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Cougars simplify Crimson and Gray game

Mike Leach simplified things for this year’s spring game. (Associated Press)
Mike Leach simplified things for this year’s spring game. (Associated Press)

As far as Austin Apodaca knows, there’s nothing yet riding on today’s Crimson and Gray game at Albi Stadium in Spokane.

Washington State split its roster evenly between a crimson team and a white team, breaking up players from the No. 1 and No. 2 offensive and defensive units in an effort to assemble two balanced, competitive units.

Apodaca will quarterback the white squad (white, gray, whatever – they’re wearing white uniforms). And defensive tackle Xavier Cooper, a member of the crimson team, suggested a friendly wager.

“Xavier Cooper was trying to get some new shoes for the winning team,” Apodaca said with a laugh. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Maybe the competition will be incentive enough. This is a different format than coach Mike Leach’s first spring game last season, when he used a scoring system that pitted the offense against the defense instead of splitting into two even teams with both offensive and defensive players.

So the scoring figures to be a little more traditional this time around when the game begins at 2 p.m.

Leach joked that last year’s scoring methods wound up getting a little out of hand.

“Last year, somehow it was put out – which I don’t know the details – some scoring system that would require an accounting firm to figure out what exactly the score was,” Leach said. “I ignored that, and then we put 28 points on the board because we went offense-defense last year. Defense had 28 points, can you protect the lead?

“And then with the confusion of the other scoring there were all kinds of numbers on that board, but internally it was 28 points, can you protect the lead or can you not. So, different this year. And no accounting firms involved this year, either.”

The Pac-12 Networks will be there, though. According to the Pac-12, it is the only conference to televise each school’s spring game. Jim Watson will report for the network on-site, with Mike Yam, Rick Neuheisel and Curtis Conway providing commentary from the Pac-12 studios.

The Cougars will be without a handful of injured players, though they were still able to put together two teams with enough players to play a legitimate “game.”

The defensive line is the most depleted, with nose tackles Ioane Gauta and Toni Pole out with knee injuries, and tackles Destiny Vaeao and Robert Barber still out with unspecified ailments.

Senior safety Deone Bucannon has also missed the bulk of the spring, and cornerback Alex Jackson and outside linebacker Feddie Davey will also be unavailable. So, too, will buck linebacker Logan Mayes, offensive linemen Jake Rodgers and Denzell Dotson and linebacker Chester Su’a.

Quarterback Connor Halliday will play for the crimson squad. Both Halliday and Apodaca succeeded during a no-contact team session with their respective squads during Thursday’s practice.

Leach has said Halliday would be the team’s starter if they had to play a game soon, but that he’ll continue to give both players repetitions when preseason camp begins.

“The most important thing is, I think they’ve both gotten a lot better,” Leach said. “I think they’ve both gotten better and better and more polished as time’s gone on, and the other thing is that we have a lot of young receivers. Some of them they haven’t dealt with before.”

Albi will open to fans at 11:30 a.m. for a player autograph session. Admission and parking are free.

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