PULLMAN – It was perfect preparation for Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain – and the football fans pride themselves on their vocal ability.
Washington State University’s last scrimmage prior to its Sept. 4 opener at Oklahoma State was played Thursday under the lights at Martin Stadium accompanied by steady 20 mph breeze and piped-in crowd noise.
All of which combined to make the mini-game, which lasted about 20 minutes of clock time, feel nearly game-like.
If you were scoring at home, the Crimson, nominally made up of the starters, “won” 10-6.
“There was great energy tonight,” said linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who had a tackle and forced a fumble in limited minutes. “You could feel the intensity from everybody, they were just ready to go.
“I think playing under the lights, coming out to Martin Stadium, that had something to do with it.”
Hoffman-Ellis wasn’t the only defender who saw limited time.
“We held some people out, but that was OK,” coach Paul Wulff explained. “It just gave an opportunity for the younger guys and the backups to play, which is going to make them better.”
Three of the starting front four watched from the sideline with the fourth, Bernard Wolfgramm, attending a lab session. With that group out, backup defenders like Sekope Kaufusi, Anthony Laurenzi and Toni Pole, who left with a bruised shin, the only minor injury, got a shot to show their wares.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the big boys,” Hoffman-Ellis said. “They kind of rested the horses as far as the D-line and the twos really showed we have depth. They are ready to come in and compete.”
No matter who was playing up front, the group stuffed the running game. Other than an 11-yard burst on a draw by Rickey Galvin, none of the other 11 runs was for more than 5 yards. The offenses combined to gain 25 yards on the ground, a 2.3 yards-per-carry average.
Not that there was much emphasis on the running game.
“We wanted to make sure our one defense say a lot of (passing), just because we know we’ll see that (from OSU),” Wulff said. “Our two offense, when facing the one defense, we made sure we threw the ball quite a bit just to give them some things that will hopefully help us next week.”
The second offense managed two long field goals – 55 yards by Nico Grasu and 50 from Andrew Furney, both with the wind to their backs – in its four possessions. Marshall Lobbestael was 10 of 15 passing for 95 yards.
The first offense did get into the end zone on a 8-yard connection between Jeff Tuel, who was 8 of 15 for 87 yards, and Isiah Barton, made possible by a great clearing pattern by Jared Karstetter.
But that culminated a 21-yard drive following Carl Winston’s fumble, which was recovered by Damante Horton. The best drive was one possession earlier and covered 61 yards before stalling at the defense’s 14, leading to a 32-yard Grasu field goal.
But Tuel also threw an interception, a high pass over the middle picked by freshman safety Deone Bucannon. He returned it 35 yards, setting up the scrimmage’s final field goal.
“The wind plays a factor, always,” Tuel said, “but it’s part of the game and something you’ve got to learn to play with. A couple balls sailed on me but I’ve got to make the right adjustments and execute.”
Overall, Wulff felt the right things were accomplished.
“We wanted to be able to come out and play with a fast tempo and come out of it healthy and we were able to do those things,” Wulff said.