Arm-tackling Cougs aim to 'wrap up' this week

PULLMAN – The Cougs were back to full-contact drills Tuesday as they look to salve their Stillwater wounds with a big Saturday against Montana State. Tackling was a major emphasis, but it was an INT by a young corner that got tongues wagging. Meanwhile, Jared Karstetter showed no ill effects from his concussion at OSU but injuries at DT and LB surfaced. And taking it all in were some NFL scouts.

Tuesday's practice was definitely one to watch for a variety of reasons.

One of the key themes coming out of the Cougars' meltdown at Oklahoma State was the tackling, or lack there of. Broken tackles by running back Kendall Hunter and significant yards-after-catch by the receivers were constants for the Cowboys' offense.

On Tuesday, the Cougs went straight to work on improving that aspect of their game. The D spent serious time in a form tackling drill that was supervised and critiqued heavily by co-defensive coordinators Jody Sears and Chris Ball, defensive line coach Malik Roberson, linebackers coach Travis Niekamp, and graduate assistant Chad Eaton.

Ball, on Saturday, took the blame for the Cougars' penchant for arm-tackling, saying he erred during August workouts on keeping players healthy by cutting back some on full-contact drills.

Although basic, "wrapping up" was a major focus Tuesday, and if any slip up or inconsistency was viewed, the entire coaching staff was ready to pounce and correct mistakes.

"Tackling is one thing you can correct -- it's not something that's permanent and you can't fix," said starting safety Tyree Toomer, who led the Cougs with eight stops at OSU. "It's part of the game, it's simple. We've been tackling since we first started playing this game. We just did a poor job of tackling on Saturday and that's why we gave up a ton of rush yards."

The defense spent the majority of the day matched up against the scout team offense. Toomer said he is confident the D can make a quick turnaround and knows preventing Montana State's success on the ground game will be key.

"They like to run the ball so we're expecting a lot of run, and also they will mix it up with some pass, but the main thing we want to do is stop their run," Toomer said. "What you guys saw last Saturday was not the Cougar defense, but this Saturday you're going to see the real Cougar defense."

FCS schools are often overlooked, but Toomer reiterated on Tuesday that the Cougars are focused on the Bobcats.

"Oh it's very important," said Toomer, when asked about the game's weight in light of the chorus of boo birds who came out following the OSU debacle. "We didn't do a good job in the season opener and we knew that wasn't us out there. The way we played is not how we've been practicing so this Saturday it will be a huge step for us to take to come out aggressively and lay out the first punch."

Over on the defensive line, tackle Bernard Wolfgramm was a spectator Tuesday after sustaining a shoulder injury on Monday night. Justin Clayton stepped in and saw action running with the 1s opposite Brandon Rankin. In addition, MLB Mike Ledgerwood sat out most of practice with what looked to be a shoulder injury. He was packed up with ice during the middle stages of practice. With Ledgerwood out, Alex Hoffman-Ellis saw some action at the MLB spot, while Hallston Higgins moved over to Hoffman-Ellis' WILL position.

The play of the afternoon belonged to true freshman cornerback Damonte Horton who had an outstanding interception while running with the 1s against the scout team. QB Connor Halliday through a deep bomb that missed everybody, but Horton didn't give up on the play. He ran at a blistering pace and dove full extension with his body completely parallel to the turf and somehow managed to haul in the ball. It was not only the play of the day, but possibly the practice play of the season so far.

Meanwhile on offense, Karstatter returned to the field, in the customary yellow no-contact jersey for players returning from injury. He showed no ill effects from the hit he took against OSU, and although matched up primarily against the scout-team D, the Ferris High product looked impressive throughout and grabbed a couple of 30-yard-plus catches from QB Jeff Tuel.

At running back, junior Logwone Mitz of Redmond saw increased time running with the 1s, as did true sophomore Carl Winston, whose would-be redshirt for this season was burned Saturday after Rickey Galvin broke his arm in the first quarter. James Montgomery and Chantz Staden appear to be the top cats at RB, but Mitz looked solid on Tuesday making nice cuts and showing off a great burst of speed. The RBs got some good efforts from the offensive line, which again saw some more mixing and matching, as detailed in another CF.C story on the front page.

NOTABLE: Scouts from the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints were on hand for practice Tuesday, as was a scout from the St. Louis Rams.

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