WSU punting game has Russell speechless

PULLMAN — The WSU punting game this season has had CougFans reaching for the Maalox. Senior Mike Bowlin's production has been a mystery wrapped in a maze, and the bottom may have come Saturday. It's left special teams coach Eric Russell scratching his head for answers. Russell spoke with CF.C about Bowlin's struggles, while OL coach Clay McGuire broke down the play of a hoss who keeps impressing.

WSU punter Bowlin had a day to forget for the Cougars on Saturday in their 24-17 victory over the Wildcats. The 6-4, 215-pounder started off hot with some booming kicks, but then sent another one three yards and added two kickoffs that went out of bounds before his day was done.

Not acceptable, Eric Russell said.

"I'm at a loss for answers," Russell said of Bowlin. "Any of us can come in and hit a ball three yards. That's a deal on Mike and the problem is he hits a 54-yarder to start with. Then he gets a 48-yarder and we're netting 45 after two punts and then right before the half it's a shank."

Bowlin will have hot streaks where he punts the ball well in practice and then it dwindles away at other times. Russell was asked if he has ever coached a player who has battled so much inconsistency when punting the ball.

"Not a senior," Russell replied. "When you're breaking in youngsters sometimes you will have some of that. There's no doubt it has been frustrating. The frustrating part is not knowing how to help Mike."

Three out of the four punts before the end of the half had pinned Arizona inside the 20, but the three-yarder set up an Arizona drive at midfield where they almost put three points on the board.

"We don't have room for that margin of error," Russell said. "That's the part of not shooting ourselves in the foot …being a smart football team and executing in those situations and you expect a senior to do that."

ELSEWHERE FOR WSU, one Coug who has not battled consistency is offensive lineman Elliott Bosch.

Bosch has started all 10 of the Cougs games in 2013 and is one of 53 recipients for the Burlsworth Throphy, an honor given to a college athlete who began his career as a walk on.

"I'm excited for him," McGuire said. "Ever since we've been here, he's gone above and beyond in our program. He's done everything we have ever asked him to do and then has done the extras. He has been a leader on and off the field and I'm proud of him for getting nominated for something like that and I hope he gets it."

Bosch is considered one of the leaders on a Coug offensive line that has given up only 22 sacks in 10 games. His work ethic, McGuire said, is what separates him from most.

"I can't prove it, but I'd be shocked if there is a kid that watches more film than him," McGuire said. "He's not just watching it to watch it. He has bought into our system, he's learned our system and he watches film. He's educated. He's looking for the things that we are looking for."

BACK AT PRACTICE it was quite chilly to say the least, but that didn't alter the Cougs' spirit. Redshirt junior quarterback Connor Halliday had another excellent skelly session. While running against the scouts, his first six throws were completions until the seventh was dropped by wide receiver Vince Mayle. He almost had another incompletion, but was saved by junior wide receiver Bobby Ratliff.

Ratliff ran a picture-perfect route, but Halliday overthrew him. Still, Ratliff extended his left hand and pulled in a one-handed catch for what easily was the play of the day.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca went up against the No. 1 defense for the first five plays of the period and only completed two of his passes. Once the five plays were finished and the defense went to the east end zone, Apodaca finished his reps and went 5-of-8 without a turnover.

In team, Halliday had difficulty hitting his targets compared to skelly. Mayle added another dropped pass, which didn't help Halliday's completion total. He flourished throwing the ball downfield, but displayed inaccuracy on other throws. He finished 13-of-18 without an interception, while Apodaca went 7-of-8.

OVER ON DEFENSE, they were in sync on every level.

While running against the offensive scouts, sophomore defensive end Xavier Cooper was harassing the offensive line by stopping the run and adding two "sacks" on freshman quarterback Tyler Bruggman.

Senior defensive lineman Junior Gauta got in on the action too. He had a "sack" and batted down a pass intended for sophomore WR Drew Loftus at the line of scrimmage.

At the second level, senior WIL Justin Sagote continues to display his ability to blanket receivers downfield. Not only did he have a fine day covering scout wide receivers, he also was shooting through gaps and stuffing the scout team run.

Redshirt junior Mitchell Peterson looks to be making a fine transition from safety to WIL. He had a "sack" on Bruggman and a tackle-for-loss on freshman running back Jamal Morrow.

In the secondary, it was a whole lot of senior cornerback Nolan Washington. Washington was flying around on pass plays and tallied three pass break-ups. On one of those, he stayed in sophomore WR Tyler Baker's back pocket all the way downfield and deflected the ball to the ground.

True freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown didn't have one of his best outings at practice today. He was beat deep by Baker once and attributed to blown coverage that allowed Loftus to catch a deep ball.

Senior safety Casey Locker continued to run with the 1s while sophomore Taylor Taliulu was limited. Locker did an excellent job in coverage and had excellent pursuits on the scout team running backs when they ran the ball.

Notable Note:
• CF.C asked Russell who he thought was the fasted guy on special teams. After reaching in his pocket and taking a look at his depth chart, he gave an answer.

"Lets just go off of kickoff coverage," Russell said. "The first two down every time are (Marcus) Mason and T-West (Theron West). Those are the two guys that come game time…if you kick off and it's going to be a race to the 25-yard line, it's going to be one of those two guys every time."

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- Tana Pritchard
MIKE- Darryl Monroe
WILL- Justin Sagote
CB- Nolan Washington
CB – Damante Horton
S – Deone Bucannon
S – Casey Locker

Limited Players:
OL Jacob Seydel
DL Moritz Christ
LB Chester Su'a
S Bennett Bontemps
S Isaac Dotson
S Taylor Taliulu
LB Cyrus Coen
OL Andy Agen
QB Domenic Rockey

Not in attendance:
CB Alex Jackson
LS Ryan Saparto

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