Washington State practiced for about an hour on Sunday night to prepare for their Pullman home-opener against Portland State this weekend. Prior to the official start of practice, however, the team took a quick roll through Leach Beach, the sand pit the Cougars use for conditioning.
After practice Clay McGuire said that the team's trip to the beach wasn't punishment for the team's performance in Friday's 24-13 loss at Nevada.
"It's just more of a reminder," McGuire said. "Just some inside things we want them to think about when they're thinking of those things, that happens."
The Cougars are taking a look in the mirror this week after a pair of losses in games that the team was favored to win. Washington State is also a little banged up this week, with starting receivers Kristoff Williams and River Cracraft limited in yellow practice jerseys.
McGuire says the coaches are letting the team know they their performance has been substandard, while not trying to beat the team up mentally.
"You've got to be honest," McGuire said. "There's got to be truth in everything but we've also got to build them up too. It's one of those things where you can only hold so much negativity, you've got to build them up, get the most out of these guys but in this game you have to be honest, too, with the results you're getting."
We have more from practice after the jump.
Along with Cracraft and Williams, starting defensive lineman Xavier Cooper did not appear to do very much, although he was fully suited up. When the team ran through plays against the scout offense Cooper sat on the sidelines while Daniel Ekuale took his place with the first string.
Mack Hopkins, Cody O'Connell, Nate DeRider and Chester Su'a were also limited. It looks like Su'a could be limited for quite awhile so Paris Taylor saw time with the twos at the Will linebacker spot.
We did see more from Sebastian LaRue then we previously had since his return to the team. Head coach Mike Leach said he did not expect LaRue to be eligible to play this season, but we asked defensive coordinator Mike Breske if there was any official ruling from the NCAA on his transfer appeal. Breske told us that we would have to ask Leach, who was unavailable for interviews today.
Breske did talk about the defense's performance on Saturday, an improvement over the prior week against Rutgers.
"We showed improvement from week one to week two. Things obviously we still need to work on, try to get a little better on third down," Breske said. "We were much better, we were at 33 percent (6 of 18), shutting down the offense. I think we had a third-and-11 and third-and-eight. We gave them the skinny post. Could have gotten off the filed and our offense on and we've got to do a better job on that but we showed improvement and we've got to show more improvement against Portland (State) this weekend."
The biggest improvement came in the run game. Rutgers running back Paul James was able to run seemingly at will against the Cougars, but last week the WSU defense was solid against the run, giving up 3.8 yards per carry, with the exception of one play – a 55-yard run up the middle by quarterback Cody Fajardo. Breske talked about the improvement and what went wrong on that play.
"We stayed square in our run fits and that type of deal and we've mixed in some fire zones and that, but I think our eyes were better," Breske said. "We still need to constantly improve on that and our pad level and we improved from week one and we've got to improve to week three."
Of that play he said, "We weren't where we were supposed to be. They tempoed us, we weren't in position. Our mike linebacker hadn't kicked over to the position yet and our backside safety, his eyes were wrong. He went the wrong way. So, that happened."