FROM PULLMAN -- Consider this a victory: today was the first time this season I had to don a rain jacket for practice. And even then, it didn't really rain. But it's most certainly fall in Pullman, as the temperature indicated during WSU's Saturday night workout. It was a short one. Read on.
This was a condensed practice, with WSU still getting in its usual drills, with the exception of special teams. Jeff Tuel manned the first-team offense for the majority of the team portion, with Connor Halliday playing a series at the end.
Afterward, the Cougars gathered together in the middle of the field to have an egg-toss competition. One player from each position group was selected to represent their position in the contest. The winners? Carl Winston and Andrew Furney, which meant everyone except for the running backs and specialists had to perform up-downs while the two victorious groups celebrated.
Coach Mike Leach said it was simply another exercise in competition, one of several he's employed during the bye week, such as tug-of-war and dodgeball.
"We need to compete in key situations no matter what it is," Leach said. "The biggest thing is, anything that our group can compete at I think is beneficial."
In personnel news, receiver Marquess Wilson was a full participant for the first time since last week's game against Cal. He left that game and didn't return after taking a shot to the head. Running back Teondray Caldwell, who was also hit in the head during that game, still is not participating in practice. Offensive lineman Taylor Meighen was present but did not participate. Linebacker Khalil Pettway remains sidelined, as well.
We spoke afterward with outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons. Here's a transcript of that conversation.
(On receivers being called out for lacking toughness) "If they don’t like the comments, they can control that and change their actions."
(On route running) "I think our route running for the most part has been fine. We’ve been getting open, we’ve been making catches. The last game, we dropped some balls that we should have caught. They were contested balls but we should have made the play. At the end of the day you’ve got to want it more than that guy wants to defend you. That’s where the question of their toughness even began. If they weren’t open, the ball wouldn’t have been thrown there. I don’t think it’s their route running, guys just need to finish the play."
(On dropped passes) "This is these kids’ first year in the system. Let’s be honest, if they’d thrown the ball this much last year … so I mean, is it high? Yeah, it’s high, because I don’t want any. But to say that we’re not going to have some drops in a game is almost like saying in a basketball game you’re not going to have any missed shots. It’s going to happen. Am I going to be happy about it? No, I’m not going to be happy about it at all. I want them to catch them all. That’s the thing. I’m just like the fans. I remember the ones that we didn’t catch more so than the ones that we did. So it goes back to how you want to be remembered. If the last play of the game you dropped the ball, that’s how you’re going to be remembered until you get an opportunity to play the next week. If you don’t want that situation, make the play."
(On emphasizing toughness this week) "This week has honeslty been a lot about fundamentals and back to basics because a lot of during the season, you kind of go more into game planning and focus more on the opponent. This week was really more so designed to focus about ourselves and on ourselves, and in doing so we focused on making sure we had exactness in our routes, in our depths, pad level and all of the little things that DBs are going to try to pick up off of us when they watch film of us. We want to evaluate all of that and clean that up and make sure we’re ready for the rest of the season."
(On what they need from Isiah Myers) "Just consistency. He actually played pretty decent in the cal game, he played pretty decent in the UNLV and Colorado games. We just need him each week. We don’t need him to be solid in one game and then a presence in the next game. the same thing we’re asking from him, we’re asking from all of the guys that play."
(On if he expected offensive struggles this year) "I’m always an overly optimistic person so to be honest with you, I expected to score 50-60 points a game and do all of the things where we left off when we were at Tech. it hasn’t happened but I’m not going to lower my standards, I’m not going to lower my expectations of these guys. I firmly believe in my heart that it will happen and we’re going to will it to make it happen."