"I thought the best thing was that neither side stayed down for a long period of time," Leach said. "Both sides have some things to be ticked off about, but both sides have some encouraging stuff and they pretty much traded blows back and forth."
Although there was plenty of balance, the day definitely belonged to the defense, which gave quarterback Jeff Tuel plenty of headaches early on. MLB Darryl Monroe started the turnover onslaught when he read the eyes of Tuel and jumped in front of a pass that was intended for WR Marquess Wilson. But Monroe's day ended a few plays later when he tweaked his ankle on a Blair Bomber reception. MLB Darren Markle jumped in with the 1s in Monroe's place.
Following the pick, Tuel couldn't find an open receiver on six consecutive throws. That was not necessarily because Tuel was making poor decisions. He said it had more to do with tight coverage applied by the secondary. Even when there was space, defensive backs would dive to bat the ball away.
"They were flying around, honestly," Tuel said. "There wasn't a lot of hesitation out there and they covered the receivers really well."
BUCK LB Travis Long agreed.
"We made some plays and created some turnovers," he said. "We were attacking the ball and playing fast so overall that was good."
ONE PARTICULARLY ACTIVE player was SAM backer Eric Oertel. He seems to be getting better with each practice and Saturday was no different. Oertel had several pass breakups and had a few monstrous hits toward the middle of practice. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that Oertel is continuing to standout and his fire to compete has separated him from others.
"I tell you what he's been our biggest surprise and most pleasant surprise this spring," Breske said. "It's his athleticism, his grasp of our defense and he's good in space. He produces and that's what you want out of a SAM linebacker."
Another linebacker who enjoyed some success was redshirt freshman Tana Pritchard. While lined up at the SAM with the 1s and 2s, Pritchard had an interception of Tuel and forced a fumble of TE Andrei Lintz that was recovered by Cyrus Coen.
Coen could have taken it back to the house, but the play was called dead.
Regardless, Pritchard was another guy who stood out on the day with a strong performance.
On the defensive line, DEs Adam Coerper and Lenard Williams were held out of practice with undisclosed injuries. DE Matthew Bock jumped in with the starters and made his presence known early by tackling RB Carl Winston for a 1-yard loss. The line also had sacks from Xavier Cooper, Logan Mayes and Ian Knight. DT Toni Pole also was held out of practice with what appears to be a right hand injury.
As sharp as the defense was, the offense also had their moments late in the scrimmage. Tuel was 22-of-47 for 200 yards with four touchdown strikes and two interceptions. It should be noted that some of Tuel's touchdowns were thrown during red-zone drills and not full-distance drives. Tuel's TD throws went to Lintz, Wilson, Bobby Ratliff and Bennett Bontemps.
Following practice Tuel said he would give his performance a "C-plus" and although he was happy with how the tempo picked up late, he wasn't pleased with his day overall.
"I was maybe a little sloppy at times," Tuel said. "The receivers and I need to get in sync and it's easy to get frustrated or get down on yourself, but it's only our 12th practice and we're all still learning."
One receiver who stood out was Lintz. He led all receivers with 57-yards on seven catches and the TD catch.
"I think I did all right," Lintz said. "There's obviously always something you can improve on. I had the fumble in the red zone and that can't happen at all. Other than that I need to keep hauling in the passes and continue my communication with the quarterback."
During the red zone sequences, the running backs shined for the Cougars with Winston getting the majority of the carries. Winston is known as the bruiser out of the stable of backs and he again was attacking the line Saturday. Winston had a pair of 5-yard TD runs toward the end of practice and ended the day with 20-yards on eight carries and two TD runs.
"I thought we improved," Leach said. "I think for the most part the backs we're reading holes better. I think our linemen are reacting to the combo stuff a little better. It's been a bit of a growth process."
At the end of the practice, Leach blew his whistle and gathered the team in what appeared to be the closing portion of the day. However he then delivered a speech to the players and sent out the starters to the 7-yard line for one last series.
The defense came out on top by forcing a three-and-out that ended when LB Chester Sua tackled Winston 2 yards short of the end zone. The play set off a huge celebration by the defense.
"Coach Leach wanted to end on a competitive drill and it was a three-and-out type deal," Breske said. "We were fortunate today to come out on top. We're competing and that's great to see."
Stats provided by WSU Sports info RUSHING Teondray Caldwell 4-9 TD
Rickey Galvin 5-8
Marcus Mason 2-15
Carl Winston 8-20 2 TD
Leon Brooks 2-14
PASSING Jeff Tuel 22-47-200 4 TD 2 INT
David Gilbertson 8-10-64
RECEIVING Drew Loftus 1-14
Gino Simone 3-12
Bobby Ratliff 4-19 TD
Andrei Lintz 7-57 TD
Blair Bomber 3-21
Bennett Bontemps 2-23 TD
Leon Brooks 2-7
Dominique Williams 2-32
Isiah Myers 2-28
Marquess Wilson 2-27 TD
Rickey Galvin 1-22
Carl Winston 1-2
INTs Darryl Monroe
SACKS Xavier Cooper
FIELD GOALS Andrew Furney 38-good, 43-blocked, 51-no good
Mike Bowlin 47-good, 44-WL, 52-WL