PULLMAN – The students have been moving into the dorms at Washington State University this week, and the school is starting to awake from its summer slumber.
In that spirit, football coach Paul Wulff also decided to make a move. For the second consecutive day, Wulff’s Cougars held practice on the Martin Stadium turf.
“We need to spend more time in Martin Stadium, getting used to the confines, and getting comfortable with our own game field,” Wulff said following the Cougars’ 1-hour, 40-minute workout Wednesday morning.
The setting wasn’t the only difference. The tone was quieter as well. Only that wasn’t by design.
“Early in practice we got them woke up and they did some good things,” Wulff said. “But we kind of fizzled. Our intensity level dropped. And so a lot of things, we weren’t real crisp in what we were doing on both sides of the ball.
“We had a good tough day (Tuesday), but we need to respond off of that. We didn’t. … They realized it, but we have to grow. If we learn from this, it’s a good learning lesson. If we don’t learn from it, obviously it wasn’t.”
To see how much the players have learned the first 10 days of workouts, the final third of practice was dedicated to a situational scrimmage. The first two possessions began on the offense’s 1-yard line, the final three from the defense’s 25.
“We’re just trying to continue getting them as comfortable as we can in game-like situations,” Wulff said about the lengthy scrimmage. “We’re trying to simulate as much as we can. We need it.”
The No. 1 offense, with Marshall Lobbestael at the controls, had one impressive march. It went the length of the field in nine plays against the second defense, scoring on Dwight Tardy’s 9-yard run.
Highlighting the drive was a 35-yard hookup between Lobbestael and Jared Karstetter, which initially was called incomplete by co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears but ruled a catch by Wulff after Karstetter made a persuasive argument.
Both sides of the ball were hamstrung a little with top players sitting out. Four main receivers – Jeshua Anderson, Daniel Blackledge, Jeffrey Solomon and Johnny Forzani – and two starting linebackers – Andy Mattingly and Alex Hoffman-Ellis – were sidelined with minor injuries. They were among 10 players who didn’t participate, the highest total of the fall.
“That’s a tough part,” Wulff said. “We’re not in a position to have a lot of injuries. … You want to get your unit that’s going to play a majority of the time working together as often as you possibly can.”
And playing on the field you call home.
“It gives us coaches an opportunity to go up in the booth,” said Wulff, who also mentioned the chance to work over 100 yards, something not offered on the usual practice setup next door at Rogers Field. “Come game day, we’ll feel a lot more comfortable.”