LEWISTON – Connor Halliday didn’t dare allow himself to get excited about the short practice Washington State had scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
The junior quarterback knows too well that under coach Mike Leach, there are no guarantees when it comes to “short.”
“Any time you have a short practice scheduled,” Halliday said, “if one little thing goes wrong, all hell will break loose. I said to the team before practice, ‘Since I’ve been here, every short practice we’ve had scheduled has been at least three hours, so get your mental reps in, be positive and don’t mess this up.’”
They didn’t. The Cougars were off the field almost exactly one hour after practice began, by far their shortest of nine practices during this year’s camp.
That means they should be ready to go at 3 p.m. Sunday for their first real scrimmage of the season. Leach said he was impressed that WSU didn’t hit the wall, so to speak, until now, saying that teams usually start to wear down a bit after three or four practices. And that’s why he wanted to give them some rest after eight consecutive days of fairly rigorous work in mid-90s temperatures.
“You want them to push through as much as possible, but if you go too far, you’re working on something but you’re not working on football,” Leach said. “Then the timing’s all fouled up, and of course people have been doing that for years. Grind through, have these ridiculously long practices. Yeah, you’re persevering and there’s a toughness to it, but football’s also a game of execution and if you deteriorate the timing to that degree, you kind of limit how much work you’re really getting done even though it’s long and you’re out there.”
Leach said he isn’t quite sure exactly how many plays the Cougars will run in Sunday’s scrimmage, though he estimated they might go for about 70 snaps.
The first-team offense and defense will be matched against each other, as will the second-teamers, and, Leach said, “the 3s are going to get 30 of the 70 (plays), probably.”
As he usually does, Leach said he isn’t looking for the team to show any kind of specific improvement other than continuing to consistently execute in each facet of the game.
“Everything shows flashes. We’ve got good effort and tempo,” Leach said. “We just have to refine and be a little sharper. … I’d like to see both sides of the ball be real violent with their hands any time they do something.”
Halliday was a little more specific, saying he’d like to see continued improvement in the running game. It’s not a secret that WSU finished last in the country in that department last season, but Halliday thinks the Cougars are trending upward.
“We’ve had really good days running the ball,” Halliday said, “but if we can do it consistently, we’re going to be really hard to stop.”
More important, he said, is to simply continue stacking consecutive quality practices.
“The biggest deal that we’ve made strides in is – we’ve had good practices in the spring, last fall camp, in the season, but if we had a really good practice, we’d follow it up with a crappy one,” Halliday said. “But this camp, we’ve had about five really good ones in a row. They haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been real good, effort-wise, and that wasn’t something we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
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