Day two in Lewiston is in the books and it was a pretty fun practice. The team session was about as close as any I've seen in all my months covering the Cougars and everybody seemed to be in a pretty good mood afterwards.
We'll cover all that after the jump, but I wanted to get a couple notes above the fold. First, I was mistaken yesterday when I said that freshman Deion Singleton was at camp, he wasn't. A player wearing his number was in attendance but that was Dakota Sinchak and the switch was not reflected on the roster. Both Singleton and Barry Ware have yet to arrive.
Additionally, coach Mike Leach said after practice that backup quarterback Luke Falk will be on scholarship, “we just have to go through the numbers and whatnot.” So we'll be able to stop referring to him as “walk-on Luke Falk” soon enough.
Now let's get to the good stuff.
Let's start with team, today. But first, here's a quick explanation of how the session works.
It's 11-on-11, with quarterback Connor Halliday marching up one side of the field and then Luke Falk marching the team back. No matter what happens, the offense advances five yards after every play. The scoring system, best as I can figure, is that the offense receives one point for a completed pass beyond a few yards or a run of more than a few yards. The offense gets two points for an “explosive” play of around 15-20 yards, without tackling it's a little hard to tell sometimes, and three points for a touchdown.
The defense gets a point for incomplete passes or for stopping the play for a very short gain. Tackles for loss are worth two points, as are tipped balls and sacks. Turnovers are worth three.
The defense jumped out to an 8-0 lead as Halliday's first pass was too short, the second play was broken in the backfield and the ball hit the turf and the next two passes were incomplete. The offense got on the board with a completion to River Cracraft, but the defense got a tackle for loss on the next play.
Before things got out of hand, however, the offense went on a run with Halliday completing four of five passes, including a drop. The final completion in that sequence was a deep touchdown pass to Gabe Marks between two defenders. Marks had a heck of a day, dominating in drills including a toe-tapping catch on the sideline in which he simultaneously spun his body to avoid Daquawn Brown. For more on Marks, check out our story in tomorrow's paper.
The defense regained the upper hand toward the end of Halliday's session, however, forcing an incomplete pass, an interception in the end zone by Tracy Clark, and then another incomplete pass. Halliday's run ended up against the goal line with a defensive pass interference by Clark.
Falk completed five of his first six passes , then missed a few including a nice pass breakup by Brown. Running back Gerard Wicks also made a big play on the ground, his second in two days.
Once the offense made its way down field, Rickey Galvin scored to give them the lead. But an incomplete pass and a short gain tied the game at 22 apiece. The players sensed the gravity of the moment (losers have to do up-downs, after all) and started whooping and hollering.
The soon-to-be former walk-on came through in the clutch, however, tossing a touchdown to receiver Calvin Green in the red zone. With just one play left, the defense needed a turnover for the tie, but Falk coolly responded, lofting another touchdown pass to Kristoff Williams to secure the offense's victory.
Earlier in practice the Cougars did a fair bit of special teams work. Robert Lewis, Jamal Morrow and Marcellus Pippins rotated as returners. The punting game began a lot like it ended last season: inconsistent.
But keep an eye out for a walk-on freshman punter named Jordan Descalo out of Taft high school in Woodland Hills, California. Towards the end of the drill Descalo started booming the punts, including one that must have gone 55+ yards.
“Right now we're looking for consistency, but he's got a real powerful leg and I'm impressed with him,” Leach said after practice. “Goes out there confident, not much anxiety and just pops it, and can really kick it a long ways. Kicked one of the longer punts I've seen, today.”
Leach also addressed yesterday's fun fact, saying (sadly) that there is no grand reason why freshman receivers that have worn No. 84 (Gabe Marks, River Cracraft) have played well and then switched numbers later.
“I haven't thought anything about it. Shoot, those guys trade numbers and there's a handful of guys and if they change numbers and they play bad, it's good, because I don’t notice them. If they change numbers and play good, well then it's kind of a nuisance to keep track who's in it. Nah, they go cut their deals in the equipment room and basically, typically I don't care too much if they change numbers if it's available.”