PRACTICE REPORT: Cougs crank it on full

PULLMAN—Out on the gridiron, the defensive players are usually the group who get the most amped up after a good play – it's the nature of things to go a little wild after a big hit or a big stop. But during the Cougs' Tuesday practice, it was the offense who had a spirited case of the hops.

It was near freezing Tuesday evening but the intensity of the players on the practice field was red hot. There were bodies flying around throughout, with the No. 1 units grabbing takeaways and turning in big plays.

The defense was as vocal as it's been all season. And then before the final session, the offense got together and erupted -- jumping up and down to set the tone for the final 10 minutes.

"We're very hungry," senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis said. "We play this game to win, we don't just play it to compete. We don't play for that moral victory (bleep). We're hungry to get over there and do work."

The defense wasn't perfect, but they had one of their best practices this season -- primarily in their preparations against the scout team. A major focus for defensive coordinator Chris Ball has been forcing turnovers, and his unit did just that on Tuesday.

Over a 10-minute stretch, the D hauled in three interceptions off scout team QBs Cody Clements and Jesse Brown. The interceptions came from Hoffman-Ellis, LB Chester Sua and CB Tracy Clark. Granted, scout team QBs are throwing off a card to a preordained receiver or spot. Still, all three picks came on sharp looking plays by the D.

"It's good for us," Hoffman-Ellis said. "We have to practice how we want to play and if you don't make plays in practice you're not going to make them in the game. It's definitely an added emphasis for us that if you get your hands on the ball you have to pick it and go for the strip."

PRACTICE ENDED WITH safety Deone Bucannon dropping an earth shattering hit on a scout team player that led to an eruptive celebration from the entire defense. It was an appropriate way to end practice after a hard fought two hour session.

The offense maintained a high tempo from the opening whistle. QB Marshall Lobbestael started off practice 5-of-6 in the two minute clutch drill, connecting with three different WRs. The Cougar offense had good energy throughout and although they hit a rough spot, they overcame it.

"We started out well during clutch with some completions and we protected well," Lobbestael said. "I thought we kind of leveled out in the middle but we ended practice really well. We ended with some passion and intensity and that's going to be important for us over the last few games."

Lobbestael showed solid decision making on the day. Although he was threading the needle on several completions, he also got out of the pocket and threw the ball away when options weren't there.

"I just have to be smarter with the ball," Lobbestael said of two costly turnovers against Oregon this past weekend. "Obviously in the red-zone I made some critical errors… On Sunday I was extremely mad with myself, and was mad all day, but I realized Sunday night that dwelling wasn't going to make me better. I have to learn from it, bite the bullet but make sure to get better from it. This week for me I want to be consistent all around."

THE COUGS SAW several players return from injury. DT Kalafitoni Pole, WR Kristoff Williams and LB Mike Ledgerwood were all back at practice though in yellow no-contact jerseys. All three were limited in practice and spent most of their days participating during position drills, but were held out of live action.

Over on the offensive line, starting RT Dan Spitz was able to return to practice after missing Monday due to illness.

One other note -- the offensive line as a whole did a find job of protecting Lobbestael, and did a good job of opening up holes for the ground game.

Running with the 1s:
QB: Marshall Lobbestael
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 (Andrew Roxas also getting reps)
RG: B.J. Guerra
RT: Dan Spitz
RB: Carl Winston (Rickey Galvin and Logwone Mitz also seeing action)

LE: Lenard Williams
LT: Brandon Rankin (Justin Clayton also getting reps)
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 action running with the 1s)
CB: Damante Horton (Daniel Simmons also seeing reps)

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