FROM LEWISTON — The first practice in pads — just shoulder pads — is over for Washington State, and we have our usual array of notes and observations below.
Putting on pads — any pads — is a good way to ensure an uptick in aggression. And in tension and chippiness.
So while WSU's practice was probably a bit sloppy for coach Mike Leach's taste in the early going — he stopped a 7-on-7 drill at one point to inform his players that he would prefer if they focus a tad more — the Cougars probably compensated for those miscues by bringing a little more energy as the practice wore on.
The offense and defense seemed to exchange big plays during team session. Casey Locker stepped in front of a Connor Halliday pass for an interception in the early going, and the entire offense was put through a few up-downs shortly thereafter.
Then it got a little more competitive. Deone Bucannon met Kristoff Williams for a healthy collision over the middle, though neither player went to the ground. Then, after Gabe Marks caught a pass over the middle and may have fumbled as he fought through a bevy of defenders (he lost the ball, but the play might have been dead), Halliday connected with Dominique Williams deep down the left sidelines.
Bobby Ratliff continued his solid camp by catching a screen pass and ducking inside for a decent gain. But Halliday was soon picked off by linebacker Tana Pritchard, who can add that interception to a steadily-growing collection so far this preseason.
Ioane Gauta said afterward that he was excited to put on shoulder pads and get a little more physical. It showed. He busted through the offensive line late in practice and corralled running back Marcus Mason, flinging him to the ground with relative ease.
The defense forced another turnover when Vince Mayle fumbled the ball after catching a pass, though I lost track in the scrum of who recovered it. Afterward, Eric Oertel engaged in a shouting match with Matt Goetz after Goetz was shoved by Robert Barber.
Goetz got his revenge a few plays later when he threw a block that sprung Leon Brooks for a big gain on a screen pass.
– Leach meets with the defense for a brief period after he addresses the entire team at the end of practice. Gauta said the message from Leach generally has been that “whenever the offense is messing up, just keep going. Make them better. They’re making us better by us making mistakes. They’re capitalizing on us. It’s vice versa. It’s pretty good. They just encourage us to keep pressing on and don’t let up big plays.”
– Chester Su'a, Matt Meyer and Paulo Lepua were absent from practice again, and Rahmel Dockery, Tyler Baker, Paris Taylor and Darius Lemora remain bicycling and such.
OK. I've got a UHaul to load up. We'll be back tomorrow.