Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Defense rebounds from a slow start

The Washington State defense faces an explosive offense this week in California, and one that presents a different challenge given that the Cougars have faced exclusively running quarterbacks since the season opener.

The Cougars spent Tuesday implementing this week's defensive game plan and there were some struggles.

“We're short on time to get ready for this game and the next one so we've got to get these guys going fast,” said linebackers coach Ken Wilson.

More on practice after the jump.

Monday press conference: Mike Leach

Today's was not your typical Monday press conference at Washington State. Coach Mike Leach talked about the win at Utah and the challenge presented by Saturday's game against California, but he also gave quotes like this:

“I'm not really good with technology. All this button pushing and whatnot. I mean, you can just imagine based on what's happened in the last 15 years. Conversations won't happen 10 years from now. There aren't going to be people to talk to, it's going to be this (mimics pushing buttons). 'Do you want to go out on a date with me?' 'I don't know, what do you look like?' 'Well I look kind of like this.' 'OK, what are your interests?' 'Well, what do you think my interests are? Looking into this thing and typing into this just like yours are.' 'Yeah, no kidding, that's what everybody's doing.' 'Well, where do you want to go?' 'Well, what  difference does it make? Because all we're going to be doing is looking into machines anyways.' Well, that's true and in the end it's going to be tough to perpetuate the species. There's no question about that. So we're all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That's how it ends.”

More highlights from Leach's press conference are available after the jump.

Sunday practice and the sack that wasn’t

(Photo Credit: Rick Bowmer/WSU Athletics)

The Cougars “only” managed one sack on Saturday after piling up seven against Oregon's Marcus Mariota, but as the above photo indicates they should have been credited with at least one more.

The play pictured was ruled an incomplete pass when Utah quarterback Travis Wilson chucked the ball away, but the photo clearly shows that his knee was on the ground.

The sack should have gone to Ivan McLennan, a WSU defender who has really started to make an impact lately. McLennan was officially credited with two tackles against Utah and against the Ducks he had five tackles, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble.

He's also played well in practice, and the Cougars have expanded his role, giving him looks at Buck linebacker and defensive end.

“He's a kid that needs to play and find a way to get on the field and I think part of that is earning his play,” defensive line coach Joe Salave'a said. “He's earned the reps and he's going to continue to play and that's something that we've always strived to get that air of competition and let the kids know that they'll be rewarded if those things show up in the practice field.”

We have more from WSU's Sunday night practice after the jump.

Hameed to start and defense wins another TNF

Washington State practiced for the final time before traveling to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske confirmed that Sulaiman Hameed will start at safety. He'll likely be alongside redshirt freshman Darius Lemora. For more on WSU's young defensive backs get a copy of tomorrow's paper.

He also confirmed that linebacker Frankie Luvu will be on travel squad to Utah, and will probably play at Buck linebacker, making him the fifth true freshman to play for the Cougars this season. The others are Hameed, receiver Calvin Green, cornerback Pat Porter and punter Jordan Dascalo.

The Cougars also had their Thursday Night Football practice. We have our report on the underclassmen scrimmage after the jump.

On practice, special teams (and facilities)

Wednesday's Washington State football practice was like many that have come before and many more that will surely follow. There were no position switches to mention and no previously anonymous players announced their presence through hyperbolically good play.

OK, there was one new guy. Kicker Ryan Bordner took a couple field goal attempts, hitting from up close and then missing to the left when they moved further back. Those reps don't indicate he'll be kicking in a game soon, however.

“We're saving some legs,” special teams coordinator Eric Russell said. “Normally today Erik (Powell) would kick but (Utah's) kicker's a right-footed guy so to help our field goal block unit fly at angles and different things I just wanted to chill Erik a little bit and give him the day off.”

Follow the jump for more from today's practice.

Cougars try some new looks on defense

Ivan McLennan had a good game against Oregon on Saturday, collecting 1.5 sacks and forcing a fumble to go along with five total tackles. However, starting Buck linebacker Kache Palacio played well too, sacking UO quarterback Marcus Mariota twice.

Perhaps due in part to the fact that starter Destiny Vaeao is still limited, the Cougars had McLennan try his hand at playing with his hand on the ground on Tuesday, moving him to defensive end and giving him ample time with the second unit.

“We're in a position now to manipulate some of our personnel and play to their strengths,” defensive line coach Joe Salave'a said. “Ivan's a kid that's long and quick-twitch,  and I think he presents a lot of problems for people. It's just making sure that we're doing our due diligence and evaluating and seeing how we can present ourselves with the best opportunity to get after it.”

That switch necessitated another move, and there was a little more mixing and matching on defense. We'll cover all that and more in our Tuesday practice report, after the jump.

A little night practice

There were 32,948 fewer fans in the seats when the Cougars returned to Martin Stadium. One night after taking No. 2 Oregon to the wire in front a packed house Washington State returned for an hour-long practice in front of two pairs of parents, as well as some reporters and staff members.

Destiny Vaeao was back at practice, although still limited, and there were a couple interesting depth chart notes on the defensive side of the ball. We also spoke with defensive coordinator Mike Breske and offensive line coach Clay McGuire to get their thoughts on the game.

Our practice report is after the jump.

The future of the WSU defense looked bright on Thursday

After Washington State finished its final full practice before Saturday's game against Oregon the underclassmen had their Thursday Night Football scrimmage. The defense looked great. The offense, well, they had to do some up-downs.

Our report from practice is after the jump.

A big day for backups

Washington State's depth is starting to catch up to the starters. Or maybe the backups just had a good day. Either way, Wednesday's WSU football practice saw some big plays from players you don't normally hear about.

Our practice report is after the jump.

Recapping yesterday’s practice

Because we were caught up in the hubbub of some late-night scheduling news and other stuff for the paper we never got a practice report up last night. We make amends for that omission after the jump.

Cougars must make the most of every opportunity

Mike Leach addressed the media on Monday, as is his custom, to discuss Washington State's upcoming game against No. 2 Oregon. Leach emphasized that the key on Saturday will be not “squandering” plays because the Cougars will need to maximize every opportunity to keep pace with the Ducks. 

He acknowledged UO's exceptional talent on both sides of the ball but said that the Cougars' focus will on on themselves and taking care of what they can control. 

The highlights from our interview with Leach are after the jump.

Cougars give a sneak peek at white helmets

The Cougars did indeed debut their white helmets at tonight's practice, albeit without any decals, which lasted for about an hour. Not all the Washington State players wore white helmets, but most of the regulars did. This is purely speculation on my part, but I would bet that we'll see white pants and white helmets on Saturday, and either crimson or anthracite jerseys. If WSU wears anthracite jerseys along with whatever Oregon comes up with (probably dark green numbers on a green jersey or something similar) it's going to be pretty tricking keeping track of who does what.

There were just a few noteworthy items from tonight's short practice but we also had the opportunity to speak with defensive coordinator Mike Breske and running backs coach Jim Mastro afterwards.

Notes and quotes from practice are after the jump.


A new pair of Thursday stars

Last season Thursday nights were the Morrow and Wick Show starring a pair of redshirting running backs who were mostly hidden on scout team during the week but who spent one night each week showing off stunning glimpses of talent that foreshadowed a long and productive career. One year later Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks are atop the WSU depth chart, quickly making good on all that promise.

Well if tonight's practice was any indication, receiver Barry Ware and running back Squally Canada are the next pair of talented offensive players you'll hear about every Thursday night, but will have to wait a year to see for yourself.

Read about their exploits and the rest of today's practice after the jump.

Dinged up Cougars add a receiver

It's a good thing Washington State entered the season with so much depth at receiver, returning their top eight from last season. Last year's leading receiver, Gabe Marks, is going to redshirt the season, while starters River Cracraft and Kristoff Williams are both limited and wearing yellow no-contact jerseys during practice.

So it was good to see Barry Ware at practice today. Ware, a freshman, was on the roster during fall camp but never arrived. He's with the team now, however, and looks the part at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds. While it's unlikely Ware will play this season, it's nice to add depth at outside receiver with Isiah Myers, Kristoff Williams and Vince Mayle graduating after the season.

“He looks good,” Mike Leach said after practice. “We've just got to get him out here practicing. We're glad to have him and are looking forward to working with him … He's a big, tall, physical guy with really long arms that has a lot of range to him.”

We have more from practice, after the jump.

Gabe Marks will redshirt

For the past two weeks the Washington State football coaches have considered the idea of having junior Gabe Marks, last year's leading receiver, redshirt and sit out this season. On Sunday Mike Leach confirmed that is likely the course the Cougars will take, saying, “we're going to try and redshirt him if we can. He's been doing a lot of good things, he's been really selling out there. Basically, we have two seniors at the position and it's sort of clouded up right now and he was behind in his offseason for definitely understandable reasons and so sequence is better for us, better for him, so that's what we're shooting for.”

Those two seniors are Isiah Myers and Kristoff Williams, who entered fall camp ahead of Marks on the depth chart at the Z receiver position. Marks had offseason surgery for an undisclosed injury in the spring, and was arrested in February. Those two factors may have contributed to his starting fall camp so low on the depth chart, but a hit to the head during a fall scrimmage effectively ended what had been a very good fall camp.

Marks has been healthy lately, however, and has been a force on scout teams for WSU playing both receiver and quarterback in order to help the Cougars prepare to face the Pistol offenses of Nevada and Portland State. 

If Marks redshirts he will still have two seasons of eligibility remaining at the start of next season. Myers has been a revelation at Z through two games this season and is second on the team with 15 receptions for 196 receiving yards and has tied Vince Mayle for the team lead with a pair of receiving touchdowns. Williams has two catches for 36 yards and has been the team's primary kickoff returner.

Heading into another game week

Sundays are always a quiet day on the Pac-12 college football landscape as teams and reporters alike gear up for another week of press conferences, teleconferences, practices and previews. Still, we've found some links from around the conference to pass along before today's Monday press conference with Mike Leach and three players.

The links are after the jump.

A late night trip to the beach

Washington State practiced for about an hour on Sunday night to prepare for their Pullman home-opener against Portland State this weekend. Prior to the official start of practice, however, the team took a quick roll through Leach Beach, the sand pit the Cougars use for conditioning.

After practice Clay McGuire said that the team's trip to the beach wasn't punishment for the team's performance in Friday's 24-13 loss at Nevada.

“It's just more of a reminder,” McGuire said. “Just some inside things we want them to think about when they're thinking of those things, that happens.”

The Cougars are taking a look in the mirror this week after a pair of losses in games that the team was favored to win. Washington State is also a little banged up this week, with starting receivers Kristoff Williams and River Cracraft limited in yellow practice jerseys.

McGuire says the coaches are letting the team know they their performance has been substandard, while not trying to beat the team up mentally.

“You've got to be honest,” McGuire said. “There's got to be truth in everything but we've also got to build them up too. It's one of those things where you can only hold so much negativity, you've got to build them up, get the most out of these guys but in this game you have to be honest, too, with the results you're getting.”

We have more from practice after the jump.

An offensive Saturday of Pac-12 games

There weren't so many fireworks in Arizona's win over Texas-San Antonio on Thursday and Washington State's loss on Friday was a defensive struggle.  But Saturday was a series of shootouts for the Pac-12 and with the exception of the two teams involved in USC's 13-10 win over Stanford, every conference team scored at least 38 points.

The links are after the jump.

WSU falters at Nevada

Well, that was unexpected. Sure, there were Washington State partisans that figured winning at Nevada would be a tall task. Even the always faithful Jim Moore called the upset. But those pundits imagined the Cougars coming up just short in a shootout. I don't think anybody saw WSU's offense putting up only a field goal in the second half.

Here is our game story from the loss and our scoring summary. We also have video of Mike Leach and Connor Halliday addressing reporters after the game, which didn't end until around 11 p.m. Here are some of my final thoughts from the game. Bud Withers has a column from the game. Nevada is understandably pretty excited about its defense's performance.

Links from around the conference are after the jump.


Now it’s WSU’s chance

Last night the Mariners and Seahawks of Seattle combined to outscore their opponents 46-18. Today, Washington State has the spotlight and can keep the good Northwestern vibes going with a similar performance in a 7:30 p.m. ESPN game.

This will be the Pac-12's weekend and the Cougars have Friday night all to themselves.

The links are after the jump.

Jim Mastro’s strong Nevada ties

There are many connections between the two teams that will face off tomorrow. Linebacker Reggie Coates just transferred from Nevada to Washington State and his new position coach, Ken Wilson, originally recruited him to Reno. Wilson's son still plays for the Wolf Pack as a long snapper.

Running backs coach Jim Mastro was also on the UNR staff with Wilson and when head coach Chris Ault stepped down in 2012 Mastro was his Ault's first choice to replace him.

Ault and Mastro – the architects of the Pistol offense – are the subjects of our story for today's paper.

And now for something completely different.


More links are after the jump.


River Cracraft sits out practice, still expected to play

Receiver River Cracraft hasn't done much work this week. He sat out Monday's practice and, after getting a little work in yesterday,  the receiver was again a bystander during every drill on Wednesday despite putting on a helmet at one point.

Mike Leach was unavailable after today's “Thursday” practice because of his radio obligations, but Clay McGuire, who coaches the offensive line but is very involved with the rest of the offense, said we should expect to see Cracraft play on Friday at Nevada.

“I would think so,” McGuire said. “He played a lot of snaps, stuff like that. He's good and I think we'll see a lot of him.”

Today's practice was highlighted by the weekly “Thursday Night Football” underclassmen scrimmage. Our practice report is after the jump.

Some new Cougars

Washington State's roster was updated yesterday to include the walk-ons that joined the team when classes started. There are plenty of new names to file away in case one of them turns into an Elliot Bosch or Luke Falk and contributes for the Cougars.

One of the more intriguing additions is quarterback Andrew Reding. We didn’t Redding at practice yesterday, but at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds he'll be hard to miss when he shows up. Defensive lineman Jacob Laird was another newcomer who we couldn't find.

On the offensive line Mack Hopkins may already be wearing a yellow “limited” jersey, but with a name like that you can't help but hope he contributes someday. Austin Hall and Thomas Hearns will help fill out both scout teams apparently, Hall is listed as a RB/DB and Hearns will give the Cougars a fullback when he's not playing linebacker.

Receiver Dewan Lee Thompson made a nice catch against the defensive regulars yesterday. The Cougars are also listing him as a possible defensive back.

Of all the newcomers, the most likely to eventually see the field on game day appears to be Reggie Coates, a transfer from Nevada. We have more on Coates in yesterday's practice report and our usual slate of links is after the jump.

*Note: We'll be having our weekly live chat to discuss WSU football today at 11 a.m.

Cougars get a Nevada transfer

We got updated rosters today that include the new walk-ons and one of the players stood out above the rest. Reggie Coates  has transferred to Washington State from Nevada, the Cougars' opponent this week, and the 6-foot, 246 pound linebacker is listed as a redshirt junior.

We have more on Coates and the rest of WSU's practice after the jump.

Halliday’s leadership on full display

One of the best things to come out of Thursday night's loss was the image of quarterback Connor Halliday rallying the Cougars on the sideline. In the past Halliday has lost his cool, not without reason, but the result is almost never positive.

This offseason there was a change in Halliday that I've noticed in conversations and interviews with the quarterback, and it's a change that reporters who I have a lot of respect for have remarked on as well. Call it poise, maturity, or whatever, Halliday just seems in control. In control of the offense, in control of his answers and in control of his temper.

It's a change his coaches and teammates have noticed as well, and it's the subject of today's Washington State notebook. We also have our Pac-12 power rankings for week two. Oregon held firm at the top, beyond that the conference had more movements than a Wagner opera.

We've also rustled up some links from around the conference and placed them after the jump.