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Mike Leach pleased with consistency of Washington State’s final scrimmage

WSU backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski smiles at pointers from Coach Leach during spring football practice on  April 6 at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Mike Leach was happy with the consistency shown by both the offense and defense in Washington State’s final Saturday scrimmage before next Saturday’s Crimson and Gray game in Spokane.

“I thought both sides played better. I thought we had good work,” Leach said. “I thought this was more of a battle. One side would get momentum, the other would take it back and we’d go back and forth, back and forth. So I thought that part was good.”

WSU’s wide receivers stole the show. Junior college transfer Easop Winston led all players with 10 catches for 126 yards and three scores, showing impressive command of his duties for a player in his 11th practice with the Cougars.

“He’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen,” quarterback Luke Falk said. “That guy, when you get it near him, he catches it.”

Winston went with the first, second and third units because the Cougars want him to get as many reps as possible this spring. While Winston has played primarily outside receiver in the spring, Leach said he is versatile enough to play inside receiver once he learns the offense.

“He’s got really soft hands. He’s an elusive guy, plays the ball well,” Leach said. “He’s gotten better as time has gone on, for a guy that just got here.”

Tavares Martin had eight catches for 57 yards and three scores, while Dezmon Patmon had four catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Running back James Williams rebounded from a poor showing in last Saturday’s scrimmage by leading the backs in receiving, with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, and rushing, with 39 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

“I feel way better about it. (Last Saturday’s scrimmage) made my whole week just down,” Williams said. “I just had to focus. It was all in my head.”

Starting quarterback Falk and Tyler Hilinski both spun the ball well, with Hilinski playing well enough that Leach called the pair “neck-and-neck” and reiterated that nobody’s starting job is guaranteed.

Falk completed 18 of 29 passes for 210 yards. He threw four touchdown passes, some of which came when the Cougars’ offense started inside the 10-yard line to get additional goal-line work.

Hilinski completed 14 of 21 passes for 156 yards and four touchdowns. Both QBs were intercepted once. Third-string quarterback Anthony Gordon completed 6 of 9 passes for 79 yards and two scores.

On the other side of the ball, the defense’s newest player made the most plays. Grant Porter broke up four passes in just his second practice since moving to cornerback from wide receiver, including two of Hilinski’s on the first drive of the scrimmage. He also made three tackles.

Marcellus Pippins made the day’s first interception when he read Hilinski’s eyes and stepped in front of a quick pass. Danny Bender picked off Falk later in the scrimmage when he quickly diagnosed a screen play and got to the receiver before Falk’s pass did.

The defense had six sacks as well as some crushing blows on their teammates. The thud from defensive lineman Garrett McBroom’s tackle of wide receiver Robert Lewis on a crossing route could be heard throughout Martin Stadium.

The Cougars will have two more practices in Martin Stadium before the Crimson and Gray Game at Albi Stadium at 2 p.m. Saturday. While defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said he still sees “a million mistakes” from the team, he also sees “a million opportunities.”

“It always feels when you walk off the field and can say everything is perfect, and it never is,” Grinch said. “When the defensive line doesn’t react to a screen, well now you get a chance to coach them on it. If a DB gets beat over the top, why was that? You can coach and hopefully be better for it.”