THURSDAY NIGHT: Cougs' youngsters stand out

PULLMAN — There are some exceptions, but Saturdays often belong to veterans. For that reason, Thursday Night Football is an opportunity for younger Cougars to showcase their skills and many accomplished that again — with one exception.

Offensive line coach Clay McGuire was satisfied with Thursday's practice when speaking about the 1s, but felt different about the rest of the week.

"I thought we had some good points at practice," he said. "I thought there were a few things we weren't very focused on. Yesterday in particular, but they came out today and looked pretty good."

The No. 1 offensive unit looked impressive when they took to the west end zone for the 11-on-11 session.

On the first play, the No. 1 defense lined up against the 1s for one play. Junior QB Connor Halliday dropped back and overthrew sophomore WR Gabe Marks.

But that would be the only miscue Halliday would have the rest of the afternoon.

After the overthrown pass, Halliday went against the scouts for the remainder of his 29 snaps. On one play, Halliday dropped back and threw a perfect pass to WR Brett Bartolone, but the ball went right through the hands of the sophomore.

At the conclusion of team session, Halliday had completed 27 of 29 passes. Redshirt freshman QB Austin Apodaca did not have any reps during the team session.

Senior right tackle Rico Forbes returned to practice as a full participant after spending the majority of Wednesday afternoon on the bikes.

Sophomore RB Jeremiah Laufasa looked efficient on the day, displaying athleticism aplenty to go along with his well-known power style.

For the wide receivers, sophomore WR Dom Williams had a good day. On one play, Williams burned freshman CB Charleston White and caught a ball that would have been a TD has it been live.

On the other side of Martin Stadium, the defense put in their defensive scout work as usual. True freshman CB Daquawn Brown was a standout for the D. He deflected two passes and picked off Tyler Bruggman.

In the trenches, senior NT Ioane Gauta terrorized the scout team offensive line by jamming things up and making it nearly impossible to run between the tackles. Gauta accumulated three "tackles" and a "sack" during the scout team work.

Sophomore BUCK Destiny Vaeao started off with the 1s at BUCK, but split the time with fellow sophomore Kache Palacio.

Both looked impressive. Palacio used his speed and quickness to keep the quarterbacks contained on the run and brought a fair amount of pressure. Vaeao finished off the session with two "tackles."

THIS WEEK'S Thursday Night Football was better than last week's outing for the young players. Bruggman orchestrated a near perfect drive, but the offense failed to score at the end of the opening drive on fourth down on the goal line.

"I think the skilled guys were pretty good today," McGuire said. "I don't think the o-line was very good at all. Jamal Morrow, everything he got, he had some good runs in there, but it was all on his own. Tyler Bruggman did some really good stuff as he always does and Robert Lewis looked really good."

Bruggman finished Thursday Night Football 13 of 15 with one touchdown. The touchdown pass went to freshman WR Robert Lewis for 40 yards. Lewis caught the ball at the 30-yard line, broke a tackle and took it in for a touchdown.

However, freshman RB Jamal Morrow performed the best on the offensive unit. He had three runs that went for 10-plus yards, caught three passes out of the backfield, and even laid a nice block.

"He's pretty dynamic," McGuire said of Morrow. "He's a pretty good running back and he has pretty good size to him. He picked up a good blitz on a pretty big guy coming in on him. So, I think he has a chance to be a total package. He can run inside and outside and obviously pick up the blitzes well."

ON THE OTHER HAND, McGuire was not pleased with how the young offensive lineman performed during Thursday Night Football.

"Just some simple blitzes we see every week that we totally whiffed at, two offside penalties and a couple times a tackle just got beat around the edge," McGuire said. "I don't think we played that great as a unit and some of those guys have got to step because their time is coming pretty soon."

In the past few weeks, the discussion has been about senior OL John Fullington and Matt Goetz and their position changes on the right side of the line.

Redshirt sophomores Gunnar Eklund and Joe Dahl have not seen nearly as much machinations on the right side.

"Consistency," McGuire said of what the duo has done best. "Those guys have come in and played well together next to each other since spring ball and they've done their job. For the most part they have done their job pretty well. They've been very consistent all year long. I'd like to see them step it up and take it to the next level though."

The defense also had its share of impressive moments during Thursday Night Football.

Junior BUCK Ivan McLennan was persistent with the pass rush and notched two sacks.

"He's coming along," Breske said of McLennan's progression. "He has been on scout team. What's going to be key for Ivan is the offseason, how well he works in the weight room and his development into midnight maneuvers and then spring ball."

McLennan appears to have added weight to his frame since fall camp — he is listed at 6-4, 244.

"I think he enjoyed food," said Breske, laughing. "We've got a great training table. We've got to watch his weight; he does not need to get any bigger."

True freshman safety Isaac Dotson had an excellent afternoon on defense, as well. He had one interception, one deflected pass and finished with four tackles.

The TNF play of the day on defense came from Dotson as Bruggman marched the offense down to the goal line.

Dotson put a halt to the drive.

It was fourth down on the goal line and Bruggman handed the ball to Morrow. But Dotson met him at the 1-yard line with an excellent open-field tackle.

The Cougars will have their walk through tomorrow before hitting the road to take on the No. 2 Oregon in Eugene. Breske is happy with the work his defense put in this week and now it's time to see if their hard work in practice pays off.

"We got the game plan in, polished it up and we are ready to go," Breske said. "Now it's up to us, the hay is in the barn."

The game will be televised on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m.

Running with the 1s...

QB—Connor Halliday
RB—Marcus Mason
X Receiver—Dom Williams
H Receiver—Rickey Galvin
Y Receiver—River Cracraft
Z Receiver—Gabe Marks
LT—Gunnar Eklund
LG—Joe Dahl
C—Elliott Bosch
RG—Matt Goetz
RT—John Fullington

DE—Toni Pole
NT—Ioane Gauta
DE—Xavier Cooper
BUCK—Destiny Vaeao
SAM—Cyrus Coen
MIKE—Darryl Monroe
WILL—Justin Sagote
CB—Daquawn Brown
CB—Damante Horton
S—Deone Bucannon
S—Taylor Taliulu

OL—Jacob Seydel
LB—Peyton Pelluer
DL—Mortiz Christ
S—Darius Lemora
LB—Feddie Davey

S—Bennett Bontemps
LS—Ryan Saparto
CB—Alex Jackson
WR—Kristoff Williams
LB—Chester Su'a

Cougfan Top Stories