PRACTICE: Cougs have chip on their shoulder

PULLMAN-- If there was one thing that stood out from the practice field on Tuesday, it was how comfortable starting quarterback Jeff Tuel looked at the controls. But it didn't start out that way.

Earlier on Tuesday, Paul Wulff said it was imperative for starting quarterback Jeff Tuel to have a good week of practice and shake off some rust. Tuel certainly looked sharp Tuesday, however things didn't get off to the best start for him. Early on, Tuel was nearly intercepted twice when the starters were lined up against one another.

The first near pick came from DE Travis Long at the line. A few snaps later WIL LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis saw a Tuel pass go through his fingertips. However, Tuel bounced back and had one of his most efficient practices in the last two weeks. The upswing began when he connected on back to back passes with WR Jared Karstetter. Tuel then capped off the two-minute drill when he hit Karstetter in the corner of the end zone for a short TD strike.

Meanwhile in his work against the scout team, Tuel was hitting his WRs in stride consistently for the second straight day.

"I really do," Tuel said when asked if he felt more comfortable. "I said to myself that after the first two minute drill we did at the beginning of practice -- that I feel more comfortable. It just happens after repetitions and I'm feeling very good this week so far."

Tuel added that for his recovery, the last piece to the puzzle isn't anything physical.

"I think it's the mental aspect of it," Tuel said. "Physically I feel fine and I can throw the ball, take the hits, and make the reads but it's the mental part of it. Just feeling comfortable and confident."

ON DEFENSE, there were more happy returns for defensive coordinator Chris Ball with starting MIK LB C.J. Mizell and starting safety Tyree Toomer returning. Toomer was held out of some running drills as he shakes off some bumps and bruises, but he looked fine in his return and spent his day running with the starters. Mizell was also with the 1s and was setting the tempo for a physical practice for the defense.

The defense, said Mizell, was still stinging after the 44-14 loss to Stanford.

"We just came out here fired up after the loss last weekend," Mizell said. "Coach (Wulff) said we have to be physical so that's what we're keying in on doing. We wanted to make sure throughout this week we have very physical days -- because how you practice is how you play."

Mizell said he feels this weekend will be a showcase.

"A lot of people maybe are thinking we're losing again and we handled a cake walk to start the season but we're here to play and fight in every game," Mizell said. "I feel that this game will be a milestone of stepping to let the fans know we're going to keep fighting and we're not going to let down."

TOWARDS THE END of practice, the Cougars did their usual sprint period focusing on execution and timing. The Cougs had two different occasions where they had to start over to complete their 10 perfect 12-yard sprints. The players were gassed, especially the big hosses, however the coaches called overtime mentalities and the players responded.

Although tired, both the offense and defense had a good final period in their work with the scout team. The offense started off a bit sluggish, but the five up front were able to regroup and the play was concise the rest of the way.

There was one injury for the Cougs during the final session, and that was freshman DT T.J. Poloai. Poloai works with the scout team defense, and he appeared to suffer a left ankle injury after getting tangled up with members of the offensive line.

  • Center Andrew Roxas was not at practice Tuesday because of some academic work he needed to get done. Center Matt Goetz continued to run with 1s.

  • RT Wade Jacobson is expected to undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing back. He is expected to apply for a medical hardship waiver and return next season. Having played less than 30 percent of this season before the injury hit, he would appear to be in line to receive it. Dan Spitz has been playing in Jacobson's spot.

    RUNNING WITH THE 1s QB: Jeff Tuel
    X receiver: Marquess Wilson
    Flanker: Isiah Barton
    (Note: Bobby Ratliff also seeing action running with the 1s)
    Z receiver: Jared Karstetter
    TE Andrei Lintz
    LT: David Gonzales
    LG: John Fullington
    C: Matt Goetz
    RG: B.J. Guerra
    RT: Dan Spitz
    RB: Rickey Galvin (Carl Winston and Logwone Mitz also seeing action)

    LE: Lenard Williams
    LT: Toni Pole (Brandon Rankin also seeing reps with 1s)
    RT: Anthony Laurenzi
    RE: Travis Long
    SAM: Sekope Kaufusi
    MIKE: C.J. Mizell
    WILL: Alex Hoffman-Ellis
    CB: Nolan Washington
    SS: Deone Bucannon
    FS: Tyree Toomer (Casey Locker also seeing reps)
    CB: Daniel Simmons (Damante Horton also seeing reps)

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