FROM PULLMAN -- There is no rest for the weary, or for Washington State, which might have fit that description last night in Provo. But Friday? The Cougars seemed relatively upbeat in their brief, evening practice tonight. Read on for some more notes.
WSU practiced for about an hour, maybe a little more, going through their typical day-after-game practice with some light scout work, a bit of special teams and some individual drills and instruction. CB Damante Horton sat out with an apparent injury, as did cornerbacks Ray Ford and Alex Jackson. Anthony Carpenter spent some time at cornerback with the No. 1 defense, an interesting development. Mike Breske mentioned afterward that they're still searching for their most productive players, so maybe that's simply a way of trying to get Carpenter on the field because Deone Bucannon and Taylor Taliulu are going to continue to get almost all of the snaps at safety. Something to keep an eye on. ... Xavier Cooper was back in a boot and didn't participate. ... As I wrote above, the mood was lighter than you might have expected. The first-team defense celebrated heartily when Taliulu made an interception against the scout-team offense, as well as when Ioane Gauta, who wasn't even in on the play but was watching from behind the secondary, snagged a deflected pass and decided to just run the other way with it, anyway, several of his teammates following him.
Then again, maybe it's not so surprising that WSU appeared to bounce back well, since their lack of response to adversity was one of the bigger themes from the BYU game.
Defensive coordinator Mike Breske touched on that a bit when I spoke with him a bit ago. Here's a transcript of that conversation.
(Overall evaluation of the defense) "We’ve got to play a lot better than that. On the three passes for touchdowns, they were all mental mistakes. Got to clean that up. I was very happy with our effort in the second half when we were put in some tough field positions or sudden change scenarios and we didn’t give up a touchdown. Missed field goal or a field goal, that type of thing. We have things to work on. We have to be able to learn to come back from adversity. Our offense, we get an out, our offense goes down, 17-play drive, doesn’t get any points but we go out there and they go 78 yards for a touchdown. We had opportunities to get off the field and that’s what we’ve got to learn. On money downs we’ve got to find a way to get off the field."
(How did you match up, physically?) "I thought physicality, we did a very good job against the run game. Their leading rusher had 53 yards, and that type of deal. I thought we were very physical, our front seven. Overall I thought our tackling was good for the first game. Overall, you really never know going in. That’s one thing because you don’t do enough trackling in camp obviously. I thought our tackling was good enough to win, but I thought we were very physical against the run game. We’ve got to develop a pass rush, that type of deal. We have to get better in coverage. That was the key to us on defense."
(Was that the issue on BYU's first touchdown?) "Blown coverage. It was a missed coverage and it was something we talked about tonight that we’ve got to clean up. We’ve run that coverage I don’t know how many times in spring ball and camp. It’s not about communication. It’s just knowing your assignment."
(Are mental mistakes less alarming this early?) "Those are key mental mistakes. I’d rather see a physical mistake than a mental mistake. I want zero mental mistakes. Physical things are going to happen. You’re going to miss a tackle. That’s just part of the game. But I’ve got to know what my assignment is and that’s got to be 100 percent."
(On the team being too "fragile," as Mike Leach said) "I think it’s harder on the coaches. I think we take longer to bounce back than sometimes I believe with the players. Maybe that’s youth and that type of deal. I just think that’s natural. We challenged them today in meetings, that that’s a missed opportunity. We’ve got 12 of them and we missed an opportunity Thursday. OK, we’ve got another opportunity coming up against Eastern Washington on Saturday. Let’s take advantage of it. That’s all we’ve got to worry about. Worry about your assignment, go from next play to next play. Proceed that way."
(On the play of Taylor Taliulu) "Taylor I thought played pretty well. He had two missed tackles but he had some key plays for us. A lot to throw at a freshman, on the road, tough environment. But I thought he played very, very well. Can he play better? You bet he can. And he will. He’s going to play faster."
(On Ioane Gauta's physical play) "Junior didn’t go backwards at all, and that’s getting back to my point of physicality. Junior was very physical with BYU. It was great to see that."
(On mixing personnel and defensive fronts) "We’re trying to find our best productive players, if that makes sense, and get them in situations that can be productive for us as a defense."