PRACTICE REPORT: Cougs in a fighting mood

PULLMAN- When Paul Wulff blew the final whistle to end practice Tuesday night, he expected everyone to be ready to go home. They weren't. The Cougars had just capped a solid session, and they weren't ready for it to end.

When Paul Wulff signaled the players over for the post practice huddle, they just weren't having it. The starters on offense and defense were adamant, and the players on the sidelines joined in. Everyone begged Wulff for one last play.

Wulff was reluctant at first, but the protests continued and got louder to where he finally let the offense and defense line-up go at it for one more snap. QB Connor Halliday hit WR Jared Karstetter for a 15-yard gain on the play. The offense exploded, the entire unit circling together and getting their jump on.

The reason it occurred in the first place? DT Brandon Rankin and LG John Fullington. On what was supposed to be the last play of the night, the two continued after a running play ended, going head to head in some extra curriculars. The pair had to be separated by teammates, and the hoots and hollers ensued. It was the culmination of a trend this practice.

ALTHOUGH THE TEMPERATURE had dropped to 28 degrees, the mood on the gridiron was red-hot -- four different fights broke out in the Tuesday session. (Note: Each was quickly broken up by players and didn't escalate into anything major).

Speaking of Rankin, he's played his best football these past two weeks. ASU could never stretch a lead to double digits and Rankin played a key role, including the point of attack stops on third and fourth down early in the fourth quarter.

"I'm just trying to play a littler harder everytime I'm out there," Rankin said. "Just knowing that I only have two or three games left, it's starting to kick in for me and making me play much harder."

When the end comes, it figures to be bittersweet for Rankin. But three games instead of two would add a little more to the sweet side of things.

"It's hitting hard for me," Rankin said. "I'm going to miss these guys and playing with them. That's why I want to make sure I play my A-game and help us win out and get to a bowl game."

HALLIDAY LOOKED SOLID on Tuesday with the 1s, though he was missing starting LT David Gonzales because he had an academic obligation. Redshirt freshman Jake Rodgers stepped in with the 1s at LT.

The o-line with Rodgers did a nice job, Halliday was able to sit in the pocket and fire off some good balls. He wasn't perfect, but he was pleased with how the offense played.

"I thought our receivers had a pretty good practice," Halliday said. "There were a few dropped passes, I missed a couple of balls, but we'll clean that all up Wednesday and Thursday…I'm glad to get a chance to get my first Pac-12 start so I'm doing the best I can when it comes to leadership. I thought we had a pretty good (practice overall) tonight."

Utah has a stout defense. Conroy Black, a Ute cornerback, was on the radio today and expressed plenty of confidence heading into WSU. Against ASU, Halliday was able to sit in the pocket with consistency and find his open targets. That might not be the case come Saturday. The Utes bring pressure and have a solid d-line unit. Halliday has been studying film intently, he said.

"We're focusing on our id's up front with our center Matt Goetz making checks. That will be big for us," said Halliday.

AS IS OFTEN the case early in the week, a number of Cougs were healing up. WR Marquess Wilson (hip) and CB Daniel Simmons missed practice for the second straight day, but both were at practice and their injuries don't appear to be serious. Other starters who missed practice on Tuesday was starting safety Deone Bucannon (ankle) and starting SAM LB Sekope Kaufusi (shoulder).

Bucannon and Kaufusi were both riding the stationary bike. With Bucannon out, Casey Locker jumped in with the 1s opposite Tyree Toomer, and freshman Chester Sua ran with the starters in place of Kaufusi.

All four injured players began practice with the team for conditioning drills, but did not see any time during live action.

Head Coach Paul Wulff isn't available to the media on Tuesday's, but more should be known on their injury status after Wednesday's session.

Halliday is hoping for Coug Nation to make their mark in the stands. "It's really exciting," Halliday said. "Hopefully we have somewhat of a crowd. I know with the holiday most people are leaving but we have to come out because it's a must win game so everybody's excited for it."

QB: Connor Halliday
X receiver: Kristoff Williams
Flanker: Isiah Barton
(Note: Bobby Ratliff also seeing action running with the 1s)
Z receiver: Jared Karstetter
TE Andrei Lintz
LT: Jake Rodgers
LG: John Fullington
C: Matt Goetz (Andrew Roxas also getting reps)
RG: B.J. Guerra
RT: Dan Spitz
RB: Rickey Galvin

LE: Travis Long
LT: Brandon Rankin (Kalafitoni Pole also getting reps)
RT: Anthony Laurenzi
RE: Adam Coerper
SAM: Chester Sua
MIKE: C.J. Mizell (Mike Ledgerwood also getting reps)
WILL: Alex Hoffman-Ellis
CB: Nolan Washington
SS: Casey Locker
FS: Tyree Toomer
CB: Damante Horton (Brandon Golden also getting reps)

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