WSU Practice: Three fights break out on D

PULLMAN—Three separate fights broke out on Wednesday featuring the 1’s and 2’s on defense vs. the scout team offense. These weren’t the ordinary pushing-and-shoving scrums you see all the time in practice. There were punches thrown in each dust up and players tackled one another to the ground. Needless to say, it was an especially aggressive WSU practice session ...

Wide receiver Gabe Marks was involved in two of the brouhahas, safety Sulaiman Hameed was in on another. It was difficult to tell who all was at the epicenter of the three skirmishes -- things escalated very fast and then everybody else converged quickly.

As soon as punches started being thrown, though, the coaches immediately moved to break things up, yelling loudly and laying heavily on the whistles. It didn't appear any of the punches really connected.

But the first- and second-string defensive units? Yeah, they were pissed off the moment they got on the field on Tuesday. A 2-7 record with a four-game losing streak, where the defense has been the target of disappointed fans, will tend to do that.

“Whatever they drank today and a little bit yesterday, they need to continue to drink that. That was good,” defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said of the angry defensive unit. “That’s part of the game. Most of the teams that have struggled, there’s no glimmer, there’s no fight in them. We’ve just got to continue to put that forth on the playing field and get it out of them on Saturday.”

Salave’a did say he and the coaches don’t want the fights to distract the team from practice time, though.

“You never want to lose reps. That’s what you can’t have, and we lost a little bit of that, but I would rather have guys flying around and have that competitive spirit rather than not. We’ll make them up tomorrow as we get going,” Salave’a said.

The defensive secondary was flying around and looking for turnovers, intercepting the ball frequently against the scout team offense. Darius Lemora (pictured above) made two athletic interceptions, Kevin Griffin grabbed two picks as well, and Sulaiman Hameed added one, all against scout team QB Connor Ennis.

Linebacker Frankie Luvu also "sacked" Ennis, though as is often the case, the quarterback continued with the play (so as to give the secondary a rep) and threw an interception to Griffin.

Salave’a said the coaches have asked a lot of Luvu, who was a safety in high school but has made the switch to linebacker at WSU. Salave’a praised Luvu for being resilient and for being a competitor, saying that kind of character is exactly what the team is seeking when recruiting new players.

Basics and fundmentals continued to be stressed in Tuesday's session, whether the players were true freshmen like Luvu, or whether they are seasoned veterans.

“Football 101. As a defensive lineman, if you’re experienced or not, it’s all about attacking the line of scrimmage, striking, shed blockers, pursue the ball and tackle,” Salave’a said. “You’ve got to do that with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. If you don’t, you’re pretty much vulnerable to the offensive line.”

The injury-plagued Oregon State offensive line has been a revolving door in terms of sacks allowed, giving up the second-most in the Pac-12 with 24 takedowns. The OSU line on this week's depth chart includes two sophomores and a redshirt freshman.

“I’m not too sure. I’m not in their locker room. I know they’ve suffered some injuries, and that’s tough. Those kids are still battling, and that’s not our concern. Our concern is making sure that our guys seize every opportunity to compete, and compete to win,” Salave’a said.

The Cougars have recorded 19 sacks this season in nine games. The Cougars have more missed opportunities than they would like, according to Salave’a.

“We’ve seen a lot of vulnerabilities in the past few weeks, and we didn’t capitalize on them,” Salave’a said.

Special teams coach Eric Mele also spoke on Wednesday. The Cougars have suffered through a nightmare season on special teams coverage units, allowing three touchdowns on kickoff returns and three on punt returns this season. Mele expressed confidence that those mistakes will not be repeated.

“Effort has been good. I’d be a lot more disappointed if I didn’t think there was effort there. The effort is there, and it’s just a lack of execution on a couple of plays, and it’s not going to happen again,” Mele said.

It's been almost an all-or-nothing issue on special teams this season, with the Cougs handling, say, three punts with minimal yardage allowed, and then one where the return man is never even touched. The big problem, Mele said, has been over-compensation and hesitation have reared their ugly heads at times.

“The scheme is simple and the effort is there. They just need to make the play when it’s their time to make the play. Amidst chaos, there is always opportunity, and when that comes, you’ve got to execute,” Mele said.

  • QB Luke Falk looked strong on the far side of the field, throwing several red zone touchdowns and three in a row at one point.

  • Nick Begg, Calvin Green, Mack Hopkins, Nate DeRider, and Isaac Dotson were limited in practice on Wednesday.

  • River Cracraft was active in practice after being limited on Tuesday.

  • Corner Pat Porter did not participate much with the 1’s or the 2’s, and he rode on the bikes toward the end of practice. Griffin ran with the 1's in his place.

  • Cole Madison, Gerard Wicks, Rickey Galvin and Tracy Clark were not at practice on Wednesday. Initial word was that Clark had left the team, but WSU SID Bill Stevens told CF.C after practice that the cornerback remains with the program.

  • Redshirting DL Hercules Mata’afa was apparently back at practice on Tuesday, but the player in question wore a jersey without a number, leaving me unable to say for sure from my vantage point on the walkway above the fields.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Jamal Morrow
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel

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

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Peyton Bender
    RB: Theron West, Marcus Mason
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: John Thompson
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: B.J. Salmonson
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Jacob Tweten
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    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: Charleston White
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: Sulaiman Hameed