WSU Practice: Marks, scouts torch defense

PULLMAN— If your mind has forgotten what wide receiver Gabe Marks can do when someone throws the ball his way, take note. Marks upped the ante from what he did on Tuesday with a monster performance in practice on Wednesday. Every ball, it seemed, that traveled in Marks’ direction found a home in his hands, and most of the receptions he made were against solid pass coverage.

The veteran receiver was just a little bit better than the Cougar defense on this day.

“I can still play!” Marks exclaimed as he looked up at spectators at practice.

That was right after he jumped above Charleston White to snare the ball out of the air for the catch.

Soon after, he made another grab over Patrick Porter that nearly went for a score. The show didn’t end there, though.

Marks made a one-handed grab in the end zone for a touchdown over Porter, who was glued to the receiver during most of the route. Marks was able to create enough separation and corral the pass from Peyton Bender, who took several reps as the scout-team quarterback while Marks flashed his receiving skills.

Bender didn’t go unnoticed either as he threw a few pinpoint passes during the team session. The freshman quarterback hit sophomore John Thompson for a 40-yard touchdown in double coverage by the first-team defense. Later in practice, Bender threw another touchdown pass to freshman Barry Ware, who caught the ball over White and then ran back to cheers from his teammates.

The other scout quarterback, Connor Ennis, also got Brett Bartolone involved when the two hooked up for a long touchdown against the second-team defense.

On a number of plays, the defensive line was able to pressure the scout quarterbacks, even though it didn’t seem that way when the touchdown passes were flying. Most of the pressure came on running plays, which could bode ill for Portland State quarterback Paris Penn, who ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns last week against Oregon State.

DEFENSIVE-LINE COACH Joe Salave’a said that seeing a pistol offensive scheme for the second straight week helps slightly in giving the defense some rhythm, but rhythm isn’t the most important thing the defensive line needs to improve.

“I think just from the familiarity standpoint, but I think the biggest crossroad for us is to be playing with a little bit of intensity and can we sustain that energy,” Salave’a said. “I think that’s probably one of the things we’re trying to instill in them and get it out of them. We don’t have the time to be wasting opportunities.”

The intensity certainly was there when Daniel Ekuale burst through the scout offensive line to sack Marks, who was partial to the way it happened. After Ekuale made contact with Marks, he threw the ball at the defensive lineman, and it looked as though a fight would follow, but the two went their separate ways before the conflict escalated.

The Cougars did not record any sacks last week against Nevada, and Salave’a said that was due to a lack of intensity and play-calling. One struggle Salave’a highlighted was the thoughts that are going through the heads of the players on the defensive line.

“They’re human beings,” he said. “They feel bad, and there’s a lot of pressure on them to get it done up front. Games are won and lost up front, and those are things our guys are working hard at.”

Salave’a said he dealt with the negativity when he was a player by not reading any news clippings. If he did read anything, it was the stories from the opponents’ side, he said. Positive reinforcement is key, and that the team needs to look forward rather than looking at the losses, he said.

On Monday, head coach Mike Leach said the Cougars practiced well, but they don’t play well. Salave’a couldn’t pinpoint a reason for that, but he sees positive results on the horizon.

“It could be a lot of things,” he said. “In practice, there’s hardly anybody in the stands. In game situations, we’ve still got young guys that never played a Division-I game, and we have to have more of our core guys take the leadership and make sure that everybody’s on an even keel. I think we’ll be a better outfit this week.”

  • Kristoff Williams, Chester Sua, Mitchell Peterson, Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Nate DeRider, Isaac Dotson, and Drew Springfield were all limited in practice today.

  • River Cracraft and Rickey Galvin took the majority of the punt returning reps in practice on Wednesday. Cracraft did not wear a yellow jersey in practice, and was fully active.

  • Connor Halliday and Isiah Myers burned the first-team defense twice during red-zone work. The veteran quarterback and receiver connected for two touchdown passes in the red area, one of which was a one-handed grab by Myers. Leach said the red-zone period of practice looked good, but he said they do the same thing every week. The Cougars had a 50 percent efficiency in the red zone against Nevada.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1s
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Isiah Myers
    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: Charleston White
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Darius Lemora

      Primarily taking reps with the 2s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Theron West
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Devonte McClain
    LG: Jacob Tweten
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Cody O’Connell
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    E: Darryl Paulo, Lyman Faoliu
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Ivan McLennan
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Paris Taylor
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer
    CB: Patrick Porter
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Sulaiman Hameed
    SS: Beau Glover

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