PULLMAN – There may not be a game this weekend for the Washington State football team’s starters to prepare for, but for the younger players who line the sidelines on Saturdays this was as important a week as any.
The Cougars may have a bye, but the redshirting freshmen and other underclassmen still took part in Thursday Night Football, a full-contact scrimmage that allows the players to showcase their week-to-week improvement in front of coaches who often don’t have time to pay them much attention during a week of game preparation.
“I thought they looked pretty good, moved the ball good. Had some guys fly around, we did get some big plays on offense but I thought both quarterbacks played well,” coach Mike Leach said. “I thought Jamal Morrow played well. Dan Lilienthal, Darius Lemora played well, Dan Ekuale played well.”
First-year quarterbacks Tyler Bruggman and Luke Falk took turns running the offense in the scrimmage, as they do every week. While Bruggman was the more heralded of the two coming out of high school, Falk has been playing better of late. On this Thursday each had strengths.
“Bruggman did a great job moving the ball, moving the sticks when everybody was real intense,” Leach said. “And then Falk got some big plays so that was good.”
Thursday was the Cougars’ first time in pads since their Halloween loss to Arizona State. The break was made possible because the Cougars have a bye this weekend before facing Arizona on November 16. The team also had a bye leading into the ASU game, but the coaches say they don’t plan to approach the time off any differently than they did before the 55-21 loss.
“Not any differently. We’re practicing and we’ll have another one on Saturday. Just continue,” defensive coordinator Mike Breske said.
Still, WSU’s practice was a little different on Thursday. Typically the first team offense will run plays against the scout team defense and vice versa. The scout teams will mimic the plays and formations of the upcoming opponent, giving the starters a chance to get used to different styles.
But with no upcoming opponent this week, Leach had the first-team offense taking snaps against the first-team defense.
“What coach Leach wanted was fast on fast. For this Thursday practice since we’ve been away from each other for awhile,” Breske explained.
But even with the ability to get quarterback Connor Halliday reps against a faster, more athletic defense, not everyone was happy.
Running backs coach Jim Mastro can’t stand the fact that he won’t be coaching in a game this weekend, saying, “I hate byes, my whole career I have. Sometimes they’re good for you but I hate them.”