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Crimson and Gray Game makes long-awaited return to Martin Stadium

UPDATED: Fri., April 19, 2019, 9:11 p.m.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks to his team after the Crimson and Gray Game on  April 22, 2017, at Albi Stadium. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks to his team after the Crimson and Gray Game on April 22, 2017, at Albi Stadium. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Washington State brought its spring scrimmage home this year, hoping to pipe in the same atmosphere the Cougars get six or seven times at Martin Stadium every fall.

As opposed to the previous eight Crimson and Gray games, all of which were held at Spokane’s Joe Albi Stadium, Saturday’s 1 p.m. scrimmage at Martin Stadium (Pac-12 Networks) should draw a much heftier turnout of students, while out-of-town alums itching for an excuse to get back to Pullman – and not wanting to wait another five months to do so – now have a rare spring escape.

“Cougville,” located on Rogers Field, will be open up to two hours before the game, and many of the amenities fans are accustomed to on Saturdays in the fall will be available during the spring scrimmage, including concession sales. Performances from the marching band and cheer squad will be mixed into the football showcase.

This year’s game will be held as part of Gameday for Mental Health, an effort to raise awareness for mental health and disease, and to raise funds for ASWSU Coug Health Fund. General admission to Saturday’s scrimmage will cost $5 – $15 for club seats – with all proceeds going toward the ASWSU Coug Health Fund. Premera Blue Cross has guaranteed to match up to $25,000 in ticket sales.

Aside from the WSU alumni base in Spokane, just about everyone involved in the Crimson and Gray Game seems delighted with the decision to bring it home.

“It excites me a lot because it gives you more of that college football Saturday game day type feeling,” nickel back Skyler Thomas said. “A lot of our fans can be there, so it’s just more convenient for us as a team, too.”

“That’s awesome,” wide receiver Brandon Arconado said. “It’s always fun being in Martin Stadium. It’s the first time in I don’t know how long, but it’s always cool playing back in Martin. It’ll be fun.”

As far as football is concerned, there’s only so much a spring game can simulate, with starters playing alongside backups – on offense and defense – and players in neutral-colored uniforms switching between teams when they’re instructed.

And just like in 2018, there’s a chance fans might not get to see the quarterback who’ll be starting for the Cougars when they open the fall season Aug. 31 against New Mexico State.

Last year, Gardner Minshew’s late arrival meant WSU’s QB battle didn’t begin in earnest until the start of fall camp. Minshew didn’t play in the spring game, meaning many of the reps were divided between his two challengers, Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon.

The Cougars have a grad transfer QB on the roster again, but there’s a chance he won’t play in the scrimmage either. Ex-Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud arrived in time for camp, but an ankle injury has prevented him from participating in full.

Gubrud’s rehabilitation has gone smoother than many expected, and the senior took part in 11-on-11 drills in a practice without pads Thursday, but it’s unclear if he’ll have any role in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Asked that question Tuesday, coach Mike Leach responded, “Don’t know yet.”

All six scholarship QBs on WSU’s roster – Tinsley, Gordon, Gubrud, Cammon Cooper, Gunner Cruz and John Bledsoe – were listed on both the “Crimson” and “Gray” teams when rosters were released Friday afternoon, meaning each could take snaps for both teams. All of the three primary tailbacks – Max Borghi, Clay Markoff and Cole Dubots – are also on both rosters.

WSU divided up its No. 1 offensive line, placing right guard Robert Valencia and left tackle Liam Ryan on the Crimson team, with center Fred Mauigoa, left guard Josh Watson and right tackle Abraham Lucas on the Gray.

The wide receivers were also split up accordingly: Tay Martin, Dezmon Patmon, Arconado and Renard Bell will suit up for the Crimson, while Travell Harris, Easop Winston Jr. and Calvin Jackson Jr. will wear gray.

While this year’s setting is different, the objective of the scrimmage remains unchanged – and simple.

“See them compete, try to get everybody as good as possible so they take the skills into the offseason,” Leach said. “And continue to develop so that we’re at an even higher level when we start camp.”

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