A daily fall practice update from The Spokesman-Review’s Washington State beat writer, Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR). We set the scene, list the day’s important notes, highlight one big play, pick the standouts and slip-ups, track the quarterback race and dissect one talking point from post-practice interviews.
Setting the scene
Where: Rogers Field/Martin Stadium in Pullman
Start/finish: 3:30 p.m./6:30 p.m.
Temperature: 82 degrees, sunny
Equipment: Full pads
- It was the third consecutive day for Anthony Gordon and Gage Gubrud splitting the quarterback reps. So if it wasn’t certain after Wednesday’s practice Trey Tinsley is out of the mix, it sure seems to be now. We focus more on the quarterbacks down below, but here’s what Mike Leach had to say about both: “I thought Gordon moved it real well, I thought Gage did some good things but we have to look at the film. Both positive. I thought it was up and down the first round on offense. I thought it was pretty steady the second.”
- Leach was unhappy with the attitude and behavior of his receivers after the 1-on-1 period, so he gathered them into a huddle and offered some, err, instruction before moving on with the practice: “I didn’t think we were as highly motivated in the 1-on-1 period as we could’ve been til the end. We have too many little nuancy excuses. ‘Well, I thought this guy was going to do that.’ I don’t care what you thought that guy was going to do, worry about what you’re going to do.”
- Cornerback Armani Marsh saw time with the No. 1 defense for the third straight day. Wednesday, he and Derrick Langford were the first team cornerbacks. Thursday, it was Marsh and Marcus Strong.
- As we note below, defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo didn’t participate in yet another practice, so the Cougars bumped redshirt sophomore Christian Mejia to the first team.
- The kickers attempted three field goals Thursday. Blake Mazza missed from 43 yards out, but recovered by making a 45-yarder. Mazza’s backup, Jack Crane, was good from 43 yards. The Cougars seemed to be simulating short clock scenarios. On each of the three field goals, the offense ran one play before the field goal unit was quickly ushered onto the field.
- Matt Brock offered Thursday’s “Special Teams Player of the Day” honor to Tay Martin, who showed “relentless effort” during punt coverage drills Thursday.
- The Cougars will hold a shortened, half-padded practice on Friday that will serve as a walkthrough leading up to Saturday’s second scrimmage, which will start at 1:30 p.m. at Martin Stadium. All scrimmages are open to the public.
- These were Thursday’s non-participants: quarterback John Bledsoe, offensive lineman Jarrett Kingston, wide receiver Jamire Calvin, linebacker Dillon Sherman, wide receiver Billy Pospisil, linebacker David Aldapa, defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo and defensive lineman Ahmir Crowder. Wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. returned to practice after not participating Thursday, though the “X” had a scary moment when he crashed into the brick wall behind the left corner of the end zone. Jackson Jr. was shaken up, but eventually returned to the field. Offensive lineman Josh Watson also returned. Christian Haangana was not in attendance.
One big play
Last year against Oregon, “H” receiver Travell Harris made one of the game’s signature plays when the 5-foot-9, 180-pound redshirt freshman leapt over two bigger, taller defensive backs to snag a pass from Gardner Minshew at a crucial juncture of the game.
Well, this wasn’t quite that, but with Anthony Gordon’s unit stationed in the red zone, Harris ran a short route that carried him into the middle of the end zone, then fought off 6-foot, 215-pound linebacker Hank Pladson for a 50/50 ball, essentially stripping it out of Pladson’s hands and holding on to complete the play.
(the play can be found at the 3:44 mark below)
Standouts & slip-ups
Standout: From “slip-up” to “standout” in just a day. Armani Marsh struggled to contain WSU’s big, rangy, athletic outside receivers yesterday, but the redshirt sophomore cornerback from Spokane recovered Thursday and made a number of plays on the ball during the team period toward the end of practice
Slip-up: The quarterbacks can afford the occasional error at this point, but Gage Gubrud encountered a long string of them during Thursday’s team period, misfiring on a handful of throws and absorbing a pair of sacks. Not until the final two plays of Gubrud’s series did the quarterback complete consecutive passes and his percentage, mentioned below, was the worst it’s been since the Eastern Washington transfer put on a WSU uniform.
Of course, Gubrud wasn’t at fault for every mistake. Receivers run bad routes, offensive linemen miss assignments and running backs forget to pick up the occasional block. One of Gubrud’s passes fell in and out of Rodrick Fisher’s usually reliable hands.
But all that considered, Gubrud never got into a rhythm and if he does concede the starting job to Gordon, we may be looking back at Thursday’s practice as a landmark day in the decision-making process.
Keeping up with the QBs
Don’t look too much into the order, but after Gordon took Wednesday’s first drive, it was Gubrud who got the first snaps, followed by his contender.
It took the grad transfer four plays to complete his first pass, a deep hail mary to Tay Martin down the left sideline after the defensive line jumped offside, giving th eoffense a free play. Aside from a few balls coming off receivers’ hands, most of Gubrud’s balls were overthrown or a miscommunicated play led the QB to throw into an open, unoccupied patch of turf.
At one point, Gubrud was just 3-of-9 passing, but his unit picked it up a bit in the red zone and the QB completed consecutive passes to Renard Bell and to Brandon Arconado,who caught Gubrud’s pass for a touchdown on a slant pattern. So, Gubrud finished just 5-of-11 with one touchdown and two sacks.
Gordon, meanwhile, came out hot, hitting on his first eight passes before the previously mentioned incompletion to Jackson Jr. Among those first eight was a deep strike to City College of San Francisco pal Easop Winston Jr., who gained a few steps on his man and cradled in a pass over the shoulder before bolting away for what was estimated to be an 80-yard score.
The redshirt senior hit a brief rough patch in the middle of his drive, throwing four straight incomplete passes, but he finished strong with a touchdown to Harris and a rushing touchdown on the second to last play.
Who had the edge: This portion wasn’t too hard today. Gordon, by about five lengths of the football field.
“It’s definitely going to cause some mismatches because we each do things differently and Jamire (Calvin), he’s quick. They’re fast, I’m physical. So we’re definitely going to create some mismatches out there, against some linebackers and corners. I just feel like nobody can hold us, as long as we do what we’re supposed to do, known our assignments and do what we’ve gotta do on the field.”
– Redshirt freshman Kassidy Woods, a 6-foot-4 slotback, talks about how he and fellow “Y” receivers can create mismatches for opponents this season.
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