Cougar youth movement on display Saturday

PULLMAN — The future of Washington State football was on prominent display Saturday in the Cougars' rout of Southern Utah. Sophomore buck linebacker Kache Palacio, starting in place of injured Destiny Vaeao, posted six tackles and recorded the first sack of his career. Touted freshman wideout River Cracraft, nondescript the first two weeks, flashed nifty hurdling skills and had a break out game.

And that's just for starters

  • Freshman corner Daquawn Brown, coming off the bench, snagged the first interception of his career – a one-hander, no less.
  • Second-year freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca took the field mid-way through the fourth quarter and showed off good wheels and a tight spiral.
  • Second-year freshman offensive lineman Eduardo Middleton took some snaps late in the game.
  • And true freshman safety Isaac Dotson burned his redshirt with late action, as did classmate and offensive lineman Riley Sorenson

    This march of the youngsters began on the very first play of scrimmage, when junior QB Connor Halliday tossed a laser to Cracraft for a 17-yard gain.

    In all, he caught six passes for 87 yards.

    "River played real well," Halliday said. "Those guys have been making big plays in practice and they are starting to do it in the game now which is great."

    The 6-0, 198-pound Cracraft wasn't as impressed with his work as Halliday was.

    "I've got a lot to work on," Cracraft noted. "I have unlimited things to work on. The first thing I need to work on is my blocking. That is the most important, but also with my routes…adjusting and getting comfortable to running fast with the defense out there."

    A week ago at USC, Cracraft dropped a would-be TD in the end zone. Tonight, head coach Mike Leach was singing his praises.

    "He has been on the verge of breaking out," Leach said. "He has done some good things up to this point and he is going to get better all the time."

    APODACA, MEANWHILE, SAW HIS first action under center. He missed his first two passes and the Cougs had a quick three-and-out.

    "I do not think I was nervous," Apodaca said. "I think I just had to get the cob webs out a little bit. On the second and third drives I kind of got my confidence up a little bit. The first drive it was just hard to think. I had not played in a football game since December 2011. It is real life and people are trying to hit you and kill you. On the second and third drives I just think I got more comfortable."

    Apodaca's final drive was highlighted by a slick, 17-yard pass to Cracraft.

    "I think he was relaxed," Cracraft said when asked about Apodaca. "Austin has a bright future and I am glad we made a connection on that last drive."

    Leach was happy with the play of Apodaca, but he had hoped to give him more snaps.

    "We needed to get him a few reps," Leach noted. "I don't think he ever entirely settled down. He's settled down in practice and he just needs to go out there and play like he does in practice. He threw some good balls though."

    Apodaca finished off his night completing three of his seven pass attempts. He also rushed for 12 yards.

    On the offensive line, Sorenson, a true freshman, played in the fourth quarter and Leach had nothing but good things to say about the 304-pounder.

    "He is a real smart guy," Leach said. "He's a hard guy to move around. He is one of those guys that kind of has the unique ability to play about five positions. So, it really provides a utility quality to him and there are not too many guys like that."

    ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE OF THE BALL, Palacio found out Wednesday that he would be starting in place of Vaeao, and made the most of the opportunity.

    "I'm fired up all the time." Palacio said. "When my name is called I just come out there and play."

    The stout Palacio combined for six total tackles, one of which was a sack – the first of his career -- eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. He also would have had an interception for a TD if it were not called back because of Deone Bucannon's penalty.

    "I think he did it on purpose," Palacio joked. "He made up for me by getting a pick after that so I'm not mad about it. He is probably going to owe me dinner."

    Last year Palacio played strictly defensive end.

    "I feel more comfortable playing buck with my hand on the ground and doing pass rushing," Palacio said. "Now this linebacker stuff…I'm adjusting to it."

    NOTABLE: The Cougar defense leads the nation in pass defense, giving up 99.7 air yard per game, and No. 11 in overall defense.

    "He has been on the verge of breaking out," Mike Leach said of Cracraft.

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