FROM PULLMAN — It was another quality practice for Washington State on Wednesday, Mike Leach said, with the Cougars working out for about two hours or so on Rogers Field. We have some notes and quotes — as well as an entertaining assessment of UW's live tiger stunt yesterday — after the jump.
Leach said he didn't think there was anything out of the ordinary, but for whatever reason, it seemed as if more guys were forced to perform up-downs today for making mental errors during practice. False starts, offsides penalties, those kind of things. One player was even sent to the sand pit for quite a while.
“An individual here or there,” Leach said when asked about it. “Needed a little more out of the offensive scout team, so we got their attention. I thought it was a pretty good practice, really.”
It didn't go quite as long as Tuesday's session, but it consisted of the same work. Lots of scout work, some team session with first and second teamers going against each other, pass skeletons, and a whole bunch of special teams.
To that end, we spoke with Eric Russell about Thursday's performance. He wasn't particularly pleased with it.
I asked him how he thought the group graded out.
“Not very good,” he said. “(We) put the offense in too many situations backed up; mishandled a kickoff; missed a blocking assignment; got blown up inside.
“The one bright spot was the kickoff return in the second half but really we should have had a couple more of those. Mike Bowlin obviously, whatever it was, first-game jitters or what, but obviously struggled. His kickoffs were fine.”
Russell seemed most disappointed about a play that many might not count in the negative column — WSU just barely missed blocking Riley Stephenson's second punt of the game, something Russell said could have at least helped change momentum. The punt in question occcurred midway through the fourth quarter with BYU leading 30-6.
“I was pleased with our punt return. You can’t get a better opportunity to block a punt than what we had and to miss the block was frustrating, because it opened up like we thought it would,” Russell said. “If you can block that thing and scoop and score, now you’re at a two-possession game with eight minutes left. So getting these guys to believe that every play can be a difference and change momentum and things like that … we’ve obviously got to be more consistent. It’s good to finally get in a game environment and see who short-wires and who’s a competitor and things of that nature.”
As for the punt BYU blocked?
“That was Mike Bowlin pressing. I think he was rattled and coming off and just 'OK, I’m going to try to make something good happen,'” Russell said. “Lost track of his fundamentals and what he was supposed to be doing. That ball should have been caught and kicked. I think he was just trying to make something happen. He’s got to understand the situation and the fronts and it’s fourth and forever. He’s got no business doing that. Hopefully it’s a game situation we learn from. Obviously it’s embarrassing for him, it’s embarrassing for me as a coach and we’ve just got to get that stuff right, put him in more of those situations.”
Other notes …
Xavier Cooper appears to have put his walking-boot days behind him, as he was a full participant once more and seemed to move well. … Taylor Meighen wasn't wearing pads. … As we reported earlier on Twitter, cornerback Alex Jackson isn't practicing while the NCAA reviews his eligibility. … David Davis joined a crew of players riding exercise bikes. Darren Markle, Henry Eaddy and Robert Barber are still among that group, as well. … Passed this along on Twitter the other day, too, but should note here that fewer than 800 tickets remain for Saturday's home opener against Eastern Washington. … Couldn't help it. Had to ask Leach — a wildlife enthusiast, as you know — what he thought of UW bringing a live tiger to practice yesterday.
His response: “I think it’d be impressive if they let that tiger out of the cage. Or the other thing they could have done is stuck a husky in there with that tiger and let that husky outduel that tiger inside that cage, and I think that’d send a message to everybody.”