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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


WSU practice fraught with fisticuffs

Temperatures in Pullman broke 60 degrees and tempers similarly simmered in all that heat, with more than a couple fights breaking out during WSU's practice.

Actually, I like to think the players just wanted to impress Vince Grippi, who made his annual spring appearance on Thursday. Grippi will surely have all sorts of keen insights and observations about the Cougars during his morning post, so I'll focus today's practice report a little more on play-by-play than usual.

But first, some news…

-- Defensive back/nickel Calvin Green has been "suspended indefinitely" according to Mike Leach, for a violation of team rules. Leach did not explain what those rules might be, but it's not much of a stretch to assume that the suspension might have something to do with Green's recent legal troubles. Green is not on the WSU roster, currently, so this appears to be a case where Green has been kicked off the team, but might be able to earn his way back on pending completion of some targets set by the coaching staff.

-- So, about the fights. They're pretty typical once the players have been hitting each other for a week or so, and resentment boils up in the offensive players, who are tired of not retaliating to the little pushes and shoves that are constantly thrown by the defensive players. The coaches don't mind the players getting it out of their system, so long as the skirmishes don't start to interfere with practice. Mike Leach explains his fighting philosophy in this video.

-- A couple players who stood out today. Robert Barber continues to impress me at defensive tackle. He looks more explosive than he did last season. … Tavares Martin looks even faster after putting on some muscle. Well, he rather looks like he's finally able to use all of his speed because he's comfortable on the field and not overthinking. … River Cracraft has been one of the team's best blockers all spring, and he sprung a few screens for big gains today. … Shalom Luani has made a similar improvement to Martin – he's playing faster because he's playing more instinctive and he routinely gets to gaps before the offensive player does (granted, he's probably also pretty well-versed in the offensive playbook…). … Luke Falk threw a beauty of a pass from the midfield logo to the back of the end zone, where Gabe Marks caught it under pressure. … Dylan Hanser's big advantage at the rush linebacker spot is that he's very fast chasing down plays that get behind him. While these plays are occasionally the result of him not getting into the right position quickly enough, he's fast enough to chase down backs and limit the damage.

-- On to team period. Jalen Thompson had another good day at safety. He broke up a pass from Tyler Hilinksi to Kyrin Priester early in the session, breaking quickly from his spot in the backfield to punch the ball out on a quick route. On the next play he tackled Jamal Morrow in the backfield for a loss. Hilinski followed with a 25-yard pass to Gabe Marks, and then handed the ball off to James Williams for a seven-yard scamper.

Then Hanser started to make an impact defensively, tackling a receiver in the flat for no gain and sacking Hilinski on the following play. Two plays later, Thompson intercepted Hilinksi's pass, but Williams quickly responded with a 32-yard touchdown, making one quick juke move to get past a linebacker, get to the right sideline and then outrace the defense to the pylon. Marks had another 25-yard reception, and Morrow had a five-yard touchdown run, but the defense came out ahead thanks to Peyton Pelluer's tackle for loss of Williams on a run play, and Hunter Dale's interception in the end zone.

-- The defense continued to play well once Falk took over, with one rather glaring exception. Darrien Molton broke up Falk's first pass, but Gerard Wicks housed a screen pass from 83-yards out on the second play of the period. Hercules Mata'afa sacked Falk on the next play, and the quarterback threw an interception to Charleston White one play later, the ball appearing to slip out of his hand, because there were not any red players near where it landed.

Falk then got into a rhythm, completing mostly short passes as the offense worked its way down the field. Cornerback Willie Roach had a highlight for the defense when he put a big hit on Marks, and Morrow scored a touchdown for the offense on a seven-yard run. Falk found Priester in the end zone for a five-yard score, but the defense won the session according to the scorekeepers.

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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