Practice with a cold splash

Tuesday was supposed to be a day in which the Cougars got a chance to be more physical against each other during team period. Well, almost. The players were dressed in shells, and while they were allowed to be more physical, there was a limitation on hitting others. The crossing of that limitation led to an angry Coach Mendenhall, a shortened practice and an icy cold dip.

The clock buzzer blew, signaling an end to a period of 11-on-11. The teams trotted over the near side field for the final two periods of practice, the offense on one side and the defense on the other.

Quarterback Riley Nelson and the first-team offense took to the field. On the opposite side, the first-team defense was riled up and ready to go.

The players were supposed to go three-quarter speed, but since the two sides had been held back all fall camp, that sparked high energy like two caged dogs getting ready to be let loose from their cages.

Four plays into the scrimmage is when things went downhill. Nelson hooked up with Michael Alisa, who busted to the outside. Coming downhill was Kat safety Daniel Sorensen, who tagged Alisa very aggressively to the point of knocking him to the ground.

Alisa took exception to the hard tag and a scuffle ensued. Coach Mendenhall quickly asserted his authority, and in the end Sorensen was sent to the locker room. But after someone made a comment that Coach Mendenhall didn't approve of, the team was gathered together. Sorensen, meanwhile, was brought back to the practice field.

The equipment crew went right to work setting up trashcans with ropes attached, and then piled up padded bags in stacks of two, three and then four. Coaches barked out the calls, and the players instantly lined up for two periods of grueling conditioning through the obstacle course, which was set up near the large pools of icy water reserved for ice baths at the end of practice.

One by one the players did up-downs and pushups and then jumped over the obstacles as they pushed through. Once completed, the players then had to jump in the icy waters of the pools and completely submerge themselves. Then they had to jog back to do it all over again.

"It was fun and it's all part of the experience. It's all part of fall camp," said Nelson. "We're all excited to get back out here again tomorrow."

Always finding the positive as the leader of the team, Nelson put his best foot forward when fielding questions from the media on what had just transpired.

"I trust Coach Mendenhall's decision making 100 percent, so that was the best thing possible that we can do for the team," said Nelson. "And he decided to practice that way and we did."

Was this something needed in order to stir team unity? Given some recent discipline issues with some key starters, did Coach Mendenhall sense more team discipline was needed? It remains to be seen how Tuesday's developments at the end of practice will affect the team on Wednesday.

"We'll see, and we'll come out tomorrow and see how we practice," Nelson said with a chuckle. "We've got [two-a-days] tomorrow and a scrimmage on Thursday. I can't say much to that and we'll have to wait and see what fruits that yielded."

For Nelson, the result of cutting team period short to gather the team in for more conditioning didn't serve as a motivational factor or inspire unity.

"No, it takes away reps," Nelson said, doing his best to not look frustrated or disappointed about not being able to get valuable reps. "We didn't get to run some of plays that we didn't run in our eleven-on-eleven session, but yeah, we did that because Coach Mendenhall sees that as what's the best thing possible for our team. So, you know, I support him 100 percent."

Although a little disappointed, Nelson feels the team will be fine despite the cut in Tuesday's practice.

"We skipped, what, two periods out of 29 practices? We'll be alright," Nelson said.

Everyone will have to wait until Wednesday to see how the team responds to Tuesday's shortened practice,e which ended in a icy cold splash.

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