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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cougars coaches return for a quick scrimmage

WSU's coaches have fanned out across the country to recruit during the bye week.

But all were back in Pullman on Thursday to lead a quick practice that consisted primarily of a Thursday Night Football scrimmage.

Our practice report is after the jump.

The Cougars regulars came in sweats – it was 30 degrees, after all -- and did some competition drills early in practice.

But WSU was only on the field for about an hour on Thursday and the Thursday Night Football show was the day's highlight. Because the regulars were in sweats and did not do their normal drills, we don't have a lot to pass along in the way of depth chart updates or other newsy items.

But Thursday Night Football is always an event and today was no different. The defense had its usual highlights – a nice interception by Paris Taylor, another big hit by David Bucannon.

But the day's most captivating play came on offense, courtesy of Calvin Green. The freshman receiver turned around to catch a deep pass from Peyton Bender. He moved as if he was going to turn left and run up the sideline, but it was merely a fake, one that fooled Kamel Greene, who went toward the sideline while Green spun back to midfield.

He immediately juked left to avoid the safety and picked up another 15 yards or so before he was finally brought down.

Green scored a couple plays later on an eight-yard pass from Connor Ennis. Green began the season as a starter but has been limited in practice recently, so it makes sense that the coaches got him some extra work during the bye week.

Interestingly, Ennis wore a dark visor during practice. Not sure I've seen that before.

One of Bender's favorite targets during the scrimmage was walk-on receiver John Thompson, who has a talent for collecting the ball on quick crossing routes and making the initial tackler miss.

Thompson has seen work sporadically for the Cougars during his time at WSU, playing against Stanford last season and catching a pass last weekend at Oregon State.

Ngalu Tapa was again an imposing force on defense, collecting a sack and regularly pushing the interior offensive linemen back into the quarterback's pocket.

"He's got a long ways to go but he's got those qualities that make him a formidable defensive lineman, a combination of power and speed," defensive line coach Joe Salave'a said.

"The biggest thing is he's got to get in shape," Mike Leach said. "He's not in shape yet. He's got a quick first step and he's explosive but we've got to get him in shape."

Another player who regularly disrupts the offense is Hercules Mata'afa, the defense's most consistent pass-rusher. Mata'afa is listed at 225-pounds but is very strong, and looks much bigger. According to Leach, that's because he is.

"He's actually gotten bigger," Leach said. "He's getting bigger as the year goes on but he's very fast, very explosive, great leverage guy."

The Cougars will hold another practice on Saturday and are scheduled to hold one on Sunday, although Leach has converted the last couple Sunday practices into film sessions as part of the typical end of year tapering that most programs do.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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