The last dress rehearsal before Washington State starts getting ready for its opener at Oklahoma State went pretty much as coach Paul Wulff hoped. Some starters played, some rested, some plays were made on both sides of the ball and no one was seriously hurt. We have more, including our story, so read on.
• The best thing if you are a Cougar fan? Besides the no major injuries – defensive tackle Toni Pole left with a shin bruise, but he seemed to be OK – it would have to be that the intensity was evident from the first play. Nothing illustrated it more than the hit Jamal Atofau laid on Blair Bomber during a kickoff return. It was hard enough to knock the green cover off Bomber's helmet and ensured there would be no more kickoff coverage practice. ... That's because there were other priorities. Though this was a scrimmage, none of the starting front four played, anyone with minor injuries, like Chantz Staden (shoulder bruise) or Nolan Washington (hip) or Gino Simone (hamstring) or Aire Justin (hamstring) or Kristoff Williams and Jared Byers (both turf toe), sat out and the young guys had a chance for a lot of snaps. ... That doesn't mean there weren't some interesting plays. For example, Jeff Tuel hit Marquess Wilson in stride on a short pass over the middle. Casey Locker, trailing Wilson, was able to get his hand in and pull the ball free. It popped up right into the hands of Brandon Golden, who bobbled it. It popped up again and Wilson grabbed it, leading to a 15-yard completion. ... Or after the scrimmage was over in some extra punt practice, Reid Forrest put up a 57-yard, wind-driven kick that Leon Brooks tried to catch while backpedaling. It bounced off his hands and Jack Wilson fell on the ball in the endzone. ... The longest plays all came through the air, with Tuel teaming with Wilson on the 15 yarder described above and another 18-yard connection; Jared Karstetter gathering in a 12-yard reception; Brooks taking a screen pass from Marshall Lobbestael down the right sideline for 34 yards; Bennett Bontemps pulling in a 13-yard pass from Lobbestael and James Montgomery teaming with Tuel on a 13-yard pass-and-run. ... Nico Grasu kicked a 32-yard and a 55-yard field goal during the scrimmage while Andrew Furney slid a 50-yarder inside the left upright on the last official play. After everything else was done, the two tried from 46 (both hit), from 51 (Furney hit, Grasu missed) and from 58 (Grasu hit, Furney missed), all with the wind to their back. ... There was only one sack, that by Mike Ledgerwood on a blitz. ... Finally, wanted to draw your attention to something we first posted earlier today. Safety LeAndre Daniels' neck injury wasn't getting better, so there were more test conducted Wednesday. A fracture was discovered and the neck was immediately immobilized. More tests will be done so the long-term prognosis is not known just yet, but it's obvious he'll be out at least for a while.
• Here is the raw version of our scrimmage story ...
PULLMAN – It was perfect preparation for Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain – and the football fans pride themselves on their vocal ability.
Washington State University's last scrimmage prior to its Sept. 4 opener at Oklahoma State was played Thursday under the lights in Martin Stadium accompanied by steady 20 mile per hour breeze and piped in crowd noise.
All of which combined to make the mini-game, which lasted about 20 minutes of clock time, feel nearly game-like.
If you were scoring at home, the Crimson, nominally made up of the starters, "won" 10-6.
"There was great energy tonight," said linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who had a tackle and forced a fumble in limited minutes. "You could feel the intensity from everybody, they were just ready to go.
"I think playing under the lights, coming out to Martin Stadium, that had something to do with it."
Hoffman-Ellis wasn't the only defender who saw limited time.
"We held some people out, but that was OK," coach Paul Wulff explained. "It just gave an opportunity for the younger guys and the backups to play, which is going to make them better."
Three of the starting front four watched from the sideline with the fourth, Bernard Wolfgramm, attending a lab session. With that group out, backup defenders like Sekope Kaufusi, Anthony Laurenzi and Toni Pole, who left with a bruised shin, the only minor injury, got a shot to show their wares.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to the big boys," Hoffman-Ellis said. "They kind of rested the horses as far as the d-line and the twos really showed we have depth. They are ready to come in and compete."
No matter who was playing up front, the group stuffed the running game. Other than an 11-yard burst on a draw by Rickey Galvin, none of the other 11 runs was for more than 5 yards. The offenses combined to gain 25 yards on the ground, a 2.3 yards-per-carry average.
Not that there was much emphasis on the running game.
"We wanted to make sure our one defense say a lot of (passing), just because we know we'll see that (from OSU)," Wulff said. "Our two offense, when facing the one defense, we made sure we threw the ball quite a bit just to give them some things that will hopefully help us next week."
The second offense managed two long field goals – 55 yards by Nico Grasu and 50 from Andrew Furney; both with the wind to their back – in its four possessions. Marshall Lobbestael was 10 of 15 passing for 95 yards.
The first offense did get into the end zone on a 8-yard connection between Jeff Tuel, who was 8 of 15 for 87 yards, and Isiah Barton, made possible by a great pattern by Jared Karstetter, clearing the outside.
But that culminated a 21-yard drive following Carl Winston's fumble, that was recovered by Damante Horton. The best drive was one possession earlier and covered 61 yards before stalling at the defense's 14, leading to a 32-yard Grasu field goal.
But Tuel also threw an interception, a sailor over the middle picked by freshman safety Deone Bucannon. He returned it 35 yards, setting up the scrimmage's final field goal.
"The wind plays a factor, always," Tuel said, "but it's part of the game and something you've got to learn to play with. A couple balls sailed on me but I've got to make the right adjustments and execute."
Overall, Wulff felt the right things were accomplished.
"We wanted to be able to come out and play with a fast tempo and come out of it healthy and we were able to do those things," Wulff said.
• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning with our usual post. Until then ...