FROM PULLMAN — The Cougars went through their usual Wednesday paces at practice, peppering in a ton of scout preparation with some special teams work. The latter is the focus of this post. Keep reading, por favor.
The first question: what, exactly, went wrong on Tre Mason's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during the second quarter of Saturday's game at Auburn?
Russell said he didn't need to look at the film to figure that one out.
“The same thing we saw live—unblocked guys not doing their job and the safety overran it, unblocked, and we had an unblocked rover that stopped and waited instead of making a play,” Russell said. “Same stuff we saw out there on the grass. It was nothing different.”
WSU allowed one kickoff return for a score last year at Utah, which Russell thought was one too many. It grinds at him that WSU has already matched that number through one game this season.
“We’ve got to be smart but have fundamentals and don’t try to do too much. We had some guys get nosey. We had it shut down where they were trying to return the ball. That’s why he cut it back. And we had three guys that basically didn’t do their job. And it’s tough. It’s day one stuff. They don’t feel good about it. It’s frustrating and a big hole to dig out of now.”
It obviously doesn't get a heck of a lot easier this week, with one of the most dangerous players in the nation, Marqise Lee, on the receiving end of WSU's kickoffs and punts.
But Russell said the Cougars must also keep an eye on “No. 15,” a reference to sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor, who also lines up deep to return kicks.
“They’ve got two back there that are dangerous,” Russell said. “It’s not like you can just decide you’re going to kick away from Marqise.”
That's not something that can be accomplished easily in the punt game, either.
“They can limit the direction you kick by their rush,” Russell said. “You might want to say, 'ok, I’ll kick it out of bounds,' but all of a sudden they’ve got three or four guys wide over there. You want your punter to walk that way and into the rush? It’s valid as far as do you want to try to see if you can limit the deal, but it’s been, even at Tennessee, a couple of those guys at LSU, you might get a great kick but they find a way to run and get their hands on it. So regardless you’ve still got to be ready to cover and to tackle a guy.”
– Once again, cornerbacks Nolan Washington and Anthony Washington did not participate in practice. Each day that passes with those two on the sidelines increases the possibility of Daquawn Brown starting at corner.
– Jacob Seydel and Darius Lemora rode exercise bikes.
– Matt Meyer and Paulo Lepua have been removed from the official roster, though coach Mike Leach chose not to comment on either of them.
– Leach met with a very friendly group of international students prior to practice, and gave them some WSU t-shirts as souvenirs.