You couldn't have asked for a better morning for a spring scrimmage in Pullman. The sun was shining, the breeze was not intrusive and Martin Stadium was full. OK, the last one is not true, but the rest of the day was pleasant. Read on for more on the scrimmage.
• From the opening possession, heck from the opening play, it was obvious this was going to be the defense's day. You could hear it. The pads were popping as the defense, embarrassed a little by the offensive domination last Saturday, came out hitting. Logwone Mitz tried the right side and was met in the hole after 2 yards. Isiah Barton was pounded by a big group after catching a slant for 4 yards. And then Anthony Laurenzi was too quick for the offensive line and came up with a sack. Three and out. A tone was set. … Darren Markle, playing with the twos, had a sack and a fumble recovery. Steven Hoffart ran down Leon Brooks on a third-and-10 screen play that looked as if it might break and then had a sack later. And through it all, the defense hit and hit hard. … There was really only one breakdown and it was not on Jeff Tuel's long touchdown pass to Marquess Wilson. No, that was defended well. The breakdown came on a second-and-14 screen pass in the red zone part of the scrimmage, when a group of defenders all whiffed on Mitz, who took the ball down to the 3, running over a defender in the process. … The offense was operating without Carl Winston, Jared Karstetter, Bobby Ratliff and Blair Bomber, while the defense was missing Nolan Washington and Sekope Kaufusi, all players who started the spring. None of those injuries are serious, however, meaning, with just three practices left this spring, the Cougars have so far avoided a big injury. … There were six field goal attempts between Andrew Furney (good from 44, blocked from 46 and short from 52), Alex Gauper (good from 37 and 46, the latter a bank shot off the right upright) and Zack Sampson (good from 39). …
• Here's the unedited version of our story …
PULLMAN – Simply put, the defense came to play.
“They set the tone today,” said Washington State football coach Paul Wulff following his team's second spring scrimmage, played in front of a sparse Mom's Weekend crowd at Martin Stadium on a sunny Saturday morning.
“They played well, they played hard, they played fast,” Wulff added.
The defense popped the pads on the offense's first four possessions, posting two sacks, yielding no play longer than 4 yards and forcing four three-and-outs.
“We came out on fire,” said safety Tyree Toomer.
The ones gained 8 yards combined in their two possessions against the starting defense, the backups 3 yards in their two against the corresponding defense.
Overall, the offense gained 251 yards in the 57-play, 50-minute scrimmage. Backup running back Leon Brooks was the leading rusher with 21 yards on 10 carries as the offense rushed for just 56 yards on 25 attempts.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel was 9 of 14 passing for 113 yards, most of that coming on the offense's lone productive drive in its nine full-field possessions.
The third time the starters had the ball, Tuel led the offense on a seven-play, 70-yard march, finishing it with a perfect 35-yard strike to Marquess Wilson down the left sideline.
Cornerback Damante Horton left a small hole and Tuel put the ball in it.
“It's like when people try to guard Kobe, they do all they can,” Toomer said of the throw. “It's great defense, but it's just better offense.”
“He can throw the deep ball,” Wulff said of Tuel. “We have to make sure we utilize that strength of his. And we've got some guys that can go deep. It's got to be a big part of our offense.”
But the defense bounced right back, coming up with three consecutive turnovers.
Backup corner Anthony Martinez forced an Isiah Myers fumble that Darren Markle recovered. Corner Aire Justin made a diving interception of a long Tuel pass aimed at Bennett Bontemps deep down the middle. And reserve corner Tyrone Duckett jumped a David Gilbertson pass meant for tight end Andrei Lintz.
“We stopped them (early) and we didn't just get comfortable, we built off of that,” said Toomer, a redshirt junior. “I think that's the best we've performed defensively since I've been here.”
When the offense went into red-zone work, starting at the defense's 25, it was only able to put it in the end zone twice, the starters on Logwone Mitz's 2-yard run and the twos on Leon Brook's 1-yarder. Twice the defense forced field goal attempts, with walk-on Zack Sampson nailing a 39-yarder and Alex Hoffman-Ellis blocking Andrew Furney's 46-yarder.
“That's what happens when you play each other for as long as we do,” Tuel said of the defense's day. “They start scheming our stuff a bit and start jumping our routes. It was really good to see the defense come out here and do a lot of good things.
“That's just how it's going to go sometimes. Offense will have their days, so will 'D.' I tip my cap to them. It was a good day.”
• That's all for now. We'll be back tomorrow with links. Until then …