The thunderclaps that rocked resonated over the Sacajawea Junior High fields provided an awesome accompaniment to WSU's practice.
The lightning, however, proved problematic. The NCAA recommends (strongly) that players and coaches leave the field and enter a safe site (in this case the SJH gymnasium) by the time the time lighting is within six miles of the practice or game sight. (Or, about 30 seconds or less between seeing lightning and hearing thunder). Teams are then told to wait at least 30 minutes from the last lightning strike before returning to the field.
So, with monstrous raindrops coming down in the 100-plus degree heat a cacophony of thunder all around, the Cougars took a break. Coach Mike Leach didn't seem to mind much, saying afterward that the team treated it like halftime and that he felt the players responded well to the unexpected disruption.
When we weren't dodging three-fluid-ounce raindrops, here's what we saw at practice:
-- To my mind, Gabe Marks had his best practice of preseason camp. When he's locked in – I'm not sure he has been every practice – he's able to get separation on virtually every play, and he sure didn't make the WR vs. DB drill for Marcellus Pippins. Even when Pippins stayed with him, Marks seemed to find a way to make the play. Such as one play when he slid, high school baseball style into the end zone while using his fingertips to reel in a pass and secure the football against his hip.
-- Erik Powell took all the field goal attempts during today's practice, hitting from about 22, 27, 37, 42 and 47 yards. He also made a kick to end practice with the knowledge that every player but he would have to run if he missed.
-- Still some missing players for the Cougars: Barry Ware, Treshon Broughton, Calvin Green, Thomas Toki still aren't in Lewiston from what I can see. I didn't see T.J. Fehoko, either, but he's been around. The limited players were C.J. Dimry, Brett Schafer, Dylan Hanser, Matt Abramo and Destiny Vaeao.
-- With Vaeao somewhat limited, Hercules Mata'afa took reps as the first team defensive end during the team period.
-- Tavares Martin Jr. made a nice play during the skelly drill on a crossing route, weaving back toward the line of scrimmage to avoid a defender and showing enough speed to ruin the pursuit angles of other nearby defenders.
-- Peyton Bender's first pass of team period was an interception, but it wasn't his fault. Bender's pass bounced off the hands of receiver Kyle Sweet, was batted up in the air by safety Hunter Dale and caught by linebacker Chandler Leniu. Bender's response to the interception was impressive, however. Two plays later he saw Tyler Baker blaze past Dale in the middle of the field and lofted a high-arcing pass into his hands for what would have been a long touchdown. Leniu broke up the next pass, and Bender completed his next five. Later, after Parker Kirkland broke up a pass and Kyrin Priester dropped another, Bender threw touchdown passes to Jamal Morrow and Baker, who found a space between defenders in the back of the end zone just wide enough for Bender to squeeze the ball through.
-- The first team offensive line struggled a bit during Luke Falk's session, giving up two sacks and getting called for a false start. When Falk did have time, he hit his marks, such as a nice pass to Robert Lewis on a post route after the receiver shook Shalom Luani with a quick fake. He also found Dom Williams for a touchdown from about 25-yards out and tossed another scoring pass to Gerard Wicks.