Arizona is NASCAR fast, WSU's Salave'a says

PULLMAN — The Cougar defense flew to the ball, forced turnovers, and was aggressive throughout Tuesday's practice. That’s a good sign, according to defensive line coach Joe Salave’a, because the Cougars will face the “Indy 500 of offenses” on Saturday.

When asked how Arizona’s offensive tempo compares to that of Oregon, also famous for playing fast, Salave’a responded by saying they’re not even close.

“They’re the Indy 500. You’re talking about the Indy 500 versus Pullman traffic. There’s a big difference, and it’s worked for them, and those are the things that they present as a challenge,” Salave’a said. “You can only practice at it but you can never duplicate it. Our kids understand the magnitude of the tempo we need to work at.”

Gabe Marks is not being used as the scout team quarterback to simulate a mobile Anu Solomon, but the Cougars are clearly expecting a quick attack from the Wildcats. In practice, the Cougars played well against their own, forcing three consecutive fumbles by scout team quarterbacks and breaking up several passes all over the field.

Mike Leach said after practice that the Cougars need to do a better job of forcing turnovers. Washington State has intercepted two passes and recovered three fumbles in seven games.

The defensive line especially was dominant on Tuesday, stuffing the scout running backs on many occasions, and "sacking" the quarterbacks multiple times. Darryl Paulo recorded three hits on the quarterback by my count on Tuesday, twice on Connor Ennis and once on Peyton Bender.

With Squally Canada no longer with the team, Keith Harrington, Thomas Hearn and Austin Hall were taking the reps in the backfield for the scouts.

Running backs coach Jim Mastro said because Harrington is a dynamic player who can catch and run, he has now reprised his role as a running back in this offense after playing there in high school.

While Mastro declined to specifically comment on Canada, he said he and the coaching staff are very happy with the young running backs they have on the roster. Mastro stressed the necessity to compete, and he said Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks exemplify that every day.

“Competition is everything in college football. If you’re not competing, if you think your job is safe every day, you’re going to stay stagnant. You always have to be able to compete,” Mastro said. “You always have to compete against other guys. You always have to know that you’ve got to come out every day and bring it. That’s what those two guys bring. As freshmen, they compete against each other every day, and that’s what we want, and that’s what we want moving forward.”

Speaking about competition .... Destiny Vaeao (pictured above) was again at the nose tackle position while Paulo took the reps at his defensive end spot with the first team. Salave’a said Vaeao is a great competitor and that has allowed him to step in adequately during Toni Pole’s absence, despite not being at his normal position on the end of the line. WSU does not comment on player absences or injuries under Leach.

“I think the weakness is he doesn’t know better," Salave’a said of Vaeao. "He’s inexperienced in the interior. I think that’s the challenge that he brings. He likes to compete, and that’s all you want in a ballplayer, is a kid that is willing to compete when asked, and those are the things that Destiny has right now.”

Without Ka’Deem Carey, the Wildcats have thrown the ball much more this season, Leach said. (Last season Arizona ran 63 percent of the time. This year, they're at 47 percent.) Leach also said he thought having wide receiver Cayleb Jones and playing from behind in games this season has caused the Wildcats to throw more. Jones has six touchdown catches this season on 39 catches and 592 yards.

No matter what kind of quarterback or offense the Cougars face, versatility is key, Salave’a said.

“To be a versatile defensive lineman in the Pac-12, you’ve got be able to work in speed and in space,” Salave’a said. “Those are the things that our kids should prepare for, and will be ready for.”

He said the same thing about having to switch defensive linemen around to different positions during the season.

“Sometimes you can’t overthink things. We’ve got to play to their strength. We’ve got a couple kids who can do a couple of positions here and there, so I also believe that position flexibility is a commodity,” Salave’a said. “We’ve just got to make sure we play to their strengths, and not get too carried away to where we leave ourselves vulnerable. So far, we’ve been able to roll a certain number of guys in different positions, and to their credit, they’ve responded.”

Both teams have played in close games this season, so this game could come down to who makes one more play. WSU sits at 245-245 in points for versus points against, and with the exclusion of Arizona’s blowout win in Week 1, all of the Wildcats' games have been decided by a touchdown or less.

“When they’re between the white lines, those guys have to make sure they work with the mindset of finishing plays, finishing reps, and finishing practices. Those are always going to be an emphasis until the end of the season,” Salave’a said.

In order to stay with Arizona’s racing speed, the Cougars will need to maintain the energy they displayed on Tuesday, in both the next couple of practices, and ultimately on Saturday.

“The tempo (of Arizona) hasn’t slowed down one bit, so our tempo in our practice is going to be critical, and our work this week is going to be critical in trying to make sure we don’t half-step anything and trying to keep up with the pace of the offense.”

  • Center Riley Sorenson returned as a full participant and practiced with the 1’s. Safety Sulaiman Hameed also was a full participant with the 1’s.

  • Isaac Dotson, Nate DeRider, Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Drew Springfield, and Kahshan Greene were limited on Tuesday.

  • Darius Lemora, Toni Pole, Charleston White, Calvin Green and Kristoff Williams were not seen at practice on Tuesday.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    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: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton, Jacob Seydel
    RT: Cole Madison

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

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: B.J. Salmonson
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Jacob Seydel
    RT: Cole Madison

    E: Ivan McLennan
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Frankie Luvu
    WILL: Dylan Hanser, Tana Pritchard
    SAM: Paris Taylor, Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    CB: Kevin Griffin
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: David Bucannon

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