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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougars ramp up the competition on practice field

PULLMAN – At some point in recent weeks, some of Washington State’s football defensive regulars started comparing practice statistics. Every team places importance on competition, so linebacker Cyrus Coen and his teammates created one among themselves, playing for bragging rights and keeping track of who was winning, and losing, each day. “Me, Darryl Monroe, Jeremiah Allison, Kache Palacio, we all have that competition every day in practice, who can make the most tackles or a big play at practice and during the game, as well,” Coen said. Those daily contests come on top of inter-positional battles generated by the WSU coaches’ willingness to demote starters in favor of the current hot hand in practice. Only Palacio, cornerback Daquawn Brown and nose tackle Xavier Cooper have started each game. No starting position has been more competitive than free safety, which has flipped between Taylor Taliu and Sulaiman Hameed five times. While injuries, which the team does not discuss, occasionally play a role, the churn the Cougars have seen on defense is mostly due to the fact that most positions remain a competition for the starting spot, even heading into the 11th game of the season. Even Monroe, who entered the season having started every game since Mike Leach became the head coach, is trying to reclaim his starting spot from Peyton Pelluer, a hustling redshirt freshman. “If a guy really wants to play he doesn’t want to get beat out,” Leach said. “If a guy doesn’t care to play and just wants to sit around with his hand out and pick up little trinkets and awards, then maybe it has a different thing.” Coen, who has started the last nine games, says that seeing his teammates being replaced by more assertive backups keeps him motivated. “Every day is a battle for your job. No one has a set job and it’s good, it makes us better, it makes our teammates better,” he said. “We’re always challenging each other and that’s how strong and powerful competition is.” Mayle semifinalist WSU’s Vince Mayle is one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award that is given to college football’s top receiver. Mayle ranks No. 4 nationally with a school-record 86 receptions and No. 5 with 1,152 receiving yards in 10 games. His receiving yards rank No. 4 in school history for a season and he set the WSU record for most receiving yards in a game with 263 against California earlier this season. He is the first Cougar to come this close to winning the award since Jason Hill was a finalist in 2005. The award, presented by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club, has opened its online fan vote on the award website. The aggregate fan vote will count as one vote to determine finalists and the eventual winner. Apple Cup at night The Apple Cup rivalry game with Washington will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29, the Pac-12 announced Monday. The 107th meeting between the schools will be televised on Fox Sports 1. UW has won three of the last four matchups against the Cougars, but WSU has won three of the last five played in Pullman.