has to develop.”

Newcomers Williams, with the touchdown and two other catches, Marquess Wilson (six catches for 51 yards) and Isiah Barton (two for 29) filled in for top returnees Gino Simone (hamstring) and Jared Karstetter (hernia), who watched from the sideline.

The defense was without two of its inside stalwarts, tackles Brandon Rankin and Bernard Wolfgramm, but it didn’t seem to matter much.

“Right now the defensive line is playing well,” Wulff said. “We seem to be rotating a lot of guys in there and they’re all doing a great job.”

So too did the linebackers, with the three main candidates – Mike Ledgerwood, who started, Hallston Higgins and Mizell – in the middle all playing well.

That was good news for co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball, who, when asked if having a dominating presence at that position was crucial, answered “really crucial,” then repeated the phrase three more times.

Mizell, who sat out last year in Florida, made the biggest impression, flying through gaps to bring down running backs Ricky Galvin and Leon Brooks short of first downs.

“He’s got a lot of ability,” Ball said. “Today we finally got to see it. He’s still rusty, he’s still got a lot of work to do, but the ability is there.”

“I’m just trying to get my skills toned back to where they used to be,” Mizell said.

The backup offense did finish the day on a good note, with freshman quarterback Connor Halliday, who will probably redshirt, finding freshman Austin Ehlo down the right sideline for a 28-yard scoring strike, capping a 65-yard drive and ending the day.

A defensive day.

“I like the consistency of our defense,” Wulff said. “Everybody was in the right spot for the most part.”

This time.

“We need to come back next scrimmage and show them what’s up,” Montgomery said.

•••••

• That’s all for tonight. As usual, we’ll be back in the morning with more …


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