From Pullman -- The Washington State football team had its coldest practice of the year, with the thermometer reading 29 degrees by the time the Cougars trotted off the field. Special teams was a focus of the practice, and junior punter Thomas Fossedal took the majority of the reps. Quarterbacks Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca were sharp in the 7-on-7, going 16 of 18 and 5 of 8, respectively. The session was highlighted when receiver Bobby Ratliff caught a deep Halliday pass with one hand and ran it to the end zone, much to the delight of his offensive teammates.
Halliday struggled when the team went 11-on-11, at one point throwing four straight incompletions, albeit with a drop by Kristoff Williams. The first-string quarterback finished the session 13 of 18, and Dom Williams led the way with three receptions. Apodaca was nearly flawless in 11-on-11, finishing 7 of 8 with the lone miss being a drop by Vince Mayle. Kristoff Williams acquitted himself well after his earlier drop, catching the first two of Apodaca's passes.
Defensively, cornerback Nolan Washington continued to play well, breaking up a pass by scout team quarterback Tyler Bruggman. Washington played extensively on Saturday against Arizona, drawing praise from the coaching staff. Daquawn Brown, however, struggled at cornerback, and was beat deep for a long pass play. Defensive end Xavier Cooper sacked Bruggman twice on Wednesday, while Mitch Peterson and Kache Palacio added a sack each.
More on practice after the jump.
Punter Mike Bowlin began Saturday's game with a pair of booming punts that pinned Arizona deep in its own territory. But the senior followed that with a three-yard punt and then hooked two consecutive kickoffs out of bounds, giving the Wildcats the ball on their 35-yard line. Placekicker Andrew Furney handled the Cougars final kickoff, sending it out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. After practice on Wednesday special teams coach Eric Russell hinted that we may see more more of Furney on kickoffs in the future.
"Probably," Russell said. "You also saw him kicking with the wind while Mike was kicking against. But come Saturday we'll find out."
In fact, Bowlin placed three of his four points inside the Wildcats' 20-yard line, and booted one for 54-yards. But the three-yard punt came at a critical juncture in the game, and the senior has struggled with consistency all season.
"I'm at a loss for answers, I don't know," Russell said. "But any of us can come and hit a ball three yards so that's a deal on Mike. The problem is he hits a 54-yarder to start with, then he gets a 48-yarder so we're netting 45 (yards per punt) after that and then right before the half it's a shank and it seems like he's got one of those a game. They're not even rushing or this and that, he wants to change his routine, it's not what he's coached to do."
Russell said that it's an issue that's hard to fix because it's fairly unique in his time coaching special teams.
"Not a senior. When you're breaking in youngsters sometimes you have some of that, but there's no doubt it's been frustrating and the frustrating part is not knowing how to help Mike. He's got to get those things out of his head. I don't know if in his mind he's thinking, 'don't shank' versus just, 'hey, get in your routine and do it.' So that's the biggest deal."