WSU Practice: Groundhog Day

PULLMAN— For the third consecutive practice, the Cougars participated in a Thursday Night Football scrimmage, and this one forced the youthful offense to play conservatively. Asked for his take, Mike Leach after practice said the Cougar D had the upper hand. At the same time, multiple passes were dropped by young receivers who were sometimes covered well and, other times, were wide open.

“Guys need to get in better shape, and we need to attack the ball better,” outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons said. “I think it’s great that we have the opportunity to do this because it’s developing our future. I think that once we get those guys playing at a level that we expect to play, good things will happen, but today wasn’t a day that I was satisfied with.”

Barry Ware and Gabe Marks both let opportunity slip through their fingers when they dropped deep passes from Luke Falk while open. Both passes were thrown pretty well, and even if they were flawed, they looked far too accurate to ultimately hit the ground.

Ware dropped another catchable deep ball later in the scrimmage, this time from QB Peyton Bender. Simmons said Ware needs to get in a better rhythm and that although the true freshman has made some plays, that he remains inconsistent and needs to be better conditioned and to focus more.

The scrimmage featured a couple of turnovers. Dewan Lee Thompson caught a ball and ran for several yards after the catch, but then fumbled. Willie Roach, who hawked two balls on Thursday, recovered the dropped ball.

Bender also threw an interception on a ball that was tipped at the line and grabbed by Jacob Laird before it hit the turf.

Some of the passes in the short game were also knocked down or dropped by the receivers. Fortunately for the offense, Keith Harrington got it going with a touchdown run in the red zone, plus another long run that almost went for another score.

On the big gainer, Harrington deceived a few defenders with quick cuts, eventually gaining a lane and getting to within five yards of the goal line before being pushed out of bounds.

“On Wednesday and Thursday, they were pretty aggressive. We had pretty good work. Today, our overall focus and energy level wasn’t there,” Simmons said. “I thought the backs, (Keith Harrington), did well.”

Leach added that the offense while had the advantage on Thursday, the defense roared back on Saturday.

The starting receivers for the Cougars, meanwhile, have had no problem securing the ball and doing something with it this season. With five games remaining in the regular season, Vince Mayle, River Cracraft and Isiah Myers are all approaching the WSU single-season records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Here’s a breakdown of how close each one is.

Receptions
Mayle: 57
Cracraft: 57
Myers: 53
Record holder: Marquess Wilson, 82

Receiving yards
Mayle: 781
Cracraft: 676
Myers: 627
Record holder: Marquess Wilson, 1,388

Receiving touchdowns
Mayle: 7
Cracraft: 7
Myers: 7
Record holder: Jason Hill, 13

Simmons has coached prolific receivers in his career. Michael Crabtree had already won the Biletnikoff Award when Simmons began coaching him, but the Texas Tech receiver accomplished the feat again under Simmons’ tutelage. Crabtree had almost 100 catches for over 1,000 yards in 2008. Lance Lewis was another who surpassed the 1,000 yard-mark for receiving yards in 2010 at East Carolina with the help of Simmons as his coach.

When asked how having those players on the roster compared to the three potential record-breakers at WSU, Simmons defaulted to the motto of the Cougar football team.

Simmons simply said the focus is on making the next play, and that's what he coaches his receivers to do throughout the season. Simmons acknowledged that the group would recognize any and all rewards received at the end of the year, but at this point, he said the drops they have made this season are more prominent in his mind.

As he laughed, Simmons said the Cougars are one or two drops too many from where they want to be in this moment in time.

“I think it’s pretty good. We’re really explosive,” Leach said when asked how this offense compared to the ones he has coached in the past. “We could be more consistent, but we’re really explosive, and we’re still emerging. We haven’t even really plateaued. We’re just getting better.”

Leach said experience is still the biggest thing in turning the losses they’ve suffered this season into wins.

“I think we’re playing better, and I think we’ve got a little more talented guys. We’ve just got to get older and learn from playing, which I think we have. We need to just speed that up as much as we can,” Leach said.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Kristoff Williams and Rickey Galvin were both present and active on Saturday. WSU was without both in its last game against Stanford.

  • Toni Pole, Charleston White, Calvin Green, and Darius Lemora were absent from practice on Saturday. White was injured in the game against Stanford. Pole has been missing since the beginning of the bye week without indication of injury or other issue from the WSU staff.

  • Riley Sorenson, Parker Henry, Nick Begg, Isaac Dotson, Nate DeRider, Mack Hopkins, Drew Springfield, and Sulaiman Hameed were limited on Saturday. Hameed participated in the beginning of practice and then departed.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Jacob Seydel, Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

    DEFENSE
    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Destiny Vaeao
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Cyrus Coen
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Patrick Porter
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Sulaiman Hameed

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Carlos Freeman
    RG: Jacob Seydel
    RT: Eduardo Middleton

    DEFENSE
    E: Ivan McLennan
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Frankie Luvu
    WILL: Dylan Hanser
    SAM: Paris Taylor, Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer, Tana Pritchard
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    CB: Kevin Griffin
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: Colton Teglovic


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