PULLMAN – It could have been the drastic weather change. Or maybe it was the fact it was spring’s last full practice.
Whatever the reason, the Washington State football team displayed a different tenor Thursday. And a different tempo.
The drop in temperature – it was in the 80s Tuesday and the 40s two days later – wasn’t accompanied by a corresponding drop in passion, however.
From the start a chill wind blew across Rogers Field, carrying with it louder and more pointed instruction from the coaching staff. By the time practice began to wind down with the usual team scrimmage, the intensity was just waiting to be jump-started.
The offense supplied the spark.
“We played at a faster tempo, and that got everyone excited,” offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said.
Though the offense has been running the no-huddle throughout the spring, it was usually at a slower pace, allowing both sides to get on the same page before the ball was snapped.
Such was not the case Thursday.
The first play, with Dwight Tardy sprinting left and cutting behind Andrew Roxas’ kick-out block, gained double digits. A quick sprint to the ball, a quick snap and, as the defense tried to regroup, the offense attacked again, hitting the right side for another long gain.
Before head coach Paul Wulff called the groups together for their post-practice handshake, the offense had moved the ball consistently.
The capper came from the No. 2 group, under the direction of reserve quarterback Daniel Wagner. The backups moved quickly down the field, scoring when Wagner found tight end Zach Tatman open in the middle, kicking off the usual end-zone celebration.
The defense won’t get a chance to return the favor until Saturday, when the Cougars close spring drills with a short scrimmage in Martin Stadium, starting at 10 a.m.
With the limited number of players available – the defense may have lost two more, with tackle Josh Luapo limping off at the end with an undetermined right ankle injury and backup linebacker Omari Guidry helped off in a cart – the scrimmage will be about the same length as last week’s 44-play outing.
“Again we’ll be limited in the number of plays we run,” Wulff said. “What I’m looking for, again, is clean football play, like we had.
“And more and more players making just good football plays. Just making plays. We’re going to need players to make X-amount of plays during the season to win ballgames.”
As for the weather, which is expected to be in the 40s again, Wulff didn’t seem too worried.
“I’m not practicing,” he said, eliciting a laugh.
The best play of the day came from wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon, who slipped on a pattern and hit the turf. Marshall Lobbestael had already thrown the ball, however, and it looked like Tyrone Justin would have a sure pick. But the ball was just out of Justin’s reach and seemed headed for the sideline. Solomon, however, jumped up, reached back with both hands and hauled it in. … The practice started in bright sunshine, was hit with an occasional strong wind gust and ended in a light snow shower. “That’s spring weather around here,” Wulff said. … Middle linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis had his left knee scoped Wednesday and expects to be back at workouts soon. Wulff said he thinks just about all the injured players will be cleared to go when fall workouts begin in early August, though most will miss at least part of the summer workouts.