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The future of the WSU defense looked bright on Thursday

After Washington State finished its final full practice before Saturday's game against Oregon the underclassmen had their Thursday Night Football scrimmage. The defense looked great. The offense, well, they had to do some up-downs.

Our report from practice is after the jump.

Before we get to the young guys here are some notes from the regular practice:

-- After practice defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that Jeremiah Allison will start at the Will linebacker position on Saturday, supplanting Tana Pritchard. Allison is arguably WSU's fastest linebacker and has played well in practice this week after seeing his snaps steadily rise in recent games.

"By no means is Tana not going to play," Breske said. "We always want to keep competing, competing, competing within ourselves on defense. That's how we feel we get better."

-- The starting defensive line had a little different look due to absences by Toni Pole and Destiny Vaeao. Vaeao has been limited this week, but no idea why Pole was absent. Breske said that Pole remains "in great standing with the team." With those two out Daniel Ekuale and Robert Barber saw time with the ones on Thursday. Kristoff Williams was also absent from Thursday's practice – he has been limited since the Nevada game and was not on the sideline last week against Portland State.

-- The limited players on Thursday were Drew Springfield, Sherman Hutcherson, Nate DeRider, Chester Su'a, Isaac Dotson, Nick Begg and Mack Hopkins.

Now, onto the scrimmage …

Luke Falk took the first reps with the offense and things went downhill for the offense immediately. Freshman running back Squally Canada fumbled on the opening play and the ball was scooped up by defensive end Kingston Fernandez who returned it for a touchdown.

"We really got after it the O tonight and coach (graduate assistant Mike) Bethea dialed some blitzes today and the guys were playing fast and created havoc," Breske said.

The offense nearly turned the ball over again two plays later when Gabe Marks lost the ball, which rolled out of bounds before a defender could pick it up. Falk's next pass was to the sideline, where freshman cornerback Kevin Griffin made a nice play to break it up.

We couldn't see the next play because of our obstructed view of the stadium, but indications were that Beau Glover made an interception. After the pass disappeared from sight the defensive players on the sideline started cheering and Glover ran back onto the field with the ball in hand. Furthermore, the coaches halted practice after that play and the entire offense was made to do up-downs.

"They came out and they just played a lot harder than we did. We didn't execute very well, they were blitzing pretty much every single play," offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. "We weren't' picking it up, we weren't getting rid of the ball so it looked terrible."

The entire defensive line played well in the scrimmage, notably nose guard Ngalue Tapa who is getting better at using his 6-foot-2, 314-pound body to collapse the pocket by pushing interior linemen back into the quarterback.  Twice the initial pressure generated by Tapa resulted in a sack for defensive end Hercules Mata'afa.

Canada was rarely able to get back to the line of scrimmage and after a sack by Kyle Newsome and some incompletions the first offensive drive ended at midfield.

Peyton Bender took over at quarterback from midfield and did lead the offense on a scoring drive. He got off to a rough start himself, however, taking one of Mata'afa's sacks on his first snap. After intermediate completions to Marks and Barry Ware he finished his drive with a nice touchdown pass to Brett Bartolone from about 10 yards out.

Connor Ennis took the final reps of the scrimmage with the offense and had the ball knocked out of his hands by Mata'afa on his first snap. He hit Ware on the next play, who held onto the ball despite a big hit from Newsome. The hard tackle may have had an impact, however, as Ware dropped his next pass soon after.

The defense left the practice field in good spirits after a clear victory. The offense had more up-downs.



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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