DAY 13 PART I: O sputters; Taliulu emerges

PULLMAN -- The Cougars' offensive and defensive units seemed to have a much different response to their post-breakfast practice Wednesday. While the defense was fired up and disruptive -- they repeatedly knocked down passes -- the offense could not develop any rhythm. Running backs and quarterbacks alike could not hang onto the ball on countless plays during skeleton drills.

Just as all appeared lost for the offense, the coffee kicked in, and signal-callers and route runners dominated the second half of the day.

Quarterback once again the hot topic of the day, which started at 9:15 a.m., at Rogers Field. Neither quarterback staked their claim for the job on Thursday, but we'd have to give the nod to senior Jeff Tuel, as the senior threw a crisp ball for most of the afternoon, capping his day with a 5-yard scamper for a touchdown on a designed bootleg run. Sophomore Connor Halliday threw the ball hard all afternoon, showcasing the strength he displayed late last season before his injury. Halliday's aggressive play style came back to hurt him, though. His deep passes were twice defended nicely by the second-team defense, including an interception by junior Anthony Carpenter.

On this day, the defense looked to have the upper hand, constantly tipping passes at the line, defending long throws through the air, and breaking up run plays early and often. Junior nose tackle Ioane Guata walked off the field Thursday covered in blood, nose shoved full of gauze, and hair going every which-way. The defensive lineman epitomized the work in the trenches as of late; heavy, hard and ruthless beyond all explanation. On this day, the defense stepped up, diving for every fumble and cheering for every hustle play that occurred. The entire unit has developed cohesiveness under the watchful eye of defensive line coach Joe Salave'a and defensive coordinator Mike Breske, an attitude and tenacity not seen in Pullman for quite some time.

The team as a whole looks tired, worn out from the relentless practice schedule in 90-degree weather, but coach Mike Leach wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's by design," Leach said. "If they weren't fatigued we'd have them do even more. Everybody can work harder than they think they can and so they need to raise the bar and discover that. It's been demanding by all accounts and so that's by design."

FRESHMAN SAFETY Taylor Taliulu again ran almost exclusively with the 1s on Thursday, supplanting the incumbent starter, senior Tyree Toomer, to run with the 2s.

"Everybody's just grinding right now," Toomer said. "When it's time to hit the field, it's time to go, forget about being tired or sore, because nobody cares."

Toomer said he expects the secondary to be one of the best in the PAC-12, all the while running with the 1s come BYU.

"Taylor's a good player, he's one of the young guys who has been out there making plays," Toomer said.

When asked whether he expected be the starter for BYU, Toomer had no comment.

The morning came to a close around lunch with junior kicker Andrew Furney coming out and working on pressure situations. Furney, who hit 14 or 16 attempts last season, was verbally abused and sprayed with water by his teammates, all while trying to focus on the task at hand. Furney connected on three of four attempts, rightfully earning his lunch. Junior kicker/punter Mike Bowlin came in and received the same treatment, connecting on just one of his four attempts. Senior wideout Gino Simone was the holder for the second team special teams unit.

INJURIES:
  • For the first time in weeks, the Cougs used the stationary bikes very sparingly. Only sophomore running back/receiver Rickey Galvin used the bikes on Thursday, and that was only for a few minutes.

  • Freshman nose tackle Robert Barber's knee injury appears to be serious. Barber was on crutches for the third day in a row and today had his right knee heavily taped and braced, much like that of junior offensive lineman Rico Forbes.

  • Sophomore wide out Isiah Myers was not in uniform and watched all morning.

  • Freshman wide out Dominique Williams was a full participant today.

  • Sophomore wide out Kristoff Williams was not suited up, but did workout on the sidelines with the strength and conditioning staff.

  • Freshman nose tackle Xavier Cooper was out once again, working with the strength coach. Cooper is out of his boot, instead working with a small ankle brace.

  • Junior linebacker Darren Markle had his right leg in a boot and did not participate.

  • Sophomore cornerback Brandon Golden left practice after individual drills and did not return.

  • Sophomore defensive lineman Toni Pole was in full pads, but did not participate in any drills. Although injuries are not discussed, CF.C overheard Pole saying he is roughly 7-10 days away from being 100 percent.

  • Junior linebacker Eric Oertel was at practice for individual drills, but did not participate in skeleton or scrimmage work for unknown reasons.

    NOTABLE NOTE:
  • Detroit Lions scouts were on hand for most of the morning, observing primarily the offense.


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