PULLMAN – The first play from scrimmage was a defensive offsides. A broken coverage and improper technique led to four passing touchdowns in just 40 plays. Three quarterbacks combined to complete over 60 percent of their passes.
But those defensive blemishes can be polished, and as Washington State football coach Mike Leach said, “it’s that time of year.”
More important on WSU’s first day in full pads with live tackling was the tenacity, the temerity and the energy shown by the Cougars and on that score the defense was just fine.
“There’s no satisfaction in this business, you just try to get better,” Leach said after practice. “But I thought we did a lot of good things. We’re playing more intense and at a higher level than we have since I’ve been here.”
With the coaches in headsets and officials in uniform Thursday’s practice, WSU’s seventh this spring, had a different air than the previous six. Not many players rose to the occasion quite like backup safety Beau Glover.
“I saw Beau playing tough and Beau’s a tough guy from Gig Harbor,” defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. “He got put in there and did a good job.”
The sophomore didn’t wait for the team session, breaking up a trio of passes during the 7-on-7 passing drill and putting a lick on running back Teondray Caldwell when the team worked on run plays and screen passes.
Linebacker Chester Su’a let freshman Jamal Morrow know that no quarter would be given, delivering a jarring blow to the young running back on a short pass, staying back and running his mouth to make sure the dazed receiver remembered the hit.
“We just need more of it,” Leach said. “The biggest thing is you do the same thing over and over again. That’s the biggest battle. All the good stuff is great, we just have to have the ability to do it every time and so a lot of good things and then the little things.”
That energy led to big hits but also big mistakes. Kristoff Williams recently moved from the inside Y receiver position outside, to the Z receiver and looked comfortable in his new digs, catching three passes for touchdowns, including a pass near the sideline from Luke Falk in which a defender simply ran past the receiver.
On the other scores Williams used his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame to simply outmuscle willing but undersized defenders. Vince Mayle, who had the day’s other receiving touchdown, is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and was also able to outmuscle WSU’s smaller defensive backs.
“None of those young guys can guard (them), just physically,” quarterback Connor Halliday said. “It is what it is and hopefully those younger guys in the secondary see that and see they need to gain a little weight before next year.”
In the team session Glover nearly had an interception when Halliday tried to find slot receiver Rickey Galvin over the middle. The safety crashed into the receiver, blowing up the play and nearly coming down with the ball.
Glover is listed behind Taylor Taliulu at free safety on the depth chart. Though he has a long road to supplant WSU’s only upperclassman in the secondary, he certainly didn’t hurt his cause on Thursday.
“It helps my confidence a little bit but I’ve still got a lot to work on,” Glover said. “Coach Breske’s going to make sure I know that tomorrow.”
Thursday was also the first time the kickers attempted field goals in a game setting. Freshman Erik Powell made all three of his attempts with a long of 43 yards, while punter Wes Concepcion missed from 46 yards out. Receiver River Cracraft was the holder for both kickers.