FROM PULLMAN — What would a Thursday be without Thursday Night Football and a conversation with Mike Breske? Why, it wouldn't be Thursday at all. Read on.
– This was a pretty standard Thursday night practice, with abridged scout and special-teams work followed by the usual scrimmage between the lesser-used and younger players.
There were a few limited participants. Brett Bartolone continues to remain sidelined, as does offensive lineman Denzell Dotson and safety Darius Lemora.
Destiny Vaeao was suited up and stood with the defense to watch scout work, but I didn't see him take any reps with the No. 1 defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said he expects Kache Palacio and Lyman Faoliu to carry the load at the buck linebacker spot on Saturday. Faoliu saw his most extended playing time of the season against Southern Utah, and has gotten more reps this week than he has in any of the previous three.
– Taylor Taliulu attended practice but didn't participate, though he is expected to be available on Saturday.
– There were a few highlights from today's Thursday Night Football session. The first of which was Tyler Bruggman's short completion to Jamal Morrow, which turned into a 20-25 yard gain after Morrow made a couple guys miss as he weaved his way up the right sideline.
– Bruggman connected with Tyler Baker for a 25-yard touchdown pass a couple plays later. Baker is a walk-on who transferred last season from Mississippi. He'd been limited by injury since camp began, but returned to practice recently.
– The next play was a 75-yard touchdown pass to walk-on receiver Daniel Lilienthal, who beat a defender over the top, then ran away from him to score easily.
– Alex Jackson recovered a fumble after John Thompson had the ball knocked out of his hands.
– Morrow had another nice gain when he shook Nate DeRider, but Jackson made a nice open-field tackle on him to prevent an even bigger play.
– Daniel Ekuale broke through for a pretty easy sack of walk-on quarterback Connor Ennis toward the end of the scrimmage.
As noted above, Breske spoke with reporters afterward. Here's some of what he had to say:
(Overall impressions of defense) “I just think we’ve played together as a unit. We’ve been good on third-down conversions, but if we just keep playing fast … that’s our goal this week. Last week against Southern Utah in the first quarter we came out a little sluggish and then picked it up in the second, third and fourth quarter, so our goal this week is, when we get our first opporuntity, let’s get a three and out.”
(Has the defense been tested?) “Each week is a test. We treat it as a faceless opponent and this is our next opportunity. We have 12 this year and this is our next opportunity. We want to get better each week. It’s about us. It’s not about Idaho. It’s about our football team getting better.”
(What's the biggest challenge this week?) “I think the distractions. Washington State homecoming, those type of things. I’m not in college. I’m not an undergrad anymore. But you’re aware of those things on the campus. Just keeping your focus and knowing what’s important and getting the scoreboard right.”
(Isaac Dotson maybe playing more) “Got a lot more reps this week and think he’s going to do some extra film study tonight. We’ll pick and choose opportunities for him, but I want to get him reps this weekend. I think he got 13 last week. Where that number is (this week), I can’t tell you that right now. Just kind of get a feel for what happens. But we’ve got to get him in the ball game.”
(More on Dotson) “With Isaac it was a late start … got him after five days and that hurt him a little bit. He’s a smart kid but you need reps. Since we made the decision last week to play him, that’s what we’ve got to get him. We’ve got to be smart about it in those situations but he’s doing a good job.”
(On forcing turnovers against a freshman QB) “We work on that every Tuesday, our tempo tackle Tuesday and Wednesday’s our takeaway circuit, so we work on it all the time. What’s unique about takeaways, to me being in this as long as I’ve been, it seems like it comes in bunches. You can work it and work it and yeah, you get those opportunities and it doesn’t work, and then Damante (Horton) right now is on a roll. The football is very large to him right now. With takeaways they come in bunches, but we do work on it and to me it’s one of the most important stats. Usually there’s 13 possessions for a team, you get three takeaways, that’s 10, and that’s a huge statistic. That’s our goal is three a game. That’s three less opportunities for an offense.”