FROM PULLMAN -- The Cougars are still a little shorthanded, but that didn't stop them from getting after it in a pretty spirited fashion during Tuesday's practice. We have more details below.
It was a full-pads, full-contact team session, and it was pretty competitive, too. Austin Apodaca returned from his illness and bounced back from a spotty 7-on-7 session -- he threw two interceptions to Rahmel Dockery, one another to Damante Horton -- to throw pretty well during team session, and Connor Halliday capped things off with a string of touchdown passes that included a slant to Dominique Williams that went for a long score, a long pass that Bobby Ratliff caught over Casey Locker that resulted in a score, and a perfectly-thrown fade to Kristoff Williams for a touchdown.
There will be plays for the defense to remember, too, such as Cyrus Coen's big hit on Gabe Marks on an inside screen pass, or Jeremiah Allison's interception near the goal line, or Kache Palacio's "sack" of Halliday, or Eric Oertel's big thump of Jeremiah Laufasa.
The problem, coach Mike Leach said was that "the two sides of the ball took turns dominating periods. You’d like to see it contested at a little higher level in between and you’d like to see somebody hang on to it."
Still, he said, "I thought it was good work."
Defensive lineman Xaiver Cooper echoed Leach's desire for some consistency.
"Getting to the quarterback, making a pick and then the next play giving up a big deep ball, the quarterback escapes out of the pocket and we didn't get him," Cooper said. "Just inconsistencies like that, we've got to make sure we're all on point at all times because come game time, people are going to take advantage of those."
... Damante Horton and Nolan Washington each left team session after being shaken up. Horton spent the rest of practice on the sidelines with an ice wrap on his right knee, though I didn't catch Washington's ailment.
That left Rahmel Dockery to join Anthony Carpenter at cornerback with the No. 1 defense. Dockery said the tempo was a bit of a surprise, and that he found himself losing track of the plays every now and then, so that's something he has to work on. But he did look solid again in 7-on-7 drills.
... Jacob Seydel took a few reps at right tackle in place of Rico Forbes with the No. 1 unit, though Forbes also played quite a bit. ... With Denzell Dotson still nursing a hand injury, Niu Sale again practiced with the No. 2 offensive line, sliding into left guard while John Fullington moved to right guard. Forbes practiced some with the No. 2s at right tackle.
... Justin Sagote participated in some drills but was limited otherwise. Cyrus Coen, Tana Pritchard, Darryl Monroe and Kache Palacio look like the No. 1 linebackers at the moment with Sagote out. Cooper, Darryl Paulo and Matthew Bock are holding down the defensive line. Casey Locker and Taylor Taliulu are getting the reps as the No.1 safeties with Deone Bucannon still without pads.
... Isiah Myers, who was apparently shaken up during Saturday's practice, was in attendance today but didn't wear pads and didn't participate. Toni Pole and Ioane Gauta remain on crutches and wearing knee braces. Logan Mayes is still out, obviously, as are Jake Rodgers, Feddie Davey and Alex Jackson, and Chester Su'a still hasn't donned pads for undisclosed reasons. Robert Barber and Destiny Vaeao are also without pads and limited participants. And long-snapper Ryan Saparto was in a walking boot and doing conditioning drills with the rest of the walking wounded.
... Leach on the live-contact setting: "I think it’s important to work the tackling, to teach the tackling, because then it reveals bad angles. Somebody runs by and touches off and says yeah I got him, well, let’s see if you really got him, and some of that looks better than it is until you start tackling. The tackling’s a huge part of it but by the same token you’re trying to get as many reps and as much work as you can and the more you tackle the more it’s going to tax your bodies and diminish your level of work, so we try to get a good balance of it. I think doing it during the team sessions the last two practices has been good work and it’s been good pacing it that way. Seems to have worked pretty well for us."
... More Leach: "We’re getting tougher. We need to get tougher yet. But we are getting tougher. And there’s less of the mentality, we have less of this P.E. football mentality. Last year there were times where as long as everybody had fun, that was good. Well, the fun comes with competing and discovering capabilities that you didn’t have the day before. It’s not just about this whole feel-good stuff that we had a tendency to gravitate toward last year, so there’s improvement there. In other words I think we have more competitive people developing, which I think is very important and I think is going to be key to us this year and the quicker we can develop it, the more we can develop it, the better."
... More Leach: "We’re explosive. We need to be more consistent. We can get big plays and we can get several big plays. It’s the ones in between, we need to make sure we don’t squander plays. We’re squandering less than we used to, but still squandering more than we should."