WSU Practice: TNF defense dominates

PULLMAN — Washington State’s offense has performed much better than its defense throughout the season. But it was a different scenario during Thursday Night Football, where the Cougs’ younger defenders dominated. Sophomore Willie Roach forced another turnover, stepping right in front of a pass to Gabe Marks from Peyton Bender and picking it off. Also, a true freshman showcased his d-line skills.

“A little sloppy from the offense, I thought the defense came out and played a lot harder and a lot more intense than the offense did,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “We got in a period there where the quarterback went tempo against them and took it down on them pretty good, and we got in a good rhythm early with Falk, but toward the end, the d-line dominated the game.”

True freshman defensive lineman Ngalu Tapa (pictured above) made one of the sacks, and redshirt senior Jeff Waldner had another. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said Tapa played exceptionally and had a great push on the line. He also said Roach plays really well in pass coverage, but needs to “stick his nose in there and tackle.”

Roach made two interceptions during one of the Thursday Night Football games last week.

The only scoring play I saw from my view was a long touchdown pass from Bender to Barry Ware. The ball was perfectly thrown and fell into Ware’s hands in the end zone with Sebastian LaRue draped all over the receiver.

Speaking of receivers, the Cougars have a difficult matchup to account for on Saturday in 6-foot-3 wide receiver Cayleb Jones. Breske was asked about the challenge of containing Jones, who leads the Wildcats with six touchdown receptions this season.

“We’re going to do our best,” Breske said. “We’ll be in a lot of one-on-one situations just because of the style of the offense, so when he’s on the outside, he’ll be on Pat Porter or Daquawn Brown, who are going to do a great job.”

The Arizona offense will demand that the Cougars come out ready, line up correctly and make their calls on time, Breske said. They approach the line quicker than everyone else and the linemen will be ready to go before the ball is even set, Breske said, which will mean that the Cougars will need to utilize one-word calls from the sideline.

The Wildcats speed up even more in the red zone, Breske said. But the red zone has been a dead zone for Arizona this season in terms of scoring touchdowns. They have scored in the red zone 80 percent of the time, but they have only found the end zone 47 percent of the time when they reach the red area.

Toni Pole took reps with the 1s in practice on Thursday, but when asked if it would be Destiny Vaeao or Pole starting on Saturday, Breske said it would be Vaeao.

On the other side of the ball, McGuire said the Cougar offensive line should be prepared to face the defensive front of Arizona.

“We’ve seen a lot of three-man fronts,” McGuire said. “For the most part, we’ve played OK this year. With what they do, it’s not a complicated scheme, but they run it very well. They’re really good at what they do, so it’ll be a good game and I’m excited to go out and play against them.”

The Wildcats will test the Cougars no matter what, though.

“It’s a real tough defense,” McGuire said. “They fly to the football, they play really hard, they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, and you can see that in their play.”

During Thursday Night Football, the centers, Carlos Freeman and Sean Krepsz, have impressed McGuire with the way they have performed and spoken up at the line.

“They’re doing a good job,” McGuire said. “Carlos has experience from last year, and Krepsz has come in here and done a nice job as well. I think he has six or seven of these under his belt now that he has actually played in, so I’m happy where those guys are at right now. They’re calling the right fronts, they’re doing the right things, and just have to work at their technique and get a lot better.”

McGuire said the team ideally likes to recruit offensive tackles out of high school because the best offensive linemen they acquire will end up playing at the tackle positions. The smartest guy from that pool of players will be placed at center, and that center needs to have a quick first step and have the ability to get the line in the right position.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Isaac Dotson, Nick Begg, Kahshan Greene, Nate DeRider and Mack Hopkins were limited on Thursday.

  • Kristoff Williams, Charleston White, Calvin Green, Theron West and Darius Lemora were absent on Thursday.

  • Connor Halliday connected with River Cracraft for two touchdown passes against the scouts before Thursday Night Football began.

  • Kevin Griffin intercepted Bender before the Thursday Night Football game on a ball that was batted at the line.

  • Erik Anderson has been practicing as a wide receiver for a few practices now, while the 6-6, 240-pound Andrew Reding takes reps at quarterback.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1s
    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: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

    DEFENSE
    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Destiny Vaeao, Kalafitoni Pole
    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 2s
    OFFENSE
    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: Riley Sorenson
    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
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    CB: Kevin Griffin
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: David Bucannon


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