PULLMAN – In the week leading up to the second scrimmage of the spring, Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff emphasized it was time for the offense to take some strides.
After a little more than an hour on a clear, warm Saturday morning at Martin Stadium, did he get what he asked for?
“Absolutely,” Wulff said. “I think we cleaned up a lot of things schematically and execution-wise – we still made mistakes, but from a teaching perspective I think we cleaned a lot of things up.”
In a scrimmage notable for the sound of popping pads, the Cougars’ offense scored three times. And one of those scores – a 3-yard run by Logwone Mitz – culminated a 70-yard drive matching the top offense with the second-team defense.
But there was one area in which WSU dropped the ball, literally.
“The obvious (problem) right now is dropped balls,” Wulff said. “That has kind of been a hindrance for us for a while.”
Then Wulff called out the four scholarship receivers – Gino Simone, Daniel Blackledge, Jared Karstetter and Jeffrey Solomon – on the roster, though not by name.
“(It’s) a good thing we’ve got seven new receivers coming in for the fall,” Wulff said. “They are going to (raise) the competition to a much higher level. The performance has not been consistent enough in that position.
“They’ve got to catch them. They have to focus and get their job done. If not, we’ve got to get somebody who can.”
The quarterbacks – Jeff Tuel, Marshall Lobbestael and David Gilbertson – finished a combined 16 of 27 for 160 yards, though those numbers could have been higher after at least three drops.
But there were also a couple of exceptional catches, most notably Kartstetter’s 12-yard diving touchdown reception of a Lobbestael throw to the back right corner of the end zone.
This was a day to showcase the running backs, though. The two healthy backs – Mitz and Leon Brooks – carried the ball 24 times, something Wulff said was planned.
“We wanted to challenge those guys,” he said. “We want to see them carry it not four or six times in a scrimmage, we would like to see some guys carry the ball 15, 20 times to see how they handle that.”
Bring it on, said the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Mitz, who had 64 yards on 16 carries.
“I feel like I could thrive if I could do that,” said the junior, who missed the first part of spring with a concussion. “At the same time, we need to be in shape for that. With the offense we’ve been running and the way we’ve been rotating the running backs, I’m not used to it.”
He will be, Wulff said.
“There’s no question Logwone needs (to get a lot of carries),” Wulff said. “We need to find out if he’s a Pac-10 player week in and week out. He showed flashes today again.”
One of his flashes came on the first of 52 plays, a 17-yard burst off right tackle. And, like his 3-yard TD run on which he was untouched, the opening play was blocked well.
“They’re getting after it,” fifth-year defensive end Kevin Kooyman said of the offensive line.
Kooyman and the defense also got after it at times, despite the absence of starting safety Chima Nwachukwu, attending a student athletic representatives workshop.
Backups such as Jamal Atofau and Casey Locker brought some big hits and starting corner Daniel Simmons came up with an interception, diving to gather in a tipped pass.
“We’ve got to change the momentum and the tempo of the games,” Kooyman said of the defense. “We’re emphasizing coming out a little intense. It’s good to see some people popping pads and getting after it.”
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