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WSU practice notes: Defense gets its mojo back

All that running after Tuesday's practice must have resonated with Washington State's defensive players, who came up with five interceptions on Wednesday.

Two of the interceptions came on passes thrown by Luke Falk and three came on attempts by Peyton Bender. It was an interesting day for both quarterbacks, because for the first time this season, Bender led the first-team offense during the team period and Falk led the second-team.

"I thought similar to what I expected, I think (Bender) did well," Leach said. "And I think really, both of them did a lot of good things in the course of practice. They both turned it over, which, that irritated me on both sides IWE turned it over in (the skeleton drill) and we turned it over in team. It was similar tow hat I expected, minus the turnovers."

Falk was a little more aggressive than he typically is during team period, throwing downfield more often than I'm used to seeing and his first four completions went for about 12, 13, 13 and 20 yards. The defense tightened up after those initial completions, though, and Jeremiah Allison and Destiny Vaeao each recorded sacks. When the offense got to the 12-yard line Falk was intercepted by Darrien Molton, who snared his pass about two yards in front of the goal line. The offense moved five yards closer to the goal line (as they do after every play during team) and Falk took another shot, this time getting picked off in front of the goal line by linebacker Chandler Leniu. Falk's final pass was a rocket out the back of the end zone that missed Kyrin Priester.

Bender threw well early during his time at the helm of the offense, moving swiftly down the field with intermediate passes and more run plays than he often calls. Gerard Wicks sprung free for about 11 yards down the left sideline thanks to a great block from Priester. Bender then made a couple of his best throws since coming to WSU, spinning a ball to Gabe Marks about 20-yards downfield with two defenders bearing down on him, and then finding Marks up the seam for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Bender connected with Marks, again, for a touchdown from seven-yards out after Darryl Paulo broke up a pas, but he threw a pick-six to Shalom Luani on the final play of the scrimmage.

Here is what else I saw at today's practice:

-- Charleston White was back in pads today and participated in some skeleton drill stuff, although he was still limited for the most part. In addition to White, Pat Porter and Daniel Ekuale were limited during Wednesday's practice.

-- David Bucannon got some work at cornerback with the second team on Wednesday.  The redshirt junior previously played safety.

-- The wide receivers ran a lot of vertical routes during the WR vs. DB drill today, and had a pretty easy time of it. Robert Lewis, Zaire Andre, River Cracraft, Dom Williams and C.J. Dimry were among the receivers that scored by racing in a straight line past their defender.

Ironically, it was the shorter stuff where the receivers struggled. Dimry showed impressive athleticism for someone his size on a curl route, sprinting in a straight line and stopping in his tracks to create separation from the defender, but he then dropped the pass.

Former receiver Calvin Green made life difficult for D.J. Thompson once the drill went to the goal line. Green blanketed Thompson on consecutive routes over the middle, intercepting one pass.

Green has been playing safety since switching to defensive back and has taken to the position pretty naturally. Offensive line coach Clay McGuire, who helped recruit Green, pointed out to me after practice that Green played defensive back in high school and some colleges recruited him thinking he would play in the secondary.

-- Zach Charme handled punting duties on Wednesday and had the best day of any WSU punter since the start of camp, in my opinion. His punts consistently went 45-plus yards and had a good deal of hangtime.

Erik Powell handled the kickoffs and did fine. The kickoff unit appears to be a mix of starters and second teamers. Today it was: Tavares Martin Jr., Jamal Morrow, Colton Teglovic, Darius Lemora, Peyton Pelluer, Parker Henry, Kache Palacio, Ivan McLennan, Jeremiah Allison and Frankie Luvu. While Martin Jr., a 6-foot-1, 165-pound freshman, may seem a little small for kickoff coverage, special teams coach Eric Mele explained that he is the "safety," on the field for his speed and to make sure the return man doesn't get too far upfield if the initial coverage breaks down.

-- The skeleton period did not go so well for Bender, who threw an interception on the second play of both of his sessions. Luke Falk had the best throw of the drill, lofting a pass to Kyrin Priester over Marcellus Pippins in the end zone. He also found Robert Lewis for a short touchdown after Lewis broke open with a crisp out route.

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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