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Cougars learn to fight, shake hands like brothers

PULLMAN – Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff has been repeating a variation of the same mantra for some time.

“Whenever you can make some plays and build some momentum, it just picks up everybody’s intensity,” Wulff said Wednesday, using the day’s practice as Exhibit A.

A routine workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts turned intense quickly. It built in a midpractice passing scrimmage. Daniel Blackledge held off a defender and gathered in a 42-yard pass from Jeff Tuel, then cornerback Terrance Hayward picked off a Connor Halliday pass and turned it into a score.

Each play was followed by a spontaneous celebration.

And that was just the preamble. The intensity hit its peak in the practice-ending scrimmage session.

Freshman Ricky Galvin broke off a 35-yard run that led to a Tuel-to-Gino Simone 8-yard scoring strike. Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael dove for the sticks and a first down, leading to a Marcus Richmond 11-yard touchdown run. More celebrations.

Through it all, as they do each day, the big guys up front traded blows, tried to knock the snot out of each other in drill after drill, then, when the 2 1/2 hour session was done, shook hands and parted as brothers.

“None of the stuff that happens on the field carries over,” said offensive lineman Wade Jacobson, the instigator of a handful of scuffles since transferring from junior college last spring.

That was the consensus of opinion from four of the guys in the trenches – two on offense and two on defense – but even so, tempers do get tested.

“When they are dirty,” you get ticked, senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman said of his offensive teammates. “They hold a lot. You’re going to get mad at them, but at the end of the day we are a team.”

“You have to have it in your mind, when you step on the field, they are on the other side of the line,” junior guard B.J. Guerra said. “You’ve got to go. You’ve got to kick their ass.”

Which is the way practice is designed.

“You’re trying to improve your trade and you have an obligation to play your very best,” no matter who is across from you, Wulff said. “You can’t get too locked in and have personal battles, because it’s not a personal battle. You’re working for your team.”

“If they are your brother,” Guerra said, “you want to make your brother better.”

“The way football players are, we’re all cocky,” echoed sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi. “We like to put it into each other’s faces when we beat each other. When I beat him, he comes back at me and makes me better. It works both ways.”

No quarter is asked and none given.

“It’s football,” Jacobson said. “If you feel sorry for them, you’re in the wrong sport.”

Then practice ends. The same guys who, just a half-hour before, were pushing, shoving and screaming at each other, sit down and share a training table meal.

“On the field, they’re the opponent,” Jacobson said. “It’s our job. If we don’t do it, we’re probably sitting the bench.

“Off the field we’re one big family.”