WSU SCRIMMAGE 2: Backs find room to run

LEWISTON -- A Washington State defense that has become a fluid unit during the last 12 days showcased that again Wednesday. But the offense also had its moments during the team’s second official scrimmage during their final day of fall training camp in Lewiston. Redshirt freshman Gerard Wicks has been impressive in several practices and the latest scrimmage was no different.

There were positives on both sides of the ball during the final day of camp, and the second official scrimmage provided another look at who could possibly be running together on game day this season.

The defensive line was frequently able to rush the quarterbacks in the scrimmage, forcing quite a few balls to be thrown into empty spaces on the field in an attempt to move on to the next play without causing too much damage. Nose tackle Toni Pole was able to simply characterize what opposing quarterbacks will be facing when they line up behind their own offensive line.

“We’re kind of versatile,” Pole said. “We’ve got speed to us, power, nastiness.”

In a light moment, Pole described his connection with fellow defensive lineman Xavier Cooper, who was a few steps away at the time. Pole said that sometimes he will look to his side during and tell Cooper, “Let’s get groovy.” The defensive line might be one of the closest units on the team.

The running backs will give them a challenge in that area, though. Gerard Wicks has reiterated the last couple of days that he and the other running backs are close-knit, hanging out together off the field and motivating each other on the field. During Wednesday’s scrimmage, he broke free for a 44-yard rushing touchdown against the defense comprised of both first- and second-team personnel. He showed off his speed again toward the end of the scrimmage with a 40-yard run against the second-team defense.

Wicks is competing with Theron West and Jamal Morrow for a starting job, and although he has started to sense the possibility of earning early playing time, he said that ultimately is up to the coaches. He also said that each running back has to bring their best daily, because each one has good days, which pushes the others to match those performances.

At this point, though, he is a self-motivated player who takes it upon himself to show the coaches what he has each day.

“Once they gave me my shot, I just took off and ran with it,” Wicks said.

Pole had positive feedback about the running game, as well. Of course, Wicks wasn’t able to run the way he did Wednesday without at least partially winning the battle against the defensive line.

“They’re really good backs,” Pole said. “They have good vision. It teaches us to be patient in the hole. A lot of times, you can come off early, but if you come off early, they can set up and make a hole where nobody’s there. They teach us to be patient, they’ve got good feet and good vision.”

In all, Wicks ran for 94 yards, while Morrow added 41 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

THE PASSING GAME looked strong in certain phases of the scrimmage, as well. Starting quarterback Connor Halliday was able to find multiple receivers for touchdowns, leading to high praise from coach Mike Leach.

“I thought he did good, I thought he played really well today,” Leach said of Halliday. “I thought it was one of his best days. I thought he played really sharp and did a good job moving the offense.”

Halliday threw four touchdowns and zero interceptions, with his longest of the day coming on a 50-yard connection to Rickey Galvin who was wide open downfield against the second-team defense. Dom Williams also hauled in a 28-yard touchdown catch from Halliday against the second team. Halliday also threw a long pass near the end zone to Isiah Myers, who then had to rise up to make the catch and turn around for the score. That was against the second-team defense and was a 38-yard completion.

Peyton Bender added two touchdowns on the day, and mostly faced the third-team defense. Second-stringer Luke Falk threw two touchdowns and an interception, and had the toughest competition as he started off against the first-team defense and then faced a mix of the 1s and 2s throughout the day. Safety Taylor Taliulu also recorded the only interception of the day against Falk.

Despite the team’s accomplishments in Lewiston, Pole said the team is excited to go back to Pullman. As he put it, it’s always nice to get back to the place one calls home. Leach quipped during his news conference about another reason the team might be looking forward to returning to its home turf.

“This is literally the softest surface that anybody will ever play on at any level, other than if they’re throwing a football around on a beach,” Leach said. “But this is the softest surface ever. It’s also a slow surface. They’ll feel pretty fast when they get back to Pullman.”

The Cougars will not practice on Thursday before they return to the gridiron Friday in Pullman. The team also will not practice Saturday.

  • Offensive linemen Devonte McClain, Cody O’Connell and Jacob Tweten, safety Isaac Dotson, and wide receivers Brett Bartolone and Gabe Marks were all limited in practice Wednesday.

  • During the scrimmage, Erik Powell missed a field goal from about 38 yards and made one from about 41 yards. Quentin Breshears, who has been competing with Powell at the kicker position, made one from about 37 yards, but then missed one from 42 yards out and another from 37 yards away.

  • Quarterback Peyton Bender, and running backs Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason were all running with the third-team offense during the scrimmage.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1s
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Theron West, Jamal Morrow
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Kristoff Williams
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

    E: Destiny Vaeao
    NT: Kalafitoni Pole
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Tana Pritchard
    SAM: Cyrus Coen
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Tracy Clark
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Darius Lemora

    Primarily taking reps with the 2s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl, Gunnar Eklund
    LG: Sean Krepsz
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Riley Sorenson, B.J. Salmonson
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Ivan McLennan
    WILL: Chester Sua
    SAM: Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Jeremiah Allison
    CB: Patrick Porter, Kevin Griffin
    CB: Charleston White
    FS: Sulaiman Hameed
    SS: Beau Glover, David Bucannon

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