PULLMAN – After all the sweating, all the hitting, all the awards were over, Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff stood before his team and said two related things.
It was a good spring and everyone got better.
It was a statement he stood behind when talking to the media following Saturday’s last spring scrimmage, a 51-play workout before a couple of hundred spectators – including many former WSU stars – at Martin Stadium.
“I mean that,” Wulff said. “Every person got better. Because every person had a good attitude. They came to work. Their mindset was to get better and they all did.”
Later, Wulff tempered the enthusiasm just a bit.
“I think (we accomplished what we wanted) based on the number of players we had practicing,” he said. “We would have liked to accomplish more in the sense we would have like to have a lot more players practicing.”
Those limitations showed, with just 22 healthy bodies on defense, including two tackles, three safeties and three cornerbacks.
“They were the survivors,” Wulff said.
Those survivors came out as if they had something to prove, keeping the offense out of the end zone on all but one possession.
“It was crazy, but I know everybody that wasn’t on the field wanted to be out there,” said cornerback Tyrone Justin, who had the day’s only interception, returning a Dan Wagner underthrown pass 23 yards. “You get real tired real fast, but that’s the discipline you need, you get through it.”
They were disciplined enough to limit the offense to 69 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Twenty-one of those yards came on Logwone Mitz’s broken-field run around right end, part of his 34 yards on six carries. And they were disciplined enough to squeeze the passing game, forcing short passes most of the day, with only a Wagner scramble setting up Andrei Lintz’s 38-yard touchdown catch.
“My job was to run a seam along the hash,” said Lintz, a redshirt freshman who missed the fall rehabilitating an ankle broken in a summer all-star game. “I ran it and saw the linebacker blitz, so I looked in immediately. I saw Dan roll out … he saw me in the end zone, made a great throw and I just made the catch.”
Starting quarterback Kevin Lopina completed 11 of 17 passes for 80 yards while Wagner was 6 of 12 for 81.
Wagner’s touchdown toss came one play after he led wide receiver Easton Johnson into a helmet-ringing hit from safety Xavier Hicks. It not only separated the ball from the receiver but also limited Johnson’s play the rest of the day. Yet the hit seemed to fire up the offense.
After the touchdown toss, Dwight Tardy broke off a 15-yard run around left end, notably in that the senior hurdled cornerback Brandon Jones just past the line of scrimmage.
Tardy, who had 21 yards on three carries, was limited last season recovering from a knee injury. Such recoveries are something Wulff knows has to occur often for WSU’s wounded over the next three months.
When asked his offseason goals, he answered, “Get healthy is one big one.
“I think we maximized our 15 (spring) practices. There was no letdown this last week, which a lot of times in spring practice can happen.
“Their attitude, and I keep going back to that, is good, it’s healthy, and they are doing the right things to allow them all individually to get better.”
With the lure of an afternoon golf round at Palouse Ridge, such former stars as Ryan Leaf, Jason Gesser and Jack Thompson took in the scrimmage. … Strength coach Darin Lovat handed out red shirts to 11 players in the postscrimmage huddle. They were for weight-room work, “basically all offseason,” Wulff said. “He handed out awards by position, basically who he felt had the best and most consistent offseason.” The 11 players honored: safety Chima Nwachukwu, punter Reid Forrest, offensive guard B. J. Guerra, quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, cornerback Brandon Jones, defensive end Casey Hamlett, defensive tackle Jesse Feagin, linebacker Andy Mattingly, tight end Skylar Stormo, running back Marcus Richmond and receiver Daniel Blackledge. … Receiver Johnny Forzani underwent surgery Friday, putting a screw in his foot to repair a small break. He should be back at the start of fall camp. … Three more defensive players were hurt Thursday and didn’t play in the scrimmage. Tackle Josh Luapo and linebacker Omaro Guidry suffered high ankle sprains while cornerback Shane Thomas hurt his leg.