Big plays abound at WSU practice
"Intense and sloppy … kind of an exchange of big plays," were the words coach Mike Leach used to describe today's underclassmen scrimmage, which they're still calling Thursday Night Football.
He was absolutely right.
We'll describe those big plays and more, after the jump.
Before the eventful scrimmage, the Cougars held a normal practice, of course. Well, maybe a bit more emphasis on special teams than usual.
Erik Powell started things off by making a 40-yard field goal, but then seemed to miss from about 34 yards, finishing things off by nailing one from 47-yards out.
Quentin Breshears also hit two of three, making a 20-yarder and a 40-yarder, and missing from about 41 yards. The ball didn't appear to come off Breshears' foot very well today, however, even on the makes.
The Cougars moved into some punt team work, with Jordan Descalo and Wes Concepcion each kicking one out of their end zone, then kicking one from midfield toward the end zone, and so on.
Descalo's first punt out of his end zone went about 40 yards, with Marcus Mason as the first gunner to reach the return man. Concepcion's went a solid 50 and Daquawn Brown made the "tackle."
Kicking toward the end zone Descalo's first punt went for a touchback, but Concepcion had a pair of punts downed at the 16 and 17-yard lines, respectively. However, he also had the day's worst punt, one that went out of bounds after about about 35 yards.
They did some onside kicks as well, then went into regular kickoffs.
Breshears' kicks were short, including one that was fielded by B.J. Salmonson, who knocked over Dylan Hanser to get the ball. His next kick only made it to the 20-yard line, where the return man fielded it.
Kristoff Williams again looked the best out of the return men.
I spent most of the scout period watching the No. 1 defense – we get a better view of that side of the field from our vantage point – and saw some interesting things. Brett Bartolone appears to be returning to health and he had a nice play to break up an interception by Brown, who had maneuvered inside the receiver. Connor Ennis hit Bartolone for a touchdown a few plays later.
Gabe Marks was again on scout team and actually played a little running back before moving out to wide receiver.
Because it was "Thursday" the team pumped in crowd noise to simulate the fans at Centurylink. We also saw Cody O'Connell take a few reps with the offensive line for the first time in ages, but then he quickly left to workout with the other limited players.
Squally Canada never seemed to get on the same page as his quarterbacks, fumbling the handoff exchange twice during scout period and once during the underclassmen scrimmage. The first fumble appeared to be Squally's fault, while in the second Bender probably let go of the ball too early.
Thursday Night Football itself was pretty fun since most of the players haven't been playing college football long enough to limit mistakes that lead to big plays.
Perhaps the most telling moments were big hits by Teondray Caldwell, who recently converted to safety from running back, and Jeff Farrar, who has only had two practices in pads.
Caldwell laid out receiver John Thompson, who heard footsteps and dropped the ball just before the safety sent him backwards, to the delight of his new defensive battery mates. Farrar's big hit came against Marks, who held onto the ball.
"They haven't been here for too long so to see them bounce around and play decisively early, that's pretty good," Leach said.
The defense appeared to have the better day, with a number of tackles for loss and sacks by Frankie Luvu, a player we couldn't recognize and two by Hercules Mata'afa, although he was probably offside on one of them.
Still, the offense had its big plays as well. Marks scored on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Bender in which he simply beat Farrar down the sideline. It wasn't like the freshman's coverage was broken, he just couldn't keep up.
Bender also had a 35-yard touchdown pass to Drew Loftus, who lost his defender and had an easy catch in the end zone.