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Defense starts strong in WSU scrimmage, offense wakes up later

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — The wind and hail didn't stop Washington State from scrimmaging on Saturday. But it did keep the Cougars from executing as well as they could have. Offensively, at least. Keep reading.


When Mike Leach stopped the scrimmage so he could gather the entire offense and have them perform up-downs, it made sense to assume that said players would likely be held after practice for a little extra work. And, yes, that's what happened. The receivers and running backs stayed behind with the quarterbacks to work on short passes — basic stuff — and the offensive line stuck around for a bit to perform some extra up-downs.

Those punishments — simple as they were — stemmed from Leach's frustration with the offense's stagnancy early in Saturday's scrimmage, which the defense dominated for half the afternoon before the offense got going toward the end.

“For the first half I thought the defense came out ready to play, bounced around,” Leach said. “Offensively, we’ve got too many guys that think they’re going to allow weather to affect their performance, so we had to practice that a little bit at the end.”

The weather was hard to ignore. A pretty harsh wind whipped through Martin Stadium without relenting, making it a little harder for receivers to lock in on passes thrown by WSU's quarterbacks.

Connor Halliday completed 25 of his 36 pass attempts for 249 yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn't easy early.

“Me and Austin (Apodaca) threw it pretty well,” Halliday said. “I think the biggest problem was the ball moves so much when it’s blowing that bad, I think the receivers at the start of practice were kind of struggling catching it and that kind of got Leach all pissed off. We got rolling after that, though. It was just kind of a little bit of a slow start.”

It was especially rough for Apodaca, who threw three interceptions — two of them in a span of three plays, to Mitchell Peterson and Eric Oertel — and admitted afterward that he tried to force some throws that he shouldn't have.

But there were bright spots for the freshman, too, such as his 30-yard scramble, a 1-yard touchdown run, and touchdown passes fo Kristoff Williams (44 yards) and Gabe Marks (three yards).

Apodaca completed 19 of 34 passes for 228 yards.

“I think the last drive was my best drive,” Apodaca said of the 7-play, 50-yard excursion that ended with his rushing score. “I think Leach just told me go through what your reads are, calm down back there and throw the ball instead of pressing and trying to do too much, and that’s kind of what I was doing my first drive,  trying to do too much and then the last one we just kind of settled down and played football a little bit more.”

“I thought Connor played reasonably well early — didn’t have a lot of help,” Leach said. “I thought that Apodaca’s played better throughout spring than he did today. That last drive was more like he’s played all spring than early on, trying to make too much happen, guess, all that other stuff.”

… Leach said that “if we were to play today,” Halliday would be the No. 1 quarterback. But Halliday and Apodaca will continue to rep evenly, at least for the rest of the spring.

… Marks wound up having a big day with 11 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns, though he struggled with a few drops early.

… The defense tallied five sacks and rallied to the ball pretty well all afternoon, though there were some busts — a 41-yard touchdown pass to Marks by Halliday after Marks slipped past Damante horton, plus Williams' 44-yard catch and run and Apodaca's 30-yard jaunt that got Ivan McLennan pulled for a play — that had Mike Breske visibly frustrated on the sideline.

Overall, though, the defense seemed faster and a little more ready to play, for whatever reason.

“We just came out flat as an offense,” offensive tackle Gunnar Eklund said. “Didn’t play up to the defensive hype. They were pretty jacked up and came out strong, so I don’t know if it was the weather, early morning, but we just need  to come out stronger from the get-go. But we picked it up at the end.

“A little bit of yelling and encouragement kind of boosted our play.”

… There was finally some good news on the injury front, as Nolan Washington and Damante Horton each returned and started at cornerback with the No. 1 defense. Anthony Carpenter and Rahmel Dockery went with the No. 2 defense. Otherwise, the No. 1 unit looked pretty much the same as it has recently — Xavier Cooper, Darryl Paulo and Matthew Bock up front, Kache Palacio, Tana Pritchard, Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen at linebacker, and Casey Locker and Taylor Taliulu at safety (and you can probably deduce from that group that Toni Pole, Ioane Gauta and Deone Bucannon remain out).

… Jacob Seydel and John Fullington got some time with the No. 1 offense at right tackle and right guard, respectively. There was quite a bit of experimentation/linemen in different positions with the second and third units, especially. Redshirt freshman Sam Flor played center for the third team, the first action he's seen in a live setting this spring.

… Darryl Monroe had the biggest hit of the day, hammering Robert Lewis as the slight receiver came over the middle. He didn't hold onto the ball.

“I kind of knew what was going to happen,” Monroe said. “Nobody was in the middle of the field. I knew Robert Lewis, he was the three receiver, he was going to come in, so I kind of had my mind made up that it was either going to be a big hit or a pick.”

… Walk-on Kyle Adkins got in with the No. 1 offense and caught the first touchdown of the day, a 21-yard pass from Halliday.

… Theron West led a modest rushing attack (if you can call it that) with six carries for 26 yards. Apodaca had the 30-yard scramble and the 1-yard  TD run, but with sack yardage taken into consideration, I think West topped him. Nobody else ran for more than three yards.

… Dominique Williams didn't practice, and neither did Denzell Dotson, Feddie Davey, Alex Jackson, Jake Rodgers or Chester Su'a. Robert Barber and Destiny Vaeao remain out, too, though Barber was very active on the sidelines with shouts of encouragement.

Here are the full scrimmage stats, as compiled by WSU's sports information team …

SCORING

Furney 42-yard field goal

Concepcion 27-yard field goal

Halliday 21-yard pass to Adkins, Furney PAT

Halliday 9-yard pass to K. Williams

Apodaca 3-yard pass to Marks

Apodaca 44-yard pass to K. Williams

Apodaca 1-yard rush

Halliday 41-yard pass to Marks

RUSHING

T. West                 6-26

J. Laufasa           5-1

M. Mason            3- (-4)

T. Caldwell          3-(-8)

K. Lappano         1-3

A. Apodaca        30-yard run, 1-yard touchdown

PASSING

C. Halliday           25-36-249, 3 TD

A. Apodaca        19-34-228, 2 TD, 3 INT

J. Brown              7-17-54

RECEIVING

I. Myers                4-34

B. Ratliff                6-53

G. Marks              11-123, 2 TD

R. Galvin               5-48

M. Mason            1-4

K. Williams          7-97, 2 TD

T. Baker               2-22

A. West                4-27

K. Adkins             3-45, TD

D. McDonald      1-14

T. Caldwell          4-17

T. West                 1-29

B. Bartolone       2-18

DEFENSE

(total tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, passes defended, passes intercepted)

Name               TT        TFL       Sacks  PD       PI

J. Sagote             8              1              -              -              -

I. McLennan      4              -              -              -              -

M. Christ              1              -              -              -              -

J. Byers               4              -              -              -              -

D. Paulo               2              -              1              1              -

L. Faoliu               1              -              1              -              -

E. Oertel               6              -              -              -              1

M. Bock               4              -              -              -              -

A. Carpenter      1              -              -              -              -

T. Pritchard        3              -              -              -              -

Da. Bucannon   2              -              -              -              -

D. Monroe           5              2              -              2              -

K. Palacio            2              -              -              -              -

T. Taliulu              5              -              -              -              -

C. Locker             6              -              -              1              -

X. Cooper            2              1              1              -              -

C. Coen 4              1              -              -              -

D. Horton             6              1              -              -              -

J. Allison              5              -              -              -              -

B. Bontemps      3              -              -              -              -

M. Fields              3              -              -              -              -

S. Hutcherson   3              -              -              1              -

M. Hersey           3              -              1              -              -

B. Glover              3              -              -              1              1

P. Henry               3              -              -              -              -

C. Boachie          2              -              -              1              -

M. McAdie          2              -              -              1              -

M. Peterson       3              -              -              2              1

T. Clark -              -              -              2              -

J. Waldner          3              -              -              -              -

A. Brown             3              -              1              -              -

N. Washington  2              -              -              -              -

R. Dockery          1              -              -              -              -

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple


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