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The Cougars return with an intense practice

Washington State hadn't taken the field since Friday and has no opponent coming up this weekend so the Cougars had a spirited practice on Wednesday with the ones on offense going against the ones on defense and capped it off with a Thursday Night Football scrimmage.

The Cougars had a team meeting before practice where coach Mike Leach spoke to the importance of not letting a lackadaisical attitude set in with no immediate opponent upcoming.

"You've got to maintain the intensity and make sure that guys come in focused to get better every day," Leach said. "Just push them hard. But they did a good job today I thought."

More on practice after the jump.

A few players appeared to be missing from today's practice, including cornerback Charleston White who was injured against Stanford. Also gone were Riley Sorenson, Toni Pole and Cyrus Coen. The WSU coaches don't address player absences typically but may be allowing those players some extra time off during the bye week.

Kristoff Williams was at practice today and mostly limited, although he did run a few routes with no contact. Also limited were Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Nate DeRider, Isaac Dotson and Parker Henry.

All the coaches were at practice today despite the fact that many of them have been on the road recruiting. According to Leach, six flew in this morning for practice and many of them will hit the road again before the week ends.

"It's just football," defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "We're getting into some recruiting this weekend but still watching film, watching Arizona and that type of deal and getting ready for next week."

Connor Halliday and Luke Falk each led drives against the regular defense. Halliday completed four of his first five passes before finding Dom Williams for a 20-yard touchdown. However, on the next play he through a red zone interception to Paris Taylor that likely would have been returned for a touchdown. One play later he responded with another touchdown pass to Williams, this time from about five yards out.

Falk threw touchdown passes to River Cracraft and John Thompson, a walk-on who played against Stanford as a freshman last season.

After practice we had our first interview with interim special teams coordinator Eric Mele who spoke about what he hopes to bring to the unit, and how he helped the unit prepare for Stanford despite taking over at the beginning of a short week.

"A lot of it's just about the motivation stuff and keeping those guys fired up and getting the best effort," Mele said. "There were a few changes and a shorter week so I didn't do too much, tried to simplify a few things and going into this week made some personnel moves and really just back to basics."

During Thursday Night Football both Luke Falk and Peyton Bender played well at quarterback, but the MVPs were defensive end Hercules Mata'afa and receiver Dewan Lee Thompson.

"I thought it went good," Leach said of the scrimmage. "I thought it was competitive, back-and-forth. Hercules (Mata'afa) I thought looked really good, Greg Hoyd looked good. I though the two quarterbacks looked good, (Dewan Lee Thompson) looked good – a walkon guy out here – and a couple of linemen looked pretty good. I thought our offensive line overall looked good."

Falk was sacked by Jacob Laird on the first play of the scrimmage, and stuck to short passes early on. A quick throw to Keith Harrington on the sideline was blown up by Mata'afa for a three-yard loss thanks to the end's surprising closing speed.

Harrington may have still been feeling the effects of the hit a couple plays later when he fumbled despite not appearing to have been touched.

Falk completed seven of his next eight passes following the fumble and the only incompletion was on a well-thrown deep ball that the receiver didn't haul in. He hit Brett Bartolone a couple plays later for a six-yard touchdown.

Peyton Bender looked good throughout his turn with the offense, completing intermediate passes to Gabe Marks and Barry Ware, before throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dewan Lee Thompson, who broke a tackle in the middle of the field before racing to the pylon.

The receiver scored just seconds later on a 75-yard bomb from Bender, who completed the pass as he was hit straight on.

Before practice was over, however, Dewan Lee Thompson took a punishing shot from Mata'afa on a short pass.

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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