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WSU’s Pippins passes test

Leach says true-freshman cornerback ‘quite impressive’ in first start of career

Vince Mayle caught 15 passes for 252 yards Saturday and set school records for catches (101) and yards (1,405) in a season. (Associated Press)
Vince Mayle caught 15 passes for 252 yards Saturday and set school records for catches (101) and yards (1,405) in a season. (Associated Press)

TEMPE, Ariz. – On the first play of Saturday’s game Arizona State tried to pick on the new guy. It didn’t work.

The Sun Devils sent running back D.J. Foster up the far side of the field, daring Marcellus Pippins to make a play in coverage against one of the Pac-12’s most dynamic players.

“I kind of expected it because I haven’t played (much),” Pippins said. “So when they threw it to me I was like, this is my time to make a play. So I made a play.”

Pippins ran stride for stride with Foster and batted down the pass. He showed similar instincts later, soundly tackling an ASU receiver 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a quick pass.

“I really did think it was impressive,” coach Mike Leach said. “I thought he played better than he does in practice and for really a first start, I thought it was quite impressive.”

Testing Pippins wasn’t a bad idea. He played his first college snap two weeks ago, late in Washington State’s win over Oregon State, when Daquawn Brown was ejected in the fourth quarter and the Cougars had literally no one else to turn to.

Pippins continued playing alongside Brown in the second half Saturday.

He played well enough in practice during the last two weeks to start on Saturday, but he was still the third true freshman the Cougars tried at cornerback this season, and a mostly untested one.

Opposite Brown, the Cougars have had a conga line of players at cornerback and Pippins became the sixth Cougar and third true freshman to start for WSU at the position in 2014.

Leach has said in the past that the young defensive backs are not attacking the opportunities they are being given despite all expressing desires to play early. Pippins may have played late compared to the other freshman corners, but so far he’s also played the best.

Mayle racks up records

On the first play of WSU’s second drive Luke Falk completed one of the day’s best passes, placing the ball right on Vince Mayle’s outside shoulder to lead him away from a nearby defender. Mayle caught the pass in stride and turned up field, turning an intermediate pass into a 45-yard gain.

Few other receivers could make such a large gain seem so insignificant. It’s easy to lose track of any one big play Mayle makes when he’s in the midst of making a school-record 15 receptions for 252 yards.

The 15 receptions give him 101 catches this season, also a school record, and he now has the most receiving yards of any player in WSU history with 1,405, with one game still to go.

Washington State’s opposite outside receiver is climbing the record books as well. Isiah Myers hauled in a 20-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter of Saturday’s game, giving him 12 on the season, which is tied for No. 2 all-time at WSU.

Additionally, running back Jamal Morrow made four catches on Saturday, giving him 61 this season and breaking Steve Broussard’s record of 59 receptions in a season by a back, which he set in 1987.

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