Day 6: Slow start, fast finish for Cougar O

PULLMAN — Tuesday's Day 6 of spring drills brought mixed reviews for the Washington State offense. After a shaky start to the day during drills and skeleton, the Cougars' offense finally began clicking on all cylinders. The Air Raid offense came alive during the team drills, where the Cougars' secondary had few answers.

It began with the Day 6 one-on-one drills, where the majority of receivers blew past defensive backs for touchdown after touchdown. Second-year freshman quarterback Peyton Bender and third-year sophomore quarterback Luke Falk were on target with their throws during the drill. Mike Leach, however, wasn't wowed by the Cougar offense during drills, saying they were just "OK," and thought there were too many drops.

Falk seemed to have the edge over Bender in the 7-on-7 drill with the defense. The Utah native completed 13 of 21 passes and threw a nice touchdown pass across the middle to Calvin Green. Falk didn’t try to stretch it much with throwing deep, but when his opportunity came, he delivered a beautiful lob to the corner of the end zone. However, the pass went right through the hands of wide receiver Daniel Lilienthal.

Bender completed 14 of 18 passes and threw an interception during 7-on-7 drills. Bender tried to hit Lilienthal across the middle on a slant route, but linebacker Peyton Pelluer jumped the route for an interception.

During the team scrimmage, both quarterbacks looked solid. Bender appeared to take more risks than Falk with deep throws, which paid off for the Florida native. Bender completed 10 of 13 passes for four touchdowns. Third-year sophomore Robert Lewis (pictured above) caught two touchdown passes and appeared to be untouchable throughout the day.

“Coach just told me in the beginning of practice just play fast and things will happen,” Lewis said. “That’s when things happen when you play fast and let things develop and just do your job.”

Lewis says inside receivers coach David Yost is focusing on having his unit of receivers getting off the ball faster.

Bender also found Marks for touchdown during the team scrimmage. The offense was lined up in the red zone which Bender delivered a nice fade pass to Marks in the back of the end zone.

“Everyone’s just doing what they’re coached to do,” receiver Gabe Marks said. “Leach puts the plan out there. If you execute it, it’ll work, that’s how the offense works. That’s why it’s one of the best offenses in the nation. They (the quarterbacks) were just doing what they’re told to do, we were running good routes and it all worked out.”

Marks also caught a touchdown pass from Falk to seal the win for the offense. Falk completed 11 of 15 passes for five touchdowns. A couple plays before Marks caught the winning touchdown, he ran a post route and was drilled by safety David Bucannon. Though it was a huge hit, Marks immediately jumped right back up and shook it off.

“You take a shot like that, you can’t let the defense think they took you out,” Marks said. “I thought I popped up all right and everybody was talking and stuff like that. It’s good for yourself, too, because you know you’ll be all right.”

“It’s always good to take a shot. You never know how you’re going to react to something until you take like a big hit. That’s why some people can play the game, and some people can’t. Once you get hit things change.”

Marks was also seen returning punts during practice along with running back Keith Harrington.

During the drill, Leach pulled Marks aside for a few minutes during the drill to provide some advice on the position.

“He says I’m doing good, he just wants me to concentrate on detail out there, and make sure I’m keeping the ball hard and tight, and working on my ball security,” Marks said. “He likes that I’m getting up the field after the catch and stuff like that. That’s something they really wanted me to work on last year (getting up the field after a catch) and I feel like I got better.”

Marks said he’s comfortable with the position since he returned punts in high school, but adds that he needs work on getting the timing right of returning punts at the collegiate level.

“I feel like if I get back there (and) can get the timing down with the way the hang time is out there (in college) and stuff, I feel like I can make some plays out there,” he said.

WSU special teams coordinator Eric Mele says Marks is an explosive player, but it’s still an open competition for punt returning.

With no punter on the roster for the Cougars, third-year sophomore kicker Erik Powell has been taking the majority of reps this spring. Mele said Powell is doing a nice job so far.

“We’re trying to invest a lot of time in him because he’s got the raw talent that he can do a lot of good things for us,” Mele said. “So right now for who we have on the roster. he’s the guy for us and we’ll see what happens. The competition will kind of ramp up when fall rolls around.”

For the battle at gunner positions, Mele said he’s still mixing guys in, which include Harrington, Colton Teglovic and Willie Roach.

Next up is Day 7 of practice, at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • The special teams unit focused on kickoff coverage today during practice.

  • Former Cougar wide receiver Vince Mayle was on the sidelines watching the team practice.

  • Safeties Darius Lemora and Isaac Dotson each recorded an interception during the defense’s matchup against the scout team.

    Running with the one’s:

    Offense:

    QB: Luke Falk

    RB: Gerard Wicks

    X: Dom Williams

    Y: Robert Lewis

    H: Daniel Lilienthal

    Z: Gabe Marks

    LT: Joe Dahl

    LG: Gunnar Eklund

    C: Riley Sorenson

    RG: Eduardo Middleton

    RT: Cole Madison

    Defense:

    E: Jeremiah Mitchell

    NT: Daniel Ekuale

    T: Destiny Vaeao

    BUCK: Kache Palacio

    WIL: Jeremiah Allison

    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer

    DB: Darius Lemora

    CB: Marcellus Pippins

    CB: Charleston White

    S: Sulaiman Hameed

    S: Isaac Dotson


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