PRACTICE: WSU backs impressing Mastro

PULLMAN- No one is ever going to accuse WSU of being a rushing juggernaut. The Cougs average 432 yards of offense a game, and only 60 of those yards come from the ground game. But, if you want to see a coach smile, just ask running backs coach Jim Mastro what he likes about the depth he has at the position. CF.C caught up with the second-year assistant about that and more at practice on Tuesday.

When asked what he likes about his running backs, Jim Mastro was quick and definitive with his answer.

"A lot of things," he said.

Mainly Mastro likes the improvement he has seen from his backs on a consistent basis. Improvements in the way they are playing and in the way they are seeing the field is what sticks out most.

"We're getting a lot of production out of them," he said. "I couldn't be happier."

As the Cougs head into Seattle for the annual Apple Cup, the running backs won't exactly be the focal point, but they shouldn't be overlooked.

The trio of Marcus Mason, Teondray Caldwell and Jeremiah Laufasa aren't putting up big numbers in terms of total yards, but they do have impressive averages. Mason leads the Cougs with only 381 yards, but he's averaging 5.1 yards a carry and has two touchdowns. Caldwell averages 5.2 yards a carry and Laufasa is averaging 4.6, but leads the backs in touchdowns with seven.

Those backs will go toe-to-toe with UW's stout defensive lineman on Friday in the much anticipated Apple Cup.

IN RIVALRY GAMES some coaches like to downplay things, while others try to build it up. For WSU head man Mike Leach and his staff, they are trying to take it as just another game, albeit, a pretty big one.

"It doesn't matter," Leach said. "You get one game a week, you do the best you can in that one."

For fans, the Apple Cup is the game of the year. UW holds a 67-32 record over the Cougs, and the game has ended in a tie six times.

But recently, despite some frustrating seasons, WSU has upended the Huskies. Last year Coug fans remember the sweet 31-28 overtime win in Pullman, and though the Huskies enjoyed three-straight wins between 2009-2011, WSU had a pair of wins in 2007 and 2008.

The Huskies come into the Apple Cup at 7-4, while the Cougs are 6-5. Both are bowl eligible, but nothing is guaranteed. However, a WSU win on Friday and the Cougs would appear to be golden.

So with that in mind, how can the game not be hyped?

"We just want to keep calm," Mastro said. "The calm before the storm. The game takes care of itself. We want to make it as regular a week as possible."

IT IS HARD to have a regular Apple Cup week, though. The players are not in school because of the Thanksgiving break, causing a change in their daily routine.

Having a week off of school certainly helps, though, Mastro said. It gives the players more time to focus on football, and while they still have homework to think about, not having to go to class is nice.

"There are no worries about class or studies, so it's obviously better we're not in school," Mastro said.

And passion? Fans don't have to worry about that, there is more passion for the Apple Cup than there are apples in Washington. Leach doesn't see things like that, though.

"If you're the right kind of player it doesn't matter who you're playing," Leach said. "If you're the right kind of player you do your best all the time."

AS FOR THE ACTION on the field on Tuesday evening, It was extremely chilly at Martin Stadium during the short practice session. Temperatures hovered around 35 degrees once the sun went down, but that didn't seem to hinder the players much.

Quarterback Connor Halliday looked solid as he spread the ball around the field, missing a couple of receivers, but for the most part, he threw with accuracy and precision. On some throws, though, his receivers didn't do him any favors, dropping passes that him them right in the hands.

The running backs had no trouble with the cold as they broke through holes and skirted by defenders.

WSU's secondary did not get burned by anything deep, and the lines, while not playing with fierce energy, were solid, strong and formidable.

The defense was led by defensive backs Taylor Taliulu and Nolan Washington, who both recorded interceptions.

The Cougs, who will head to Seattle on Thursday for Friday's Apple Cup, will return to the practice field at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Running with the 1s:

OFFENSE: 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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