Cougar o-line confident, but face stern test

PULLMAN — You can tell Apple Cup week is upon us. Those two good outings by the Cougar offensive line in the wins over Arizona and Utah? Long gone and damned-well-better-be-forgotten headed into the big Friday tilt at Washington, says Washington State o-line coach Clay McGuire.

"Yeah, it's a good thing," Clay McGuire said of the Cougar o-line's collective confidence headed into the short practice week. "I think our guys have built confidence and are playing well -- but what we have done the last two weeks doesn't mean anything. We are facing a really good pass rush from UW and they do a real nice job on the d-line.

"We've got to come out here and practice our tails off and get focused for this week because it is going to be a heck of a challenge."

The Cougs will be facing a Husky defense that has notched 31 sacks, fourth in the Pac-12. Last Saturday, the Cougs attempted 62 passes against the national sack leader in Utah and didn't allow a single takedown. So, what's the secret?

"I think we have just had a group of guys come together and buy in," McGuire said. "The single-most thing is that they came together, became a tight-knit group, and they bought in and it means something to the guy next to them. I think it means more for them to let the guy next to him down than their own self which is important when you have a group like that."

OVER ON DEFENSE Monday night, there were a good number of "sacks" recorded on scout team freshman quarterback Tyler Bruggman. But that's been the trend in practice, not on Saturdays.

"We want to play with controlled emotion and controlled rage," defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "We have got to play with emotion and that's what defense is all about."

The defensive backs were flying to the ball and the linebackers were repeatedly in on gang tackles. Sophomore MIK Darryl Monroe looked particularly active in taking his man to the ground while senior WIL Justin Sagote made other big plays.

Senior SAM Cyrus Coen suited up this evening for the Cougs, but was a limited participant. Sophomore Tana Pritchard continued to run with the 1s at SAM after starting against Utah. Breske likes what he sees from Pritchard on the practice field, as a starter last week and his work in coming off the bench for an injured Coen the prior week against Arizona.

"He really played much better," Breske said. "Arizona was kind of his first go-around with it. We threw him in when we had some guys go down and he did a good job. So, he got some practice time last week just to protect ourselves and got a lot better. He's improving, but he's got a linebacker mentality. Whether those guys are on one side or the other, they will figure it out."

A CONCERN FOR the linebackers and Cougar D, especially in light of the Utah game – Husky tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Utah TE Jake Murphy went off against Breske's defense finishing with five receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. CF.C asked Breske what he needs to do to ensure history doesn't repeat itself Friday (FOX, 12:30 p.m.)

"We are going to do our best," Breske said. "Jenkins is going to be playing on Sunday. He's a big beast. He was a load for us last year and we have got to know where he is."

Breske's unit will also have his hands full with the Pac-12's leading rusher, Bishop Sankey. Last week he punished the Oregon State defense (23 carries, 179 yards, 3 TDs). The Cougs at times against the Utes played stout against the run – other times they had a very tough time bringing down Kelvin York.

"We're going to do what we do," Breske said. "We have to tackle well. We have got to have great eyes, great pad level. He's a very mature runner. He looks for little creases and takes his time. He's a very patient runner and he will find it. He doesn't need a lot of space and he is through."

THE COUGAR OFFENSE during Monday's practice, (which got underway almost an hour late for unspecified reasons), saw Connor Halliday put in a good evening's work. But as good as the wide receivers have been the past two Saturdays, they had a difficult time catching the pigskin in skelly.

The No. 1 offense went head-to-head with the No. 2 defense for the first five plays. Halliday connected on only two of the passes but he didn't get much help. Sophomore wide receiver Gabe Marks and freshman wide receiver River Cracraft both dropped catchable balls. Later, Marks would drop another easy toss from Halliday.

WSU doesn't discuss or even acknowledge injuries but Marks was sporting a cast before the ASU game and although he's continued to play, hasn't been the same guy out there as earlier in the season. Marks continues to lead the Cougs in receiving by a large margin, with 65 receptions for 724 yards and 6 TDs.

Halliday finished 13-of-20 in skelly without an interception.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca was picked off on his very first play under center by Nate DeRider. He finished 5-for-8 with an INT.

Meanwhile, sophomore wide receiver Brett Bartolone's mysterious season continues. On Monday night, he was lined up with the offensive scouts while they ran against the No. 1 defense in the east end zone.

Seemingly injured much of the season, Bartolone has only participated in six games and has not caught a pass since the Oregon State game. CF.C wanted to ask about his running with the scouts on Monday but inside receivers coach Dave Yost has declined requests for post-practice interviews all season while the readily-available, uber-accommodating Dennis Simmons, WSU's outside receivers coach, on Monday had to beat a quick exit after the late, late practice ended. We'll try to find out more for you the next two days...

It's Thanksgiving Break at WSU and just about everyone is gone. But CF.C has taken pains and gone to great lengths to try and ensure we have someone covering this week's practices – Mon, Tue, Wed – for our subscribers.

ON WEDNESDAY, before Thanksgiving and before they leave for Seattle, Leach said the Cougs will be at Zeppoz in Pullman for a dinner, bowling and some team bonding. Just for fun, CF.C asked McGuire and Breske which Cougar coach and player are the best bowlers on the team.

"I have no idea," Breske said. "My guess with coaches is probably Dennis Simmons. He's a big, athletic guy. I'd just like to see Joe Salave'a throw the ball and see how hard he can throw it."

"I know for a fact Coach Yost is the best bowler," McGuire said. "I think back in the day he was in a bowling league or something like that if you can believe that. I'm trying to think of a guy on the team who is a good, skilled guy. That's tough. Oh shoot man, it's probably going to be someone off the wall who is good at that stuff…probably some kicker. (Andrew) Furney would probably be the best bowler."

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
LB Cyrus Coen
OL Andy Agen
QB Domenic Rockey

Not in attendance:
CB Alex Jackson
LS Ryan Saparto

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