PULLMAN – Up until about 48 hours ago, the Washington State University Cougars were not going to scrimmage this weekend. Two practices were scheduled for Saturday – the last of the two-a-days – but, with school starting Monday, this weekend was for fine-tuning.
Then coach Paul Wulff watched practice last week and made a change.
“We just felt it was time to scrimmage and tackle,” he said Saturday morning after the Cougars had finished a 48-play, 45-minute scrimmage at Martin Stadium.
The need to work on tackling was evident whenever Marquess Wilson touched the ball.
The freshman wide receiver, working with the second offense, was the star of the show, catching five Marshall Lobbestael passes for 110 yards.
It was his second reception that showed the elusiveness of the 6-foot-3, 173-pounder – and highlighted the need to shore up the tackling.
On a third-and-4 from the No. 1 defense’s 44-yard line, Wilson caught a 10-yard pass from Lobbestael in a pocket surrounded by three defenders. The closest, middle linebacker Mike Ledgerwood, closed quickly but lowered his head while delivering a blow. It never landed.
Wilson, who jabbed inside, jumped outside and Ledgerwood whiffed. A couple of others touched the receiver, but that was it. Free, the sideline beckoned and Wilson raced down it for a score.
“I just did a little rip move, went in and went out,” Wilson said, “knowing that I had to get back outside, up the field like Coach Levy (receivers coach Mike Levenseller) teaches us.”
“Any time you can throw it short and have them run long, that’s what you want,” said Lobbestael, who was 7 of 9 for 119 yards and the one score.
For the first time this season, the Cougars were divided into ones and twos on both sides of the ball, with the second group taking the visiting sideline.
The game atmosphere was evident from the beginning, when a fired-up second defense stuffed the first offense two consecutive possessions.
“Starting fast is one of the things we really want to do, especially coming Sept. 4,” said backup linebacker Arthur Burns, referring to the opener at Oklahoma State. “Come out with some intensity and good things will definitely happen, because we have talent.”
But Jeff Tuel and his group got going soon, scoring twice, including a 10-play, 70-yard drive, climaxed by Tuel finding Daniel Blackledge alone in the end zone from 4 yards out.
Tuel later teamed with Jeffrey Solomon on a 28-yard post pattern for another score and finished 8 of 14 for 104 yards.
“It kills you a little bit on the inside,” Burns said of watching the offense shine. “But you have to be happy for them, because they’re doing what they have to do, make things happen out there. Marquess obviously did it today.”