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Notes from WSU’s first scrimmage

COUGARS

FROM LEWISTON — Turns out Washington State got out of Lewiston just in time — a thunderstorm rolled in toward the end of practice, and lightning could be seen in the distance during interviews. No matter. The Lewiston Experience is in the books, WSU is back in Pullman and practice will resume Tuesday on campus. For now, we have notes from Sunday's scrimmage, so read on.


(NOTE: All numbers are unofficial. I counted them myself on my own fingers.)

(UPDATE: Here's a link to the official stats.)

As coach Mike Leach said on Saturday, WSU's scrimmage wound up lasting about 70 plays. And just as Leach said, the third-team offense and defense received about 30 of those snaps.

Leach said he wanted to give those players a chance to show what they could do in a live setting, since many of them have performed well during drills.

“First of all, we had time to,” Leach said. “Second of all, some of them are kind of doing some good things and just kind of checking them out, what we have. We’ve put them in and out of drills but this is the first time it’s been live and their exposure to that, sometimes there’s a little hesitation, which I’m sure there was some, but it wasn’t bad.”

As a result of those third-teamers getting some reps, Tyler Bruggman took his first snaps in an 11-on-11 setting. His second pass was a 62-yarder to Vince Mayle that went for a touchdown after Mayle burst past everyone in the secondary.

“It was a heck of a throw by Bruggman, because he wasn’t able to even step into it,” Leach said. “So it was really a good throw. It was just part of the route and that was the first throw. His idea is go deep and he just put it up there.”

Bruggman played two series and completed 4-of-5 passes for 96 yards and the one touchdown.

– The rest of WSU's quarterbacks posted pretty solid stat lines, too. Connor Halliday continued his progression toward greater efficiency, as he completed 13 of 20 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. That's a 65 percent completion mark, which is near where he's been the whole camp; Halliday said yesterday that he's completed nearly 70 percent of all of his throws through the first nine days.

To give an idea of what kind of throws he was making, here's a look at his completions: a pass to Marcus Mason in the backfield that lost a yard (Damante Horton made a nice play); a 46-yard throw to Isiah Myers; a 6-yard completion to River Cracraft; a 2-yard throw to Bobby Ratliff; a 5-yard touchdown pass to Brett Bartolone; a throw to Teondray Caldwell in the backfield that lost eight yards (Darryl Monroe blew it up); a 20-yard completion to Bartolone; a pass to Mason in the backfield that lost two yards; a 10-yard completion to Mayle; a pass to Caldwell that lost a yard; an 8-yard completion to Bartolone; a pass to Caldwell that lost two yards; and a 34-yard touchdown pass to Cracraft after Halliday was forced from the pocket.

That's when WSU's “scramble drill came in handy,” Halliday said.

“Scramble drill isn’t just something that’s backyard football,” he said. “We run that drill every day. Everybody has a certain spot where they need to be on the field when I do roll right or roll left, so we’ve taken huge steps in that.”

It helped that he pointed Cracraft to the right pylon in the front of the end zone. The freshman ran to his spot and hauled in the pass near the 5-yard line before turning the corner and taking it into the end zone.

Leach said he thought the team's tempo has been good all camp, and even though he thought there was some indecision on Sunday, he likes how quickly Halliday operates.

“Connor, just personality wise, is a faster person,” Leach said. “Everything he does is fast. You look at the watch, drills are done and you’ve got three minutes left. It’s been 10 minutes for years, you’re sitting here going ‘oh, there’s three minutes left.’ Then you eat ice and go to the next one. He’s just naturally a faster operator, which I think has positively rubbed off on the rest of the team because it makes the o-line fast. One thing with the tempo that’s really key is the o-line getting in place quick, and they’ve done a good job of that.”

– Austin Apodaca completed 9 of his 14 pass attempts for 87 yards and a touchdown (a 25-yard toss to Dominique Williams). All of his snaps came with the No. 2 offense, which gives further indication that Halliday probably has a pretty strong hold on the starting job.

– By my count, there were only 10 running plays called — I count 17 total rushes, with five of those sacks and the other two scrambles by Apodaca. But the Cougars made more of those chances than they ever did last season. Leon Brooks had an 8-yard carry, Gerard Wicks took one for 18, and Jamal Morrow's longest rush was for 13 yards. Jeremiah Laufasa continued his strong camp with a 4-yard touchdown run. Nobody had more than three carries.

Leach said he “would have liked to have gotten more (runs) in. Our guys are a little tricky on that. You’ve got to pick your opportunities. They’ll load the box up. But the ones we did have were pretty good. I think Jeremiah Laufasa’s been a real pleasant surprise and has really done some good things running the football.”

Said senior center Elliott Bosch: “We definitely have been running the ball a lot better. I would  have liked to run the ball a few more times today, but we just didn’t get that many plays and maybe the opportunities weren’t there. I think it’s just our attitude has changed running the ball. We’ve got a little bit more confidence running the ball. We know exactly what they want from us, getting good push and having success.”

– Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said he thought WSU's No. 1 unit looked a little sloppy, and he said the No. 2s were the best group of them all. Devonte McClain, who has been working as the No. 2 left tackle, was absent (Leach said all the typical things about him being fine and him being excited and so forth, so McClain's absence will remain a mystery for now). True freshman Riley Sorenson took some snaps at left tackle with that group, as did Joe Dahl (who also took every snap at left guard with the No. 1 offense).

– The second-team offensive line usually featured, from left to right: Sorenson, Matt Goetz, Zach Brevick, Eduardo Middleton and Jacob Seydel.

– There were no surprises in terms of personnel. The starting defense featured Deone Bucannon and Taylor Taliulu at safety, Nolan Washington and Damante Horton (fixed — total brain cramp in listing the wrong guy earlier) at cornerback, Darryl Monroe, Justin Sagote, Cyrus Coen and Destiny Vaeao at linebacker, and Xavier Cooper, Ioane Gauta and Toni Pole along the defensive line. There was more variation among the second and third groups. The No. 2 defense at times had Eric Oertel, Tana Pritchard, Jared Byers and Kache Palacio playing as the linebackers, with some combination of Robert Barber, Matthew Bock, Logan Mayes, Lyman Faoliu or Darryl Paulo mixed in on the defensive line.

– The third-team offensive line, from left to right: Pierson Villarubia, Denzell Dotson, Sam Flor, Brent Anderson and B.J. Salmonson.

– WSU returned home to Pullman after the scrimmage. They'll have tomorrow off from practice, but will still have meetings, then return to the practice field on Tuesday. The logistics will be the same as in the spring, I would assume: offense in Martin, defense on Rogers, then everyone down into Martin for team period.

– There weren't any new injuries or absences other than McClain, and none of the limited guys returned to action, either.

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


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