PRACTICE REPORT: Backs battle for time

PULLMAN -- The mantra of fall camp was competition and that seems to have continued into the regular season with four running backs vying playing time. CF.C talked with coach Paul Wulff about that and the rest of the offense after Wednesday's practice.

With the return of LT David Gonzales (flu), the five up front was complete and looked sharp with one another. The line's performance in both pass protection and the running game was on point and the running backs had a strong practice.

RB Rickey Galvin started out with the 1s Wednesday and he led the charge with a pair of big runs against the 2s through holes created by Gonzales and LG John Fullington. RB Carl Winston also took advantage on a couple of plays by fighting his way up the middle for a pair of 10-yard runs early on.

Wulff was asked whether the success on the ground was the result of improved offensive-line play or talented running backs?

"It's all of it," Wulff said. "The line is working better together the more they work together. The competition at running back, those guys have to play well if they want to get carries. Rickey's playing well, Carl's playing well, and Marcus Mason is moving up the ladder."

Logwone Mitz, a fifth-year senior, also has had a solid week of practice and broke though for some positive gains on Wednesday. The Cougars might run the ball more with the loss of QB Jeff Tuel, who is expected to be sidelined at least four weeks after he broke his left clavicle Saturday against Idaho State, and Wulff added that every guy is going to get opportunities versus UNLV.

"The plan is they're all going (to) have their opportunities, but we have to be smart and put them in the right positions and right situations," Wulff said.

The aerial attack had another positive day with both QBs Marshall Lobbestael and Connor Halliday having solid practices. Lobbestael ran the starters and had success early on spreading the ball around. Lobbestael struggled to find open receivers during the last session, but Wulff said he's been pleased with how the fifth-year senior has competed this week in practice.

"You know in practice we've done some good things," Wulff said. "The offense will have to execute on Saturday but in practice they've done good things."

AS FOR HALLIDAY, he had his best practice of the week and showcased his ability to thread the needle against the 2s on defense. Halliday fired off a perfect 35-yard pass to WR Kristoff Williams that hit the redshirt freshman perfectly in stride for a touchdown. A few plays later, Halliday again fired the ball into traffic and was able to find WR Bennett Bontemps in the end zone for a 15-yard score.

Halliday saw action in the second half of WSU's 64-21 victory against ISU and Wulff said he wasn't sure if the Ferris High School product will see the gridiron against UNLV.

"It's hard to say," Wulff said. "Right now we're going in with Marshall (Lobbestael) and that's the plan. If something dictates for us to play Connor for one reason or another then he'll play."

As for the defense, the story was the lack of able bodies available at the cornerback position. CBs Damante Horton and Brandon Golden were out with the flu, while CB Daniel Simmons was able to practice, but got sick midway through and left Rogers Field early.

CB Tracy Clark jumped in with the 1s opposite of CB Nolan Washington and struggled a bit early. Clark got beat on a couple of plays against the scout team and his teammates were on him about it. But Clark was able to redeem himself late by intercepting walk-on QB Jesse Brown twice, including one on a deep route where he outhustled TE Gordy Anderson.

DE Travis Long returned from his illness and resumed flying all over the field, as usual. S Tyree Toomer also was able to return and showed no affects of being sick.

Horton, Golden, Simmons, LB Mike Ledgerwood (2nd day), Rico Forbes (3rd day), LT Dan Spitz and DE Lenard Williams missed practice because of the flu. Wulff said after practice that it's been a challenge for the coaching staff and he's hoping those sidelined with the illness will be available Saturday.

"It's too bad and it's frustrating," Wulff said. "We have a lot of guys missing practice and it's never a good time in season to go through the flu periods, but our guys are getting back and the ones who are getting sick are generally getting over it in 24 hours. We're hoping to stay healthy.

Wulff said he is less concerned about the players who are sick now than the ones who could become ill later in the week.

"It's the ones who might get it Saturday morning or Friday afternoon where it might be hard on them on Saturday," he said.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • LB Darren Markle also missed practice Wednesday because he was feeling some pain in his back prior to practice.

  • LB Cyrus Coen had a great practice with the 2s on defense. He seemed to be at the right spot on every snap. Coen consistently was getting to the backfield and meeting RBs right at the line of scrimmage.

    RUNNING WITH THE 1s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Marshall Lobbestael
    X receiver: Marquess Wilson
    Flanker: Isiah Barton
    Z receiver: Jared Karstetter (Note: WRs Henry Eaddy and Bobby Ratliff also seeing time with the 1s)
    TE Andrei Lintz
    LT: David Gonzales
    LG: John Fullington
    C: Andrew Roxas
    RG: B.J. Guerra
    RT: Wade Jacobson
    RB: Rickey Galvin (Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston also seeing plenty of reps)
    DEFENSE
    LE: Adam Coerper
    LT: Toni Pole
    RT: Anthony Laurenzi
    RE: Travis Long
    SAM: Sekope Kaufusi
    MIKE: C.J. Mizell
    WILL: Alex Hoffman-Ellis
    CB: Daniel Simmons (Tracy Clark entered when Simmons got sick)
    SS: Deone Bucannon
    FS: Tyree Toomer (Casey Locker also seeing reps)
    CB: Nolan Washington

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