Cougs ramp up the tempo

PULLMAN – A successful practice week is like a train gathering speed. It builds and builds, up to and through when players hit the field Saturday. There was a notable increase in energy on Wednesday with the Cougs, and the defense was leading the way.

The action opened up with 11-on-11's where the first team offense and defense matched up head to head. The offense had the D's number early on, with the o-line leading the way for running backs James Montgomery and Carl Winston to burst through some big holes for large gains.

"I think for a Wednesday it was a solid practice," Wulff said. "You continue to clean things up from your practice video every day to the game. We have to get better tomorrow and off of Thursday's video for Friday night meetings, we've got to clean the final things up. Hopefully everything mentally is where it needs to be by Saturday."

After allowing some running yards, the defense picked it up a notch, and were sound for the rest of the day. Safety Chima Nwachukwu participated in his second consecutive practice in the yellow no-contact jersey, but went at it full speed.

"The doctors cleared me to go," Nwachukwu told CF.C. "I actually had a concussion, they reported it wrong, but I had a concussion and the doctors cleared me on Tuesday so I feel ready to go."

The tempo for the Cougars on Wednesday was noticeably sped up, with bodies flying all over the field and the constant switching in and out of players similar to Tuesday.

"We know how good they are, they've pretty much always been good," Nwachukwu said of USC. "We know it's going to be a real physical game."

On the defensive line, starters DT Brandon Rankin and Bernard Wolfgramm saw an increased amount of time getting reps in after being rested on Tuesday. DT Justin Clayton and Rankin spent the majority of the time running with the 1's, but Wolfgramm looked fresh while with the 2's. Wolfgramm has been battling a lingering shoulder injury, but Wulff said the senior d-tackle is pointing towards Saturday.

"These last two days he's made practice which has been the first time that's happened since Oklahoma State so that's been really positive," Wulff said. "We need him to keep coming along because he's obviously a solid player for us and so far it looks good."

CB Anthony Carpenter also returned to the field on Wednesday after missing the last two days with a hamstring injury. Carpenter saw plenty of action running with the 1's splitting time with both CB's Nolan Washington and Daniel Simmons.

To close out practice, Wulff had the offense and defense battle it out for five minutes -- the first team and second team defense did not allow a single first down.

On the first play to open up the 11-on-11's, Rankin and Clayton bulled through the offensive line, and Rankin got to Tuel for the sack. On the ensuing play Simmons tackled the ballcarrier behind the line of scrimmage for a short loss.

"The attitude is good, we cut time out of practice to try and speed up the drills," Wulff said. "I think that helped, we had to hustle because we cut time out of every drill to speed up the tempo."

The lone highlight for the offense in the final moments was a pass from Tuel to WR Isiah Barton, but the offense couldn't gain much else against the D. USC's defense may be younger than in years past, but that won't mean a thing if the Cougs don't execute.

"They're very talented but we're still going to have to execute no matter what," Wulff said of USC. "Not that they just give you anything because they're young. They're still where they need to be, they're just not what a typical veteran football player would be but that goes across anywhere in the country.

"We're just hoping we execute up front and when we have the opportunity to throw the football we take advantage of it, and we should have opportunities to complete balls," Wulff said.

NOTABLE NOTE:
LG Tyson Pencer (groin), CB Aire Justin (hip) , and LB Eric Oertel (hamstring) all missed practice for the third straight day.


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