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Initial observations from WSU spring game

— With just one practice left in the spring, Luke Falk is still the apparent starter at quarterback. While Peyton Bender made some nice plays on Saturday, he still makes more mistakes as well. He missed on one throw that ended up in defensive back Willie Roach's hands and tested long-armed cornerback Charleston White downfield despite the fact that White had good position on Gabe Marks, leading to another interception.

Falk, conversely, made safe, simple plays to keep the offense moving while waiting for his receivers to make plays or the defense to make a mistake, which eventually happened more often than not. He found the open receiver – usually Dom Williams – and accurately placed the ball so the receiver could make a play after the catch. He did take a shot downfield, trying to hit Robert Lewis when he got behind David Bucannon, but hung the ball up so Bucannon had time to recover and breakup the pass.

That's a play that the Cougars aren't going to have in their arsenal as much this year; last year Connor Halliday seemed to complete two of them a game to Vince Mayle, but neither of the quarterbacks this year have Halliday's cannon.

But Falk has his own strengths, such as a 12-yard run to pick up a first down when the defense was hanging back in coverage, which likely never would have even occurred to Halliday. Ultimately, while Bender pushed Falk this spring like a coach hopes a backup would, Falk played well enough to remain the favorite to start next fall.

— Offensive lineman Carlos Freeman has come on at center this spring and has been running with the twos lately, splitting time there with Sam Flor. Freeman appears to have moved into the backup role and was the starting center for Gray on Saturday. Riley Sorenson remains the starting center and I don't see that changing.

— Gerard Wicks seems to be the guy at running back right now, with Keith Harrington and Jamal Morrow providing depth and different looks. While Morrow was the starter last season, he got just four carries and one reception to Wicks' 10 carries and three catches.

The caveat is that Morrow missed some practice time and we don't know if he's 100 percent right now. But Wicks has run strong this spring. Keith Harrington was a good receiver out of the backfield, amassing 58 yards on 10 catches, but didn't do much in the running game. While Harrington's had a solid spring and doubtlessly earned a spot in the rotation, I expect the hard-running Wicks to get the plurality of the carries next season.

— We didn't see much of Clemson transfer Kyrin Priester and the read here is that the coaches have scaled back his use since he won't be able to play next year, anyway. Priester is a physical receiver that still has some shake to his game, and will likely be a key player in 2016. He got some work at the end of the spring game, and actually subbed in earlier for the Crimson team, despite his gray jersey. He caught one pass and made a nice move to avoid Isaac Dotson, who came in pretty tentatively, and get upfield for 19 yards. But, I think he might have benefited slightly from wearing the same jersey as the defense on the play.

— While the final score was Crimson 31, Gray 20, the score to remember is 31-17. That's what the difference was at the first drives of the fourth quarter when Mike Leach pulled the first units and took Bender and Falk out. Gray also took back-to-back fourth-quarter possessions, helping Tyler Hilinski to cut the score with touchdown passes to Erik Anderson and Zaire Andre.

— While Deion Singleton lined up at cornerback, I'm not sure that means he's made a complete switch to safety. With Charlesotn White and walk-on Brendan Hay the only corners on the Crimson roster, I expect the coaches were merely doing what they could to make the depth work. Jeff Farrar, a cornerback who appears to have fallen down the depth this spring, was listed as a DB.

Colton Teglovic started at nickelback for his squad and remains the primary backup to Darius Lemora at that position.

— Erik Powell made a 42-yard field goal and Quentin Breshears missed from 20-yards out. Based on that, I'll call Powell the front-runner for the kicking job heading into the summer.

Crimson wins initial skirmish with Gray

Washington State's Crimson and Gray teams will compete for real on Saturday in Spokane, but we got an early spring game preview at practice.

The Cougars were only in helmets and game jerseys on Thursday, with the Crimson and Gray teams each in their respective colors.  Overall, it was a pretty dreary practice with rain beating down throughout.

Things picked up during a modified team period, however. Rather than split into starters and backups, the teams were the same ones that will compete in Saturday's Crimson and Gray game with quarterback Luke Falk leading the Crimson and Peyton Bender behind center for the Gray.

They Gray was on offense first and Bender started off sharp, completing four of his first passes, three of them to D.J. Thompson. But the Gray stalled near the end zone and Bender was sacked by Hercules Mata'afa.

The freshman from Florida had more success on his next drive, finding Gabe Marks for a score, but also threw an interception to Brendan Hay, a walk-on that tried out for the team and has had a pretty good spring.

On Falk's first series he completed short passes to Dom Williams and Robert Lewis, then found John Thompson in the end zone. And on his final series we got some controversy.

Falk didn't get much going on his second drive, which featured a lot of runs. But on the final play he completed a pass to Robert Lewis just short of the goal on the sideline, and the receiver spun around and reached the ball across the end zone in a fashion very similar to this play.

The sides couldn't agree whether or not the ball actually crossed the end zone plane before Lewis was pushed out of bounds and the score was so tight that whether or not the touchdown stood would have decided the period. So the teams went to a sudden death overtime.

On Bender's first play he threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Baker and Falk followed by calling his own number and running in for a score. Then Hay, the walk-on cornerback, ended the day by intercepting Bender for the second time.

Crimson and Gray Game rosters announced

Washington State's annual spring game will take place at 2 p.m. at Joe Albi Stadium, and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

The school released the rosters today and I'm told that there was no draft or anything, they simply tried to divvy up the teams evenly. The Crimson team will wear crimson, the Gray team will wear gray, and teams will use a regular scoring format. But we knew that.

The game's format will be just slightly different. The first two quarters will be normal, 15-minute quarters and the second two will use a running clock to speed things up a bit. As is Mike Leach's custom, there will be an additional practice on the Tuesday following the spring game at 2:30.

Here are the rosters:
  

WSU offense explosive, but with miscues

Washington State's offense showed it can score from anywhere on the field on Tuesday. That'll be important if it can't clean up some mistakes.

If it hadn't been for wide receiver drops and false starts by the starting offensive line, it would have been a banner day for the Cougars offense. After practice, Mike Leach said that the drops were more of an individual problem.

But when asked if the false starts were due to the Cougars playing around with some snap counts – as a couple of the offensive linemen suggested – he replied, "No, we're playing with making those guys do up-downs when they jump offside."

All that and more in today's practice report:

— The Cougars are always 100 percent healthy, but today they were even healthier. Sulaiman Hameed, Frankie Luvu and Robert Barber were all as active as I've seen them, although Barber is still somewhat limited. Still limited today were Brett Bartolone, Alijah Lee, Nick Begg, Nate DeRider, River Cracraft, Philip Schulte and Jeremiah Mitchell. Hameed ran with the twos at safety.

Chandler Leniu also saw a lot of time with the twos at middle linebacker, Dylan Hanser was in there at Rush linebacker and Kingston Fernandez was with the second unit at defensive end.

—Moritz Christ was pulled out of a drill early and made to do up-downs after he jumped offside. The Cougars had a lot of false starts in the scrimmage on Saturday and the coaches appear to be taking more steps to address them, although the issue remains apparently unsolved.

— I've written before about Barry Ware and how the talented freshman receiver looks like a future contributor but that he needs to tighten up his routes before he's going to see playing time. Well, he ran one of his best routes of the spring during WR vs. DB drills today, a comeback route near the sideline in which he turned on a dime to get the receiver behind him and used his body to maintain leverage the rest of the route, giving himself just enough space to make the catch and step out of bounds. When he starts doing that consistently he'll be hard to keep off the field.

Also, they really aren't kidding about this "Dan Post" thing. Daniel Lilienthal ran two routes during the initial portion of the WR vs. DB drill, both of them posts.

— David Bucannon looked good in man coverage while breaking up a shallow crossing route.

— One player that I've been impressed with lately while watching practice is Marcellus Pippins.  In my two-deep projections I had him backing up a junior college transfer next year, but I think I'll change that in my post spring projections. Not only is he playing well, breaking up passes and intercepting two of them in Saturday's scrimmage, but he's emerged as a leader here in his first year of college football.

From where I stand in practice, I'm usually pretty near Pippins and can see/hear his interactions with the team.  Lately, he's been doing a lot of teaching, telling the other cornerbacks – none of them are younger than he is – the intricacies of the defense such as whether or not a coverage calls for the defender to force the receiver inside or outside, what the DB should expect from the receiver, how far to play off the line and things like that.

Based on his play late last season and the leadership role he's taking on in the spring, I expect he'll have a lot of opportunities going forward.

— Pippins and Gabe Marks were the two return men during the punting drill. However, the drill was primarily aimed at coverage.

— Now, for the quarterbacks, both of whom suffered because of some receiver drops.

Luke Falk started slowly during 7-on-7, completing a short pass that was credited as a defensive stop, and then another pass to Calvin Green, before throwing an incompletion, having a pass dropped by Gerard Wicks and then overthrowing a pass that was easily intercepted by Isaac Dotson.

He recovered easily enough, completing his final 12 passes and airing it out a bit more than he has recently, throwing touchdowns to Gabe Marks and Tyler Baker.

Quick digression: Baker has consistently played really well this spring with River Cracraft out. While Cracraft is going to be one of the hardest players on the team to unseat, I have to imagine that Baker has carved out a significant role for himself next fall because he's fearless over the middle, has good hands and has been very good in the red zone. Now, back to the quarterbacks.

Bender's first pass of the session was right to linebacker Kyle Newsom, who dropped it. After another incompletion, he completed his final eight passes. However, two of those were considered defensive stops and Bender was a little too eager to make the check-down, it seemed. At one point he missed a receiver that was wide open downfield and instead threw to the flat, which prompted Leach to stop the drill so he could correct him.

Falk came in for some third-down 7-on-7 work, converting on three of seven plays. However, John Thompson dropped one pass that would have been a conversion and dropped or fumbled another. Dotson also broke up a pass in the end zone that Lilienthal got his hands on.

Bender's first pass was another to Newsom, who again couldn't haul in the interception. His next was over the middle to Baker, who made the catch while diving and splitting two defenders.

Bender's first pass of the team period went to Thompson, who had another drop. Bender went back to Thompson on the next play, however, and the receiver reeled it in for a moderate gain. Bender finished 10 of 15 with touchdown passes to D.J. Thompson and Gabe Marks, who pushed off when making his grab. D.J. Thompson also dropped the final pass of Bender's series. During the drive, Keith Harrington ripped off a run of 20 or so yards.

Falk's series was marked by explosive plays. His first pass was a short one to Jamal Morrow, who got to the sideline and went untouched 83 yards for a score. After completing a 15-yard pass to Marks he found John Thompson, who either went 75 yards for a score or about 20 and stepped out of bounds, we never got a consensus and you can't trust Graham Harrell on these matters, because he's always lobbying the scorekeepers on behalf of the offense.

Then, things got sloppy for the offense. Calvin Green dropped a pass and Gunnar Eklund false started and a coupe plays later Falk was sacked. Kyrin Priester and John Thompson each dropped passes and, after Falk hit Baker for a 17-yard touchdown and a pass to Morrow, Darryl Paulo and Destiny Vaeao combined to sack Falk and force a fumble.

Ultimately, Falk finished 11 of 15 and threw a pass that went off John Thompson's hands and was intercepted by Jeremiah Allison in the end zone. The final three passes occurred after Leach called a timeout. The first was a touchdown pass to Dom Williams in the end zone over Pippins. Falk tried the same play on the next pass and Pippins broke up the play, maybe committing a little interference in the process.

Falk found Marks on the opposite side for a touchdown to end practice.

WSU chat transcript

Apr 21 2015, 11:58 AM

srchat: Alright, let's get started. Thanks for joining our live chat. Fire away with your WSU questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

Apr 21 2015, 11:59 AM

BING (guest): How is the secondary looking?

Apr 21 2015, 12:01 PM

srchat: The starters looked better in Saturday's scrimmage than a week ago. Cornerback Marcellus Pippins' two interceptions were obviously the highlight, but more important was seeing the DBs much nearer the play. In the first scrimmage the receivers were wide open. The receivers are still ahead of the DBs, but it appears that DC Alex Grinch's hands-on coaching is paying off because the gap shrunk this week.

Apr 21 2015, 12:03 PM

Guest6387 (guest): What's the biggest difference you have noticed with Grinch at the helm of the defense?

Apr 21 2015, 12:05 PM

srchat: There is a lot more energy. The new coaches are pretty hyper on the practice field and that's particularly effective early on, since the players know that they have to impress their new coaches to earn spots. The overall effect is that the defense is a much louder unit than it used to be and that energy is starting to show up on the field, particularly in the pass rush. I'd also note that Grinch and Manning spend a lot more time working on technique one-on-one with an individual player.

Apr 21 2015, 12:05 PM

BING (guest): Do you see Bender's reads improving enough to beat out Falk?

Apr 21 2015, 12:07 PM

srchat: That's a good question, because Bender has played very well lately. I still think Falk will be the starter next season for a couple reasons. One, Bender's stats come down to earth a bit when he faces the starting defense, which is who Falk spends 75% of his snaps throwing against. Two, I still feel as if Falk makes the safer read most of the time — Bender is just good enough to make a play out of the unsafe read while going against the twos.

Apr 21 2015, 12:08 PM

srchat: But you're right that Bender's reads are getting better and he's starting to finish more series clean, so it could happen.

Apr 21 2015, 12:08 PM

Guest4036 (guest): How is the competition looking at Y receiver? Is it true that Robert Lewis is the leader to start there?

Apr 21 2015, 12:09 PM

srchat: No, Robert Lewis is firmly entrenched at H receiver. While it can be easy to mix up the inside receivers, remember that the H is usually going to be on the left side and that it's usually the smaller, quicker receiver. Tyler Baker is playing well at Y, where he took over for River Cracraft last season. I still expect Cracraft to start at Y once he's healthy.

Apr 21 2015, 12:09 PM

georgeforman (guest): what do you expect to see this year in terms of run/pass ratio?

Apr 21 2015, 12:11 PM

srchat: Last year the Cougars finished with pretty close to a 3:1 pass-rush ratio. This year I think they'll run a little more, maybe 5:2 or so.

Apr 21 2015, 12:11 PM

Guest6387 (guest): How is Barry Ware doing?

Apr 21 2015, 12:12 PM

srchat: Ware has been running with the threes mostly. He's a good player with a lot of natural talent and some instincts, but he's still got a ways to go in terms or route-running and technique. I think a lot of fans have high expectations of Ware because he played so well during Thursday Night Football scrimmages last season.

Apr 21 2015, 12:12 PM

srchat: But you've got to remember: He was going up against freshman during those scrimmages, and the best freshmen defensive backs were starting at that point.

Apr 21 2015, 12:12 PM

Guest4036 (guest): Thanks, Jake. Guess some reporters know the personnel just a little better than others!

Apr 21 2015, 12:13 PM

BING (guest): Gabe Marks is so talented. Is he back to showing off that talent?

Apr 21 2015, 12:13 PM

srchat: Yes, Marks is the most dynamic player in just about every practice.

Apr 21 2015, 12:13 PM

Guest1292 (guest): How is Leniu looking ?

Apr 21 2015, 12:14 PM

srchat: Leniu has been solid, but hasn't stood out a whole lot. He's still just a freshman, however. I have been impressed by how well he's able to move at 255 pounds.

Apr 21 2015, 12:14 PM

Guest6420 (guest): What's your sense? Is the D going to better this year?

Apr 21 2015, 12:15 PM

srchat: My sense is that the defense is going to be deeper this year and better able to survive the injuries or setbacks that will undoubtedly happen, as they do with any team. I think the secondary will be better. But I also think the defense lost enough upperclassmen talent this offseason that it will be tough to take a huge leap forward in Grinch's first year.

Apr 21 2015, 12:15 PM

Guest6387 (guest): Have you had a chance to interview Manning or Grinch much? If so, how are they adjusting to Pullman? The team?

Apr 21 2015, 12:17 PM

srchat: Before practices began I sat down for about 45 minutes with Grinch to watch some film and talk about the defense and talk to him every few practice, and have had a few conversations with Manning. Those stories are available in our WSU coverage here at the S-R. I think Grinch has adjusted fine but is spending too much time working to really get to know Pullman. Manning raved to me about the weather the other day; I guess compared to Ann Arbor, Pullman is pretty temperate.

Apr 21 2015, 12:18 PM

srchat: I think the Rush linebackers have really taken to Manning; he seems to be a popular guy with the whole defense. I think Grinch has taken well to the team but recognizes that the talent level needs to be higher and that he's got to manufacture something until that happens.

Apr 21 2015, 12:19 PM

Guest1292 (guest): Will Brett B ever see the field again…and can you send us a picture of Wicks blowing up Shaq Thompson in last years Apple cup ! ?

Apr 21 2015, 12:22 PM

srchat: Bartolone has been limited all spring and I'd be surprised if he's able to see the field again, given how long it's been and the guys ahead of him. Here is our gallery from the Apple Cup

Apr 21 2015, 12:22 PM

srchat: http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/sportslink/2014/nov/29/apple-cup-2014/

Apple Cup 2014 | The Spokesman-Review

Apr 21 2015, 12:22 PM

chiveonjiveon: How have farrar and Singleton looked??

Apr 21 2015, 12:25 PM

srchat: Farrar is one of the bigger, more physical defensive backs but has struggled in coverage. But I mentioned in a practice report last week that he's starting to do better in the man-to-man stuff, at least in drills. Still, I think he's swimming right now and needs to improve in coverage technique and understanding of responsibilities to see the field. Singleton is still shaking the rust off after not playing for a year but his athleticism is apparent and he's got good instincts. Again, I think he'll need some

time to develop.

Apr 21 2015, 12:25 PM

georgeforman (guest): how is deion singleton doing? do you expect him to have an impact during his career? and how much do you see calvin green getting on the field?

Apr 21 2015, 12:26 PM

srchat: For Singleton, see above. I expect Green will see the field plenty this fall. I have him as a backup outside receiver on my projected two-deep. http://bit.ly/1b64M8G

Best guess at the 2015 WSU two-deep | The Spokesman-Review

Apr 21 2015, 12:26 PM

srchat: That would mean he plays quite a bit next year with a great chance to start the following year when Dom Williams — and maybe Gabe Marks, honestly — are gone.

Apr 21 2015, 12:26 PM

Guest6387 (guest): In terms of manufacturing something on defense, will they rely on blitzing and pressure to make up for a lack of talent?

Apr 21 2015, 12:28 PM

srchat: They have been bringing a lot of pressure and, without getting into scheme, have come up with some interesting packages to create pressure. I don't think that's making up for talent as much as experience. Pippins and White are talented enough to make plays on the ball when the quarterback gets it out quickly but they haven't seen everything yet, so they might struggle to cover Pac-12 receivers for an extended period.

Apr 21 2015, 12:28 PM

cubsfan7331: When the freshmen and JUCO transfers start arriving in June what can they do football related?

Apr 21 2015, 12:29 PM

srchat: The same as everyone else, they'll be able to go workout and do unofficial, non-mandatory stuff with their teammates and they'll be able to spend a few hours each week with the coaches.

Apr 21 2015, 12:29 PM

Guest1292 (guest): Can Destiny become an All Pac 12 performer.?..seems to have the size, speeed, toughness…

Apr 21 2015, 12:29 PM

srchat: I think he can be, and I think the coaches think he can be, too. Leach has singled out Destiny Vaeao in particular this spring as someone he expects to take on a leadership role for the defense.

Apr 21 2015, 12:29 PM

Guest6387 (guest): Can you offer three reasons for fans to be optimistic about making a bowl this season?

Apr 21 2015, 12:31 PM

srchat: 1: The Cougars return every starter on the offensive line. 2: WSU had the talent to win at least 5 games last season but didn't get the breaks. 3: Falk showed last year he can win competitive Pac-12 games on the road.

Apr 21 2015, 12:31 PM

BING (guest): Heard a lot about Hercules and how strong he is and how well he played during TNF. Is that coming across this spring?

Apr 21 2015, 12:32 PM

srchat: Yes, Mata'afa has played primarily with the twos but I've been seeing him with the ones more and more. While he's not getting a sack every snap now that he's playing against starters, he's still a very impressive freshman.

Apr 21 2015, 12:33 PM

chiveonjiveon: Who, in your opinion, of the incoming freshman and JUCO guys has a legit chance of starting??

Apr 21 2015, 12:33 PM

srchat: I'll use this as another opportunity to plug the mock depth chart I put together, which I believe has three JC guys on it

Apr 21 2015, 12:33 PM

srchat: http://bit.ly/1b64M8G

Best guess at the 2015 WSU two-deep | The Spokesman-Review

Apr 21 2015, 12:34 PM

cubsfan7331: From your articles it looks like Leach is going to have a "draft" to select the teams for Saturday's game. When might you be able to get your hands on the rosters and, if so publish it prior to Saturday. If not will there be some type of program available at the game?

Apr 21 2015, 12:34 PM

srchat: Last year I don't believe we got the rosters until the day before the game, so check here on Friday, maybe Thursday. I assume there will be rosters available at the game, but I'll put them up here when I have them so people can print them off to be safe.

Apr 21 2015, 12:34 PM

Guest9463 (guest): When does fall camp usually start and how long does it last?

Apr 21 2015, 12:36 PM

srchat: Fall camp typically starts right around the beginning of August and goes until the week before the first game. However, WSU's season-opener isn't until Sept. 5 this year (last year was Aug. 28), so maybe we'll get an extra week of summer, which would be JUST FINE COACH.

Apr 21 2015, 12:37 PM

BING (guest): Anyone not mentioned much to this point that you think is going to have a break out year?

Apr 21 2015, 12:38 PM

srchat: He's not a "new" player so I don't know if he's generated as much excitement as some of the young guys we've mentioned but I think Robert Lewis could certainly catch 60 passes this year and be a key player for WSU. Peyton Pelluer is playing really well.

Apr 21 2015, 12:39 PM

Guest6420 (guest): Falk and Bender who looks best under center running the O and who from the shotgun? Or, does it matter?

Apr 21 2015, 12:40 PM

srchat: Too small a sample size to really say that one looks better. I will say that Bender has exceptional feet and can really throw accurately on the run, so I would imagine he'll be pretty good at the play-action stuff.

Apr 21 2015, 12:40 PM

Guest9463 (guest): Do you think Peyton Pelluer is fast enough? I seem to remember him getting outran a bit last year. If so will the extra experience help?

Apr 21 2015, 12:41 PM

srchat: I don't think he's slow, but his strength is his ability to diagnose and react to plays quickly. If he gets in a footrace with a receiver or running back he's probably not going to win, but a faster linebacker would get in more of those footraces than he does.

Apr 21 2015, 12:41 PM

Guest1292 (guest): Brett B has the skills and already show he can perform at a high level. sounds like is is just plain hurt all of the time…Is Begg showing up much..?..cougs will go 6-6 0r 7-5 Rutgers and Cal will be key games to get there and of course the AC

Apr 21 2015, 12:42 PM

srchat: The injuries haven't helped, but I also think guys like River Cracraft simply passed him by when he was healthy. Begg has seen some action as a tight end but has been pretty limited this spring.

Apr 21 2015, 12:42 PM

cubsfan7331: Halliday seems he never met a pass play he didn't like and always checked out of runs for passes. Falk seems to actually seek run first and pass second, how does Bender look in this aspect of the game?

Apr 21 2015, 12:43 PM

srchat: Well, I can assure you none of them seek run first pass second and the numbers reflect that. But I do think Falk is a little quicker to check into runs than Bender is.

Apr 21 2015, 12:43 PM

Guest9463 (guest): Ok thanks! Could you see the QBs sharing snaps in games at all or is it likely one plays the vast majority of the time?

Apr 21 2015, 12:43 PM

srchat: No, I think Leach will pick one guy. If that guy gets injured or plays poorly he'll go to the other guy.

Apr 21 2015, 12:43 PM

Guest1292 (guest): River is a much better player, more athletic, faster than Brett..Brett is great on his routes..good hands..too bad, he had a bright future

Apr 21 2015, 12:45 PM

Guest1292 (guest): besides Dahl…which ol has the best bet to be a all Pac 12 performer ?

Apr 21 2015, 12:46 PM

srchat: Riley Sorenson. He's got pretty unique size/athleticism for a center and he'll be a three-year starter at the position.

Apr 21 2015, 12:47 PM

cubsfan7331: During practice what % of time does Harrell spend with the QB's or is most of that interaction done after practice. By the way I think he was a great hire.Head coach in training.

Apr 21 2015, 12:48 PM

srchat: Out of a 2.5-3 hour practice he probably spends around 15-20 minutes, usually when the rest of the team is working on special teams. Typically he's working on throwing mechanics while the quarterbacks throw a football into a trash can or having them do footwork drills while he uses a stick to try and punch the ball out.

Apr 21 2015, 12:48 PM

Guest3947 (guest): Are there packages with McClennan and Palachio playing together? Seems like both could have big years

Apr 21 2015, 12:48 PM

srchat: I would not be surprised if such a package existed.

Apr 21 2015, 12:48 PM

Guest1292 (guest): Interesting, thought it might be Cole

Apr 21 2015, 12:49 PM

srchat: Madison could be a four-year starter at right tackle or they might move him to the left side once Dahl graduates, so that's certainly a possibility as well.

Apr 21 2015, 12:50 PM

Guest9463 (guest): Are Ekuale and Paulo big enough on the D-line. I know Paulo did well in limited action last year, but they are both under 290

Apr 21 2015, 12:51 PM

srchat: I think they're both big enough for how Grinch wants the defense. He's been pretty open about sacrificing size for speed.

Apr 21 2015, 12:51 PM

Guest1292 (guest): WR depth/skills seem to be a concern, seeing a lot of DJ Thomson and Dan Post, how will they fare in the regular season ?..hard to imagine the 6'6 JC kid being a mjor contributor other goal line

Apr 21 2015, 12:52 PM

srchat: I think both have shown enough that they could go into a game and contribute, and maybe make the top 8. I do think the depth will look a little better once Cracraft is back. Also, Gabe Marks, River Cracraft, Calvin Green … Leach isn't shy about playing freshman wide receivers, so don't be shocked if, say, Kyle Sweet comes in and contributes at inside receiver.

Apr 21 2015, 12:53 PM

Guest9463 (guest): Do you know if Grinch plans to change the nickel package when playing a run heavy team like Stanford?

Apr 21 2015, 12:53 PM

srchat: I think that will probably be the case.

Apr 21 2015, 12:53 PM

Guest6420 (guest): 2nd and goal. Do you throw a slant for a score or run a dive? Falk and Bender choices?

Apr 21 2015, 12:53 PM

srchat: I give Marshawn the ball and get the heck out of the way. Falk can give it to him.

Apr 21 2015, 12:55 PM

cubsfan7331: Anybody that might have been in Breske's doghouse getting a second look and if so who's seizing the opportunity?

Apr 21 2015, 12:56 PM

srchat: I don't know if he was in Breske's doghouse but I think David Bucannon has certainly taken advantage of the fresh slate.

Apr 21 2015, 12:56 PM

Guest1292 (guest): Tyler looking like a future Pac 12 qb?

Apr 21 2015, 12:56 PM

srchat: Too soon to tell on Tyler Hilinski, but he's certainly playing really well in scrimmages for someone who is not only younger than every other person on the field, but should really be getting ready for prom.

Apr 21 2015, 12:57 PM

Guest106 (guest): More than very little has been discussed about our punting and kickoff teams…call it "not so special". What's going on? Do we have anyone or 2 anyone's coming in latter…a sleeper player?

Apr 21 2015, 12:58 PM

srchat: I covered a lot of that in this story I wrote early in fall camp about special teams and how the Cougars are handing punting in particular. http://bit.ly/1CxOY4J The Cougars did sign a punter/kicker in Matt Abramo and I expect they'll add a couple walk-on punters in the fall

WSU spring football: Cougars find punting alternatives - Spokesman.com - April 10, 2015

Apr 21 2015, 12:59 PM

Guest9463 (guest): Who do you think leads the team in interceptions this year?

Apr 21 2015, 12:59 PM

srchat: Charleston White.

Apr 21 2015, 1:00 PM

srchat: Well that's the hour, folks. As always, thanks for joining our live chat. I'll get the transcript posted ASAP.

WSU spring game won’t feature any scoring gimmicks

It's spring game season in college football and what that means depends on what school you're talking about.

College football coaches have come up with myriad ways of making their annual scrimmages interesting for fans and at some schools that means coming up with some gimmicky scoring systems so that the No. 1 offense can test itself against the No. 1 defense and so forth.

For example, at Southern IIllinois there will be a two-way scoring system where points are awarded for a variety of reasons. Rice's offensive players can get extra points for getting multiple first downs, Nevada is trying something new this year and at Oklahoma it's all about what color jersey the quarterback is wearing.

But the Washington State Cougars are going to split into roughly equal teams in Spokane on Saturday, and just play some football, according to coach Mike Leach:

"I think what we're going do is split the team in half and let them play. I don't want any of those scoring systems that require an accountant to sort it out. I hate that. Well, you're out there trying to run plays and you're standing there on the sideline and everyone's murmuring and wondering, 'well, do we get one point …' I hate that."

Observations from the WSU scrimmage

WSU had its second scrimmage of the spring today. Here's what I noticed:

— In the last week or so Peyton Bender seems to have become a lot more comfortable in the offense. He always threw a pretty, accurate ball, but appeared to force it at times and didn't always make the correct read. But in the last few practices he's been identifying the open receiver quickly and making good, quick passes that go over the defenders and hit the receivers in stride.

He threw six touchdown passes during Saturday's scrimmage, the most impressive, in my opinion was a 22-yarder to Gabe Marks in which the defense rushed offside and Bender recognized that he had a free play, so he took the deep shot and lofted a high-arcing pass that fell directly in Marks' cradle. However, he showed that he's still got some work to do on the next play, locking on Robert Lewis and throwing a pass off his back foot. Marcellus Pippins read Bender's eyes and stepped in front of the pass, Bender's only interception of the day.

— With the way Bender's stepped up, it appears more and more like the Cougars have a true quarterback competition this spring. Mike Leach said after the scrimmage that he won't name a starting quarterback until the fall. I still think Luke Falk has pole position based on the number of reps each quarterback receivers with the starting unit in practice, and Leach said today that overall Falk has outplayed Bender slightly up until this point. But Bender is forcing the issue with the skills he's shown and the sheer volume of good plays he's accumulating, so it looks like that competition won't be fully decided for some time.

— That being said, it's important to note when looking at Bender's gaudy statistics that Falk is facing a tougher defense most of the time. By my count, Falk faced the starters on three of his four drives and the second team just once. Conversely, Bender faces the twos three times and had just one series against the starters – the one where he got picked off.

While it's true that Falk is also playing with the first team offense more often, my read is that the backups on defense are further behind their starting counterparts than on offense, where the second unit is still going to have playmakers like Kyrin Priester and D.J Thompson – they caught two and three touchdowns, respectively – and one of the three running backs that are essentially interchangeable.

But the really good athletes on defense are starting – Pippins picked off each quarterback once, and cornerback Charleston White has an extra gear that the backups don't have. The defensive second unit does have some playmakers along the line but also has some guys that just aren't able to consistently cover some of those receivers, meaning Bender has a lot more wide open guys to throw it to.

— It was a mixed bag for the offensive line. On the one hand, they only gave up three sacks in 91 drop-backs – pretty good.  On the other hand, they jumped offside at least four or five times.

Best guess at the 2015 WSU two-deep

The Washington State Cougars are now two-thirds of the way through spring football practices and while there is still movement among the first, second and third units, we're starting to get an idea of where guys stand. So, I thought it would be fun to take my best guess at next year's two-deep for the season-opener against Portland State.

A couple highly-regarded junior college transfers won't be arriving until the fall, so keep in mind that I'm simply guessing where they'll end up based on their reputations. For example, I have Shalom Luani at strong safety, but I wouldn't bat an eyelash if they decide to put him at the nickel position.

I'll put some notes down below, but here is what I came up with:

A couple things:

— Inside receiver is in a bit of flux right now, and while Tyler Baker has played well I'm still projecting River Cracraft to take over at the Y spot once he's no longer limited in practice. The Thompsons, D.J. and John, have both played well as backup inside receivers and really, either of them could win the backup H position. For now, I have D.J. Thompson there, but it also seems like every year there's a true freshman that impresses at receiver so maybe Kyle Sweet will come in and win the spot.

— At outside receiver Daniel Lilienthal has played well enough that I expect him to stay as the backup on the left side. While the Cougars did add a big junior college receiver in C.J. Dimry, my read is that the 6-foot-6 treetop will mostly be used in packages near the goal line, at least initially.

— I've flipped Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow at running back, and I expect Keith Harrington to see the field plenty as well. Really, the three positions will probably be interchangeable and who plays the most will be based on individual opponents. Still, I can't help but remember the way Morrow wore down toward the end of last season, to say nothing of some limited time this spring, and think that the bigger Wicks might be the favored option to bear the brunt of the workload this season.

— I feel pretty good about the front seven (six?), although I expect there will be lots of subbing and once the game gets going you'll see guys like Dylan Hanser, Reggie Coates and other sub in fairly frequently. However, I am taking a flyer on Porter at backup middle linebacker because of his reputation. If not him then expect to see Greg Hoyd III at that spot.

— The back end took a little more guesswork, since two junior college prospects seem likely to play. In fact, I have them both starting. I also have incoming freshman Sean Harper playing, based on his reputation and body type. But Marcellus Pippins has had a good camp so don't be surprised if he's able to hold off Broughton, or if one of the newcomers ends up at a different position. They're still figuring out the best spots for some guys and you could certainly see a situation where Shalom Luani comes in, beats out Sulaiman Hameed and the coaches decide to move Hameed to the nickel spot to keep the best players on the field.

— That's all for now, I'll let you know in the practice reports if my opinion changes as I'm sure it will. Don't forget, the Cougars are scrimmaging tomorrow at 1:20 p.m. in Martin Stadium.

Offensive malaise plagues Cougars during Tuesday’s practice

From the start of Washington State's practice on Tuesday, everything seemed just a little off. The weather, for one, kept fluctuating between sunny with blue skies and snow flurries as overcast skies blotted out the sun.

Plenty of normally consistent players on the offensive side of the ball all had their worst practice on the same day, and the result was plenty of up-downs, a few extra rounds in the make-them-miss drill and some work after practice for the receivers.

It wasn't all bad, though. When the offense has a rough day, the defense necessarily has a good one and many of the offense's struggles were a result of a great pass-rush.  The linebackers and defensive backs made some good plays as well. I'll tell you all about it in our practice report below.

— There were some limited players today. Specifically, Brett Bartolone, River Cracraft, Nick Begg, Jamal Morrow, Andre Dillard, Nate DeRider, Sulaiman Hameed and Drew Griffin were in yellow. I didn't actually see Robert Barber or Frankie Luvu at practice, but since they've each been limited for awhile I expect they were probably just getting treatment or working out somewhere else.

Cracraft stayed long after practice playing catch with Luke Falk.

— Did you notice who I didn't list? Ngalu Tapa is back fully participating and spent the entirety of practice running with the twos. He looked OK for a big guy who has been sitting out most of spring and I expect him to compete for playing time. Running back Jamal Morrow is also no longer being held out.

Another player that saw some time with the second unit was David Bucannon, who has had a solid spring at safety. Bucannon has been one of the team's biggest hitters since I started covering the Cougars early in the 2013 season, but has been buried on the depth chart. But it looks like he's improved his ability to move laterally and has taken advantage of the clean slate and impressed his new defensive coaches enough to get a shot in the two-deep.

The starting defense remained the same with the exception of Taylor Taliulu filling in for Hameed.

— The Cougars worked out some more with the under center formation today and are attacking all parts of the field now: sweeps, dives, vertical passes, etc.

— Outside linebackers coach Roy Manning seems very hands-on and technique oriented. He spent about five minutes today working one-on-one with Ivan McLennan on his backpedal and then another 15 minutes working with the Rush linebacker on rushing the quarterback and getting past various types of blocking techniques.

— During the skeleton drill Falk completed his first eight passes and finished 19 of 24 and found Gerard Wicks on a wheel route for a touchdown. Two of the missed passes were drops by Keith Harrington, who really struggled on Tuesday after playing very well in Saturday's scrimmage. Of course, I should note that at least three of Falk's completions traveled less than five yards and so were scored as defensive stops.

Peyton Bender completed his first two passes, then threw one over the middle that linebacker Peyton Pelluer picked off, fully extending toward the ball while keeping his feet in a nice display of athleticism. Bender recovered throwing a touchdown to D.J. Thompson – a walk-on who's had a good spring – and had a score over the middle to Tyler Baker that I'm almost reluctant to count because good gawd it was wide open. Bender finished skeleton 12 of 18 by my count.

— Bender definitely had the better team period of the two quarterbacks, however. He's got a quicker release than Falk does and was better able to manage the heavy pass rush. He's also been nails in the red zone lately, somehow seemingly becoming more accurate when the spaces get tighter.

The period didn't begin well, however, for Bender, who was sacked on the first play by Ivan McLennan, I believe. His second pass was a short screen that went nowhere and then Harrington was stuffed on the next play. He completed a couple more short ones, then outdid a ferocious rush by getting the ball out of his hands on a pass to Dom Williams so quickly he looked like a shortstop making the exchange on throw to first base. Williams caught the ball with no defenders around – they were all trying to sack Bender – and got a nice gain out of it. Bender was good the rest of the period except for a pair of pass breakups by Darius Lemora and Pelluer. Once the offense got close to the red zone he threw four touchdowns, two each to Baker and John Thompson.

Falk's third pass was a touchdown to Dom Williams, but the receiver did all the work, juking a couple defenders and finding a seam to race 70-yards downfield. On the next play, Kache Palacio and Hercules Mata'afa combined to sack Falk, whose next pass was broken up by Deion Singleton.  The period ended poorly for Falk, who threw a pass that was batted by a receiver and then intercepted by Brendan Hay, was sacked on three consecutive plays by Destiny Vaeao, then Jeremiah Allison, then Darryl Paulo. On the last sack he got the pass off, anyway, and it was picked off by Charleston White.

— The Cougars often end practice with a "make-you-miss" drill, in which an offensive player and a defensive player stand about 10 yards apart with their backs facing each other. On a whistle the players turn and the offensive player has to get by the defensive player with about five yards in which to move laterally.

Unhappy with the play of the offense, Mike Leach demanded that each receiver and running back go through the drill three times, much more than usual. It's a physical drill and tempers between the offense and defense flared more than once. 

WSU lands first 2016 recruit

The first 2016 recruit to publicly commit to playing at Washington State is, what else, a quarterback.

Ian Book took to Twitter on Saturday evening to announce his decision.

While nothing is binding until the letters of intent are signed next February, quarterbacks typically decide early and, because there are fewer spots open late in the year, less likely to flip. Book chose the Cougars over reported scholarship offers from Boise State, UNLV and others.

Book is a consensus three-star recruit among the recruiting services and reportedly runs the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, firmly establishing him as a mobile quarterback. His film does that as well:
  



Air Raid offenses at places like Baylor, East Carolina and West Virginia have had some success pressuring defenses with a quarterback that can move, and when I asked Mike Leach about it last season he seemed open to the idea of recruiting a running quarterback.

Air Raid offenses at places like Baylor, East Carolina and West Virginia have had some success pressuring defenses with a quarterback that can move, and when I asked Mike Leach about it last season he seemed open to the idea of recruiting a running quarterback.

Now, he's got one.

Observations from WSU’s scrimmage

The passing game and pass rush were dominant on Saturday and one running back had an auspicious debut for the fans.

Washington State's secondary still looks a work in progress and the offensive linemen are probably ready for a do-over. But overall, with the exception of one inauspicious drive, the Cougars were energetic and it looked like a productive first scrimmage.

The final stats from the scrimmage are available here, and my observations are below.

— The scrimmage afforded an opportunity to clarify some positions that had seen some movement throughout the spring. The starting outside receivers were Gabe Marks and Dom Williams, as expected, with Calvin Green and Daniel Lilienthal backing them up. At inside receiver D.J. and John Thompson backed up starters Robert Lewis and Tyler Baker.

Hercules Mata'afa and Jeremiah Mitchell were the second unit defensive ends, although defensive coordinator Alex Grinch told me after practice that he's been very impressed with Reggie Coates at that spot and that the Nevada transfer is still in the mix. Reading between the lines, I wouldn't be surprised if Coates sees the field more against pass-heavy teams while Mata'afa is the backup when the Cougars are expecting run.

For now, it looks like the third string offensive line, from left to right, is Brandon Evers, Sean Krepsz, Carlos Freeman, Mack Hopkins and B.J. Salmonson.

Of course, that could all be different on Tuesdsay, depending on how those players graded out in the scrimmage.

— Oops, I forgot to list the limited players first. That's OK. The men in yellow today were Brett Bartolone, Nick Begg, Nate DeRider, Reece Alvardo, Drew Griffin, Sulaiman Hameed, Jamal Morrow and Frankie Luvu.

— Peyton Bender took the first series, which was second-string offense against second-string defense, and was nearly perfect. He completed his first five passes and finished 7-8, capping the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Green.
  

The freshman was just as sharp in his second series, this time leading the first team offense against the starting defense. In that series Bender went 6 of 7 with a pass broken up by Charleston White and an 18-yard touchdown to Dom Williams, who made the catch over Marcellus Pippins. Bender was also sacked by Darryl Paulo on the play prior to the touchdown.

— Luke Falk led a nice opening drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Baker and was overall very sharp on the day. He even called his own number on the first driveBut he was a little frustrated afterwards due quarterbacking to the offense's most lethargic, one that led to some extra exercise for the first team. The drive began with a17-yard scamper by Keith Harrington (more on him later) and also included a 12-yard run by Gerard Wicks.  But Leach had a word with the offense after Falk was sacked by Peyton Pelluer, Wicks lost a yard and Falk threw an incomplete pass. Following the heart-to-heart, Falk found Dom Williams for 13-yards but was sacked by Daniel Ekuale and threw a pass to Gabe Marks that was batted by Charleston White and intercepted by Taylor Taliulu. I'll let Leach tell you what happened next:

"I issued a 'We didn't have great effort the first five plays so we'll do 30 up-downs,' and I didn't think we had great effort doing the 30 so I upped the ante to 40 and after that we played hard and played together."

— The secondary is still learning a new defense, and they'll get better, but the defensive coaches were frustrated by how open the receivers were getting throughout the scrimmage. While Bender had a very good day throwing the ball, he left a couple touchdowns on the field by not seeing that Wicks or another receiver had found an opening with nobody near him.

— Freshman quarterback Tyler Hilinksi had kind of a rough start, taking three consecutive sacks, including a fumble forced by Ivan McLennan and recovered by Jeremiah Mitchell, to end his opening drive. But once he got used to the speed of the game, he settled in nicely, and only missed three passes in 19 attempts.

— Running back Keith Harrington and wide receiver Daniel Lilienthal each had impressive days on offense. Leach said afterwards that if Harrington keeps playing like he is, he might contend for a starting spot. Wicks looked pretty good, too, but Harrington's quickness and vision were on full display Saturday. He had 85 yards on just six carries, including long scampers of 32 and 27 yards, while also adding 53 yards on four receptions. His most impressive play still might have been his seven-yard touchdown, in which he appeared to hit one hole at full speed, back step, and pick a different hole to finish the play.

Lilienthal is simply big and fast, and he is really, really good at planting his foot on post routes to create separation. In fact, he had six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns and at least four of those receptions, if not five or six, came on post routes. The route is such a specialty for him, in fact, that it's led to a new nickname…

"His name's Dan Post, that's why. That's what we called him," Leach said. "When we first got here, Lilienthal, that's a long name, that's a mouthful. And so, we said well we're going to shorten this and he'd just got a post so we called him Dan Post.  One syllabled the thing and he catches posts pretty good."

— While it was a good day for the offense, the defense got nine sacks. That's quite a few. While WSU's defensive line had a good game, it's very apparent that Grinch intends to blitz the linebackers, a lot. Rush linebacker Ivan McLennan lived in the backfield, leading the team with three sacks. Dylan Hanser, also a linebacker, was second with 2.5 sacks.

"That's what coach Grinch says, we've got to get after the quarterback and that's exactly what we did," Jeremiah Allison said. "I mean we did pretty good there but there's always room for improvement. I'm definitely blitzing, we're all blitzing as a collective but you could say I'm blitzing more."

WSU scrimmage stats

Courtesy of WSU athletics.

WSU offense overtaking defense at the midway point

Today was practice No. 7, so we're almost halfway through spring ball at Washington State and the offense is hitting its stride.

Actually, since WSU's Crimson and Gray game will be practice No. 14, we're exactly halfway to the big scrimmage in Spokane. Speaking of scrimmages, the Cougars will hold one on Saturday at 11 a.m. that is expected to last about 70 plays.

WSU's defense seemed a little ahead of the offense in the first few practices, which was a little surprising because the Cougars are implementing a new defense while the offensive players have all been doing the same thing for at least a year.

But over the last couple practices the offense has overtaken their counterparts, and the Air Raid scored practically every other play, figuratively speaking, during Thursday's practice.

Here is the report …

— Let's get the limiteds out of the way early, like always. Brett Bartolone, River Cracraft, Reece Alvardo, Nick Begg, Robert Barber, Nate DeRider, Frankie Luvu, Ngalu Tapa and Drew Griffin were limited throughout practice, while Sulaiman Hameed was limited for the second half. However, Begg usually runs around with the receivers during drills and today guys like Tapa and Luvu were participating a little more than usual.

Jamal Morrow wasn't at practice but Mike Leach said afterward that the running back will probably participate in Saturday's scrimmage.

— Nevada transfer Reggie Coates is just 6-foot, 237-pounds and still listed as a linebacker, but he continues to make moves at defensive end. He seems pretty set on the second-team along the line right now, and he's been getting a few reps with the ones during drills. That may be a pass-rush package.

I also saw Hercules Mata'afa running with the second unit at defensive end. He's been primarily with the scouts, but was pretty unstoppable last year as a redshirt because of his innate strength and burst, so it makes sense that he's starting to get some reps with experience.

There was also an interesting second-unit package that appeared to have Parker Henry and Dylan Hanser both at Rush linebacker, rushing the quarterback from opposite sides, with Chandler Leniu and Kyle Newsom, or Greg Hoyd and Paris Taylor, at the interior linebacker spots.

— The Cougars did some more work under center today, this time including a defense and doing more passing than I'd previously seen. I also got a good look at the No. 2 offensive line, and it struck me just how big that group is. Left to right it goes, Gunnar Eklund, (6-7, 308), Cody O'Connell (6-8, 356), Sam Flor (6-4, 308), Moritz Christ (6-5, 318) and Jacob Seydel (6-6, 287). That's a big line.

— Today I saw one of the worst football plays I've ever seen line – nobody had their head on straight. The snap bounced off Luke Falk's chest and up in the air, but he caught it. Marcellus Pippins got caught napping – maybe he thought the play was over – and so Dom Williams was left uncovered on his streak down the sidelines. Falk saw and threw a pass that was a bit to the right of Williams in the end zone, but still very much catchable, and Williams simply swung with his arms and miss. Yeesh.

Overall, that was a good drill for the defense. It's 11-on-11 at thud tempo and the emphasis appears to be on running and short passes, with some deep passes to keep the defense honest. Earlier in practice, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had been working on man defense with the defensive backs, and Charleston White made a great play to breakup a Falk pass to Gabe Marks on a crossing route. The defense consistently got to the ball quickly and Daniel Ekuale made a nice play to catch up to Gerard Wicks in the backfield and send him backward.

— The team did some punting today. Erik Powell did all the kicking and was OK, but had a few short ones. Marcellus Pippins received all the punts and appears to be the team's punt returner going forward.

— Like I said, the offense won the day. How much did they win by? Well, Luke Falk completed his first 14 passes during the Skeleton drill, and they weren't all easy ones. His second pass went to Dom Williams on a streak down the sideline and the receiver caught it over the outstretched Pippins. Falk also had touchdown passes to Keith Harrington and Wicks – both were of the catch-and-run variety – and finished the segment 14 of 15.

Peyton Bender's first pass was incomplete because the receiver dropped it. He completed the next one and then found Gabe Marks deep for a touchdown. Bender went 11 of 15 with another touchdown to D.J. Thompson.

Then the Cougars did their red zone skeleton with Falk completing one of three passes, a touchdown to Daniel Lilienthal. Bender's first pass was batted by the linemen that stand in front of the quarterbacks with pads over their heads to simulate the trench battle, and then found Marks for touchdowns on his next two throws. (This should be apparent in the quarterback descriptions of these practice reports but Marks has been pretty dominant all spring.)

The quarterbacks finished the skeleton drill by each taking two attempts from about five-yards out. Falk scrambled on his first attempt and found Daniel Lilienthal in the corner of the end zone and completed his next pass, but it was not a touchdown. Bender threw a touchdown pass to John Thompson on his first attempt and was incomplete on his second.

— Bender looked good during the team period, but was sacked twice, once each by Ivan McLennan and Jeremiah Allison. The pass-rush was one area where the defense was sharp all day.


After practice, Leach said, "I think the leader (of the defensive line) to begin with was Destiny (Vaeao), and I thought our defensive line played really well today. We made some plays on offense but they moved the quarterback around and affected him, so I thought it was good."

Bender was 10 of 12 during the period, with one completion coming after a tipped pass. He threw touchdown passes to Lilienthal and Tyler Baker, but the defense looked solid against the run, getting Wicks in the backfield twice.

Falk was 8 of 11 in team period and scrambled twice, getting about 10 yards on the first and maybe five on the second. He ended practice by throwing a pair of touchdown passes, both of which were caught by Marks.