WSU Practice: Salave'a turns up the heat

PULLMAN— Every Thursday, the Cougar players and coaches run from Rogers Practice Field to Martin Stadium for Thursday Night Football. Don’t get in the way of Joe Salave’a (pictured above) and Clay McGuire, though. The two race along with some of the other coaches, and when asked who would win in that faceoff, it was no contest.

“That’s a tough one now. I would have to spot him a 5-10 yard lead and we’ll go from there,” Salave’a said.

“In that race, definitely I’d take Coach Salave’a, if you’ve ever seen him move. We’ve got a steam room or a sauna in the locker room, and he’s just one giant muscle. He’s got a six-pack,” McGuire said.

The two coaches were on opposite sides of the ball for the Thursday Night Football game, which started off slowly with Luke Falk at the helm, but heated up when Peyton Bender took over. The pendulum swung back in the defense’s favor when Connor Ennis quarterbacked the offense, although he did end the session with a touchdown to Zaire Andre.

Bender threw three touchdown passes, two of which went to John Thompson, and the other to Daniel Lilienthal. Thompson's second TD required some footwork because he caught it at about the 10-yard line and had to make space for himself in the open field to reach the end zone. Bender was also pressured on the play. The one to Lilienthal came on a quick pass over the middle in the red zone.

Salave’a called the scrimmage “sporadic,” but the defense made some plays. He also repeated what many coaches say about the game: the reps for the young players are valuable for the future.

The defense intercepted a trio of passes on the night, and two came on consecutive throws from Ennis. Sebastian LaRue jumped a route and dropped a chance at a pick, but Ennis floated a ball near LaRue on the next play, and the defensive back did not miss the opportunity again.

Ennis then tried to fire a ball toward the sideline, but Drew Griffin stepped in front and intercepted it for a pick-six. Griffin also intercepted a pass from Bender in the end zone earlier in the game.

During Falk’s time, the offense ran a no-huddle hurry-up, but the defense was helped out by several incompletions from the quarterback. Falk made switches at the line multiple times and on one play, he appeared to check into a run play that Keith Harrington busted up the gut for a big gain.

“We’re playing, that’s the biggest thing. Kids can’t get caught up in the flow of that, and the ebb and flow of the game. They’ve just got to continue to play the next play, but do it in a quicker manner,” Salave’a said of the fast tempo.

The USC Trojans presumably won’t use a high-tempo offense like Arizona did, but they bring their own challenges to both the offensive and defensive lines of the Cougars.

The 6-5, 300-pound presence of Leonard Williams looms on the defensive side of the ball for the Trojans, as does Su’a Cravens, who McGuire said is a versatile player who can line up anywhere. Cravens is listed as a safety on the roster, but he is an outside linebacker on the depth chart heading into the game.

“From a schematic thing, it’s not too tough. He’s a really good player. It’s nothing that you sit there, from an X and O standpoint, and really lose sleep about. He’s just a great football player,” McGuire said of Cravens.

McGuire said the Cougars won’t prepare especially to stop Cravens or Williams, but rather, they will focus on their own game.

“We are going to go out, focus, and concentrate on what we do. It’s one of those things where we’re not going to sit there and scheme around one person because you never know what people are going to do,” McGuire said. “The last couple weeks we’ve come out and teams ran a completely different defense.”

Sam Flor continued to take reps with the 1’s at center in practice, which means he will probably start against USC instead of Riley Sorenson, like last week.

“One thing Sam’s always been good at is not getting rattled about anything," McGuire said. "He’s always been an even-keel guy. He runs the offense and understands the protections really well. I’m just looking forward to going out there and playing faster. I thought he had a good game last week, and I think things will be very similar this week with what they’re doing, so I just want to see him be a little more physical, a little faster on the inside.”

The Trojans’ offensive line has a couple of true freshmen listed on depth chart, but Salave’a isn’t resting on their youth.

“They don’t just play guys in this conference and at this level for no reason,” Salave’a said. “Those kids came out of high school with a little bit of polished work to their credit, so they’re working out fine for them.”

The Cougars will not practice tomorrow. The game against USC begins at 1:30 p.m.

  • Cole Madison, Charleston White, Nate DeRider, Isaac Dotson, Nick Begg and Mack Hopkins were limited in practice on Thursday.

  • Calvin Green and Gerard Wicks were not seen at practice.

  • State Sen. Michael Baumgartner visited practice and took pictures with Mike Leach during Thursday Night Football. The two chatted for a majority of the game.

    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: Sam Flor
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    E: Destiny Vaeao
    NT: Kalafitoni Pole
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Cyrus Coen
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer, Darryl Monroe
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Patrick Porter
    FS: Darius Lemora
    SS: Taylor Taliulu

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Marcus Mason, Theron West
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Gunnar Eklund
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: B.J. Salmonson
    RT: Eduardo Middleton

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