Receiver River Cracraft hasn't done much work this week. He sat out Monday's practice and, after getting a little work in yesterday, the receiver was again a bystander during every drill on Wednesday despite putting on a helmet at one point.
Mike Leach was unavailable after today's “Thursday” practice because of his radio obligations, but Clay McGuire, who coaches the offensive line but is very involved with the rest of the offense, said we should expect to see Cracraft play on Friday at Nevada.
“I would think so,” McGuire said. “He played a lot of snaps, stuff like that. He's good and I think we'll see a lot of him.”
Today's practice was highlighted by the weekly “Thursday Night Football” underclassmen scrimmage. Our practice report is after the jump.
Besides Cracraft, the limited players at Wednesday's practice were Drew Springfield, Mack Hopkins and Nate DeRider. Nick Begg wasn't at practice today but McGuire said that he remains in good standing with the team.
The Cougars did some field goal work early in practice and Erik Powell hit his kick ranging between 30 and 40 yards. Quentin Breshears also took and made an attempt from about 40 yards.
The Cougars also worked on kickoffs and punts. With Cracraft out, Rickey Galvin and Jamal Morrow took turns returning the punts, while Kristoff Williams continues to be the team's primary kickoff returner.
After practice special teams coordinator Eric Russell was asked if the return men's hand had improved after struggling last week leading up to the game. Against Rutgers Williams dropped a kickoff.
“Well, it's hard to tell, right? We don't tackle in practice, we don't get hit so that can be difficult to recognize. A lot of things go into that, too,” Russell said.
He did acknowledge that it would have been prudent to instruct Cracraft to fair catch a late punt that the receiver fumbled after pulling in near midfield with the Cougars up 38-34.
Russell did say he was impressed with freshman punter Jordan Dascalo, who had two punts against RU. During one punt he had to sidestep a blocker before firing off a 28-yard punt, and he boomed the other 53-yards.
“That first punt we don't touch the guy in the A gap and we're able to get the kick off. It wasn't a great kick but that guy came scot-free and his operation time is probably what's given him the edge,” Russell said. “Then he battled back with the next one … so I thought for a first game Jordan did well. He needs to follow up and be consistent.”
With Cracraft out Robert Lewis had a nice day catching the ball, including a 35-yard touchdown pass from Connor Halliday in which he used impressive speed to get behind the scout team defense.
During the underclassmen scrimmage following practice Luke Falk got the majority of the reps at quarterback. He got off to a shaky start, fumbling the first snap, but got in a rhythm by continually finding Gabe Marks, who is just a little too good for these freshmen defenders to reasonably cover.
On one play Marks caught a pass going across the middle on what looked like a slant rout, and then change direction and slanted to the outside right in front of cornerback Pat Porter, who was caught flat-footed right when he thought he was going to make the tackle, Marks then danced away from linebacker Dylan Hanser and was eventually brought down after a nice gain.
Peyton Bender got off to a nice start at quarterback, completing four of his first five passes, but was sacked when Kingston Fernandez ran untouched into the backfield, a play that prompted the coaches to stop practice while the offensive line did up-downs.
“They were stupid mistakes,” said McGuire. “They didn't know who to block, just basic 'block the guy in front of you' type deal. They were just missing guys. They were pretty good all the way down the field and then coming back, for whatever reason they didn't know what they were doing.”
Bender completed his next three passes after the break and generally had a very solid outing.
Connor Ennis also fumbled his first snap (it rained today before practice, for what it's worth) and did not get a lot of help from his receivers, who dropped the first two passes. He did get a little assistance from Marks, who made a tough catch despite a mid-air hit from Porter. Squally Canada got the offense in the end zone with a nice run to the left side from about eight-yards out.