TNF: Coug d-line, LB return propels Wazzu D

PULLMAN — Players need to stay in the moment but fans like to look forward. The way Mike Leach runs his program, the future is easier to see than at many other places because of Thursday Night Football, where Cougar youth takes center stage. TNF this week, because of the ASU game Halloween night, took place Tuesday. And fans of d-line and middle linebacker play would not have been disappointed.

First, though, a look at the the ones.

The No. 1 offense went through individual drills and ran a team session with crowd noise wailing out of the Martin Stadium public address system.

Junior QB Connor Halliday was almost perfect.

He missed just one of his 26 targets and didn't throw any interceptions. Redshirt freshman QB Austin Apodaca, who usually takes 10 throws, did not have any reps during the team session.

True freshman WR River Cracraft had a good day and was on the same page as Halliday.

On defense, senior WIL Justin Sagote had a great day running against the offensive scouts. He had three "tackles" and batted down two passes.

Junior d-lineman Toni Pole held down the trenches for the defense. He swarmed the scout quarterbacks with pressure and made it difficult for the running backs on the ground.

The Cougar D, whether you're talking about the ones, the backups or the guys redshirting, needed a good week after surrendering a lot of yards and a lot of points the past four games (1-3).

Defensive Coordinator Mike Breske said they got it.

"I think (we had) a good week," Breske said. "We had a good polished day today on defense and a good Thursday Night Football on a Tuesday night. I thought we had a good week of practice and we will get some film work and more mental work tomorrow."

The Cougs will hold a closed walk-through Wednesday before taking on ASU on Thursday Night. The game will be televised on ESPN and kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. As of Monday, 6,500 tickets remained.

TURNING TO THE youth and Thursday Tuesday Night Football, the defensive line manhandled their equally youthful counterparts across the ball. And the defense as a whole came out on top.

The day also saw the return of a freshman linebacker who ended up being a standout on defense.

Freshman QB Tyler Bruggman has had some very good Thursday Night outings and drawn consistent praise from the coaches. This was not one of them -- but a large part of the problem on Tuesday was the play of his offensive line.

Freshman d-lineman Emmitt Su'a-Kalio "sacked" Bruggman for a loss of eight yards on one early play. The very next snap, freshman DL Daniel Ekuale came roaring up the middle and notched another "sack" on Bruggman.

After those two breakdowns, play was briefly halted so the offensive linemen could do 15 up-downs.

Ekuale, who recorded two "sacks" on the day, has been making a name for himself of late and Breske loves what he brings to the table.

"He's powerful and strong," Breske said. "He's coming along and (after he) gets an offseason in… I can't wait to see him this spring."

Breske was all-in-all happy with the play of the other young defensive lineman too, though he's never completely satisfied.

"The D-line has just got to keep rollin'," Breske said. "We kind of took a couple plays off tonight…but they got back into it."

How good of a night was it for the young guns on the Cougar D? After it was all said and done, the defense recorded eight total sacks in Tuesday Night Football.

TUESDAY NIGHT ALSO marked the return of freshman MIK Peyton Pelluer and as good as the Cougar d-line was, Pelluer was easily the most valuable player on defense during the season.

Pelluer had been battling an undisclosed injury for weeks and has been slowly eased back into the swing of things in recent days. But it didn't take long for Pelluer to ramp up on on Tuesday.

He started at MIK, taking the spot of freshman walk on Nathan Hundeby who had been filling in while Pelluer was gone, and finished with five tackles and one of the defense's eight sacks.

"It's good to see him out there," Breske said "He was running around and getting the defense back into his head and he looked good tonight."

NOT ONLY DID the defense do it in the tackle box, they got it done in the secondary as well.

On the very first play of TNF, Bruggman tried to hit redshirt sophomore WR Tyler Baker but was intercepted by freshman CB Charleston White.

White had an excellent read on the play and made a diving effort for the pigskin. It was the play of the day on defense from my vantage point and it garnered praise from players and coaches.

Meanwhile, true freshman safety Isaac Dotson had the hit of the day.

Bruggman threw another ball to Baker, but Dotson lowered his shoulder and set him down – he had no chance to make the grab. Dotson finished with four tackles.

On offense, Bruggman had a tough time dealing with the pressure from the defensive line. Still, he managed to throw a 3-yard touchdown pass to junior WR Daniel Lilienthal which was his only score.

And despite the high sack count, Bruggman showed his ability to escape pressure. As the pocket collapsed around him on one play, he tucked the ball and ran for a 30-yard gain before being shoved out of bounds by Dotson. The next play, Bruggman hit Lilienthal for the touchdown.

Bruggman finished 9-of-13 with a touchdown and one interception.

Walk on quarterback Luke Falk had a better outing for the Cougs under center. He rifled a 53-yard pass downfield to freshman WR John Thompson for a touchdown that could've easily been the play of the day for the offense. He also hit Lilienthal for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Falk finished 10-for-15 with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

As much as it was a session marked by defense, a pair of redshirting Cougar ball carriers also had their moments.

True freshman running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow showed good explosiveness and pounded out some tough yards on the ground.

Morrow was handed the ball off on back-to-back plays and broke off 10-plus yard carries each time.

Wicks had a magnificent run where he broke two tackles and juked an opposing defender out of his shoes for a 20-yard run.

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

Limited Players:
OL Jacob Seydel
DL Moritz Christ
LB Chester Sua
LS Ryan Saparto

Not in attendance:
S Bennett Bontemps
CB Alex Jackson

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