Cougars' practice full of fists, hits

PULLMAN – The Cougars came out Tuesday donning full pads and ready for full-throttle contact for the first time this spring. The offense and defense battled all evening, and scraps broke out once again, but the two squads ended the day in a virtual tie. Also, Washington State coach Mike Leach and his staff introduced a new motivational tool he hopes will keep the Cougars hungry.

Scrimmage was nothing short of exciting as the team was tackling and hitting at full force. The Cougars not only donned helmets and shells, but legs pads and knee pads allowed the Cougars to open up on each other.

Again, tempers flared and punches were thrown as team continues to fight through the spring. Leach loves it.

"I'm not going to curb their enthusiasm," Leach said. "I don't mind them popping each other a little bit."

On the afternoon, three scuffles broke out between several players. Sophomore receiver Gabe Marks and second-year freshman corner Rahmel Dockery got into it, followed almost immediately by a fracas between senior interior lineman Ioane (Junior) Gauta and senior receiver Bennett Bontemps.

The prizefight – if you will – took place when sophomore BUCK linebacker Kache Palacio and senior offensive lineman Matt Goetz traded punches after a little poking and prodding at the bottom of the pile. Palacio got in Goetz's face and Goetz almost immediately threw a strong right hook. Both players landed a few punches but and were eventually broken up.

No harm, no foul.

The scrimmage itself was hotly contested between the offense and defense, with the offense statistically winning the battle in both directions. Statistically is emphasized because the coaches introduced a new way of counting wins and losses for both sides, tallying ‘good' plays for both sides.

The game goes as follows:
  • For every run or pass in excess of 5 yards, the offense was awarded one point.
  • Every touchdown was worth two points.
  • For the defense, every sack, tackle for a loss, or play recorded within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage was worth one point.
  • Every interception was worth two points.

    During junior signal-caller Connor Halliday's session, the offense won the drive 11-9 on a last minute, 5-yard strike from Halliday to sophomore Dominique Williams on a quick slant route. Halliday did throw a pick-six to senior linebacker Jared Byers on the drive. Redshirt junior Rickey Galvin had a 40-yard reception on the possession.

    Second-year freshman Austin Apodaca also won his drive, but like Halliday, struggled to assert any dominance. His squad won 10-9, and trailed 9-8 going into the final play. Apodaca would throw a quick flare pattern to Galvin for a 3-yard touchdown and the ‘win.'

    During the scrimmage sessions, the interior defense continued to look dominant. Gauta looks like a standout on the inside, and is unquestionably one of the most talented players on defense. He's impressed all spring.

    The real story may be the depth at linebacker, as was evident Tuesday when the Cougars worked in drills rotating all the 1s and 2s at every linebacker position to continue to gain understanding of the expectations at each position.

    The amount of bodies working for time this spring is incredible, and to be fair, all look to be feasible candidates to start this fall.

    The aforementioned Byers, as well as fellow seniors Justin Sagote and Eric Oertel, juniors Ivan McLennan and Cyrus Coen, and sophomores Darryl Monroe, Kache Palacio, Jeremiah Allison and Tana Pritchard all rotated throughout the afternoon.

    That's nine bodies competing for four starting spots. Pritchard remains one of the most intriguing characters on that list, making waves this offseason with defensive coordinator Mike Breske due to his work ethic and drive.

    If Pritchard has any say in the matter, he'll be starting Aug. 31 at Auburn.

    "Justin Sagote is a great backer and I wouldn't mind backing him up, but I'm going to make him earn it," Pritchard said. "If I take the job from him, I'm going to make it happen."

    Quite the bark coming from a guy still making the transition from quarterback to linebacker.

    "I'm not where I want to be but I'm close and I'm making huge strides," Pritchard said. "Things seems faster now and everything is reactionary. We're all flying around, it's a complete 360 from this point last year… for all of us."

    Here are the Cougs starting units for day six:

    **Once again, extensive rotations took place throughout the entire afternoon and these 1s were fluid.

    QB: Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca
    RB: Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
    X: Dominique Williams
    Z: Gabe Marks and Kristoff Williams
    Y: Brett Bartolone
    H: Rickey Galvin
    LT: Gunnar Eklund (Zack Brevick got some time)
    LG: Joe Dahl (Pierson Villarrubia got some time)
    C: Elliott Bosch
    RG: Matt Goetz
    RT: Rico Forbes (Eduardo Middleton got some time)

    LE: Matthew Bock
    NT: Ioane Gauta
    RE: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Ivan McLennan and Kache Palacio
    SAM: Cyrus Coen and Jeremiah Allison
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    WILL: Justin Sagote (Tana Pritchard got some run as well)
    CB: Anthony Carpenter (Nolan Washington ran with the 2s)
    FS: Casey Locker
    SS: Taylor Taliulu
    CB: Damante Horton (Rahmel Dockery ran with the 1s and 2s)

    KR: Leon Brooks, Robert Lewis, Brett Bartolone

  • Chester Sua missed practice and was not suited for undisclosed reasons.

  • Connor Johnson was limited on the day.

  • Deone Bucannon did not participate in any contact drills.

  • Wide receiver Henry Eaddy, who would have been a redshirt sophomore this fall, no longer is on the roster and has left the program.

  • Lyman Faoliu continues to acclimate himself with the team, and continues to work his way into the second team defense at defensive line.

  • Redshirt sophomore Darryl Paulo got some time at nose tackle this evening, though he still appears a little slight for the position.

  • The Cougars are off Wednesday, but will be back at it at 3 p.m. Thursday.

  • The Crimson & Gray Game will be held April 20 in Spokane (2 p.m. kickoff). It will culminate a week's worth of events WSU is holding in the Lilac City, including an April 15 gathering at Northern Quest Casino featuring Mike Price and several of his players from his 1997 Pac-10 champion team. They'll be showing highlights from that year's Apple Cup victory.

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