PRACTICE REPORT: Cougs pick it back up

PULLMAN -- On what is traditionally one of the most quiet days of the year on any college campus in America, Washington State football coach Paul Wulff was hoping his team would make some noise on Wednesday evening.

Or at least not be as flat as was the case Tuesday, when it seemed like the pre-Thanksgiving silence of Pullman and Saturday's deflating loss to Utah got the best of the Cougars.

But on the day before Thanksgiving, Wulff walked off Rogers Field in a much better mood, and the energy of the players making their exits spoke to the better day's work. That it was quite a bit warmer than is typical for November on the Palouse didn't hurt.

"It was a good practice," Wulff said. "Good response."

WULFF AND THE Cougs received good news, too, in that junior right tackle Dan Spitz and junior defensive end Lenard Williams were back in practice — to varying degrees — and both appear on target to resume their starting roles on Saturday evening when the Cougars take on Washington in the Apple Cup (4:30 p.m., TV: Versus) at CenturyLink Field.

"I'm sure that has a higher motivation for some," Wulff said of the pair trying to get right in time to play the Huskies. "They've been working hard to get back and we missed them both against Utah."

Spitz went full bore with the first team, while Williams was held out of most contact but is moving toward full participation. The Cougars had hoped to have all of their 1s back on the offensive line, but did not have the services of David Gonzales, who remains in a walking boot, but hopeful that he'll be able to shed the heavy footwear and return to practice for the team's scheduled 90-minute Thanksgiving session.

Wulff said that questions around Gonzales' status will probably push into game day. If Gonzales can't go, Jake Rodgers, the 6-foot-6, 295-pound freshman out of Spokane's Shadle Park, is in line to make his second start in his first Apple Cup. He might be seeing things from a different perspective, however, having started for Spitz last week at right tackle, but possibly in line for the start at left tackle this week if Gonzales can't play.

Whoever's out there will, of course, protect senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael — who wasn't overly sharp Wednesday, but was typically solid — and redshirt frosh RB Rickey Galvin, who ran hard Wednesday, apparently getting past a minor injury that had slowed him earlier in the week.

No matter the physical health of his team or its execution, Wulff had to be happiest with the energy level, as a team that didn't bring the emotion on Tuesday was more fiery Wednesday.

For example:

• The always-vocal Alex Hoffman-Ellis colorfully chewed his fellow defensive starters as the scout team late in practice ran on them just a bit more easily than he'd like. The starters then responded with some spirited play and the scouts never saw the end zone again.

• In a brief set of downs with the 1s and 2s rotating, freshman tight end Aaron Dunn leveled C.J. Mizell, to the pleasure of his offensive teammates, who cheered the pop for a moment, while linebackers coach Chris Tormey gave Mizell props for being aggressive around the ball. Mizell again on Wednesday was No. 2 behind senior Mike Ledgerwood, though the official depth chart continues to list Mizell as the starter.

• True freshman Marcus Mason continued to look like a player with a big future, earning his teammates' adulation by breaking a nice run.

• The practice session closed with a flourish, as senior receiver Jared Karstetter made a fully-extended, twisting, one-handed grab of a Lobbestael pass. The catch was the kind of moment that allows a team to end practice on a high note, even if the need for that kind of catch might not bode terribly well for a team that goes into its rivalry game potentially shorthanded on the line, at quarterback and receiver.

But hey, nobody was complaining, least of all Wulff.

"Now we need to be better tomorrow and carry it forward," he said.

KAUFUSI AND BUCANNON BACK: Sophomores Sekope Kaufusi and Deone Bucannon both participated nearly fully in practice and, like Galvin, appear to have largely shaken off ailments that had slowed them earlier in the week. Kaufusi, of course, has nursed a torn labrum most of the season and is expected to have surgery after the Apple Cup.

FOOTBALL FAMILY: The Cougars are scheduled for a 90-minute practice Thursday and will then eat Thanksgiving dinner together before taking off for Seattle on Friday.

QUIET TIME: Wulff said the abandoned campus and the lack of energy around town might have had something to do with the Cougars' rough Tuesday session. And then there was the fact that the team's bowl hopes had been dashed in dramatic fashion just a few days before. "It's tough without that routine," Wulff said. "It goes back to the things you do every day and when you don't have that, it makes an impact, no doubt about it."

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