Day 3: WSU offense bounces back twice to topple D

LEWISTON — The first day in shoulder pads is the first day of real contact between the offense and the defense. During the first two days, the Cougars' offensive line couldn't get any grip on the D-line, causing early disruptions. Today was a different story.

"The first day in [shoulder] pads really gave the O-line a boost," said sophomore quarterback Luke Falk. "They were able to get their hands in better position and fight off the defense easier than the days without pads."

One thing that stood out today, and has actually been a point of emphasis throughout camp so far, is raising the snap height. Riley Sorenson struggled during the beginning of practice to elevate his snaps, resulting in Falk digging at his knees to snatch the ball, and at one point saying, "Get them up, Riley."

It's not a huge concern in only the third day of camp, but they continue, there's always a chance a change will be seen at center, or at a minimum, Sorenson working alone on chest high snaps.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Gabe Marks had a decent day working with both quarterbacks during drills. In the first one-on-one matchup of the drill, Marks beat Martellus Pippins. Later, during skeleton, he had two great grabs in a losing effort as the defense won the goal-line portion of the drill.

"They came out fiery and chippy on the first day, and we wanted to match that," Marks said. "We did a great job the last two days coming out and executing."

During skeleton, Falk struggled and gave the defense a 32-10 advantage. Redshirt freshman Peyton Bender came in and threw a pick in the end zone on his fourth throw. He also found Robert Lewis over the middle for a 25 yard gain. Bender did find the end zone with a pass to John Thompson who was wide open after beating his defender.

"I was a little slow on my reads in skeleton, but the guys did a good job picking me up to help come back and win it." Falk said.

To finish the drill, Falk and Bender would switch off at the goal line as the defense lead 49-38.

Coach Mike Leach could be heard from the sidelines saying "If the defense wins, you're doing two up and downs for every point you get beat by."

The QBs knew what they had to do, Bender and Falk combined for six touchdown passes. Bender hit River Cracraft, Gabe Marks, Kyrin Priester, and Tyler Baker for touchdowns, and Falk finished his skeleton drill with two scores to Cracraft and Dom Williams.

"Sometimes you've got to get their attention somehow, and they'll feed off each other," Leach said. "The offense got hot, and that was good to see."

During team time, the offense sputtered with Bender. He threw an interception on his fifth play--although it's hard to say that it should have counted considering C.J. Dimry was being man-handled by his defender. On the next two plays Bender overthrew his man, nearly leading to a interception, and he fumbled the exchange with Lewis.
Lucky for the offense, Bender recovered and ran forward for 2 yards. However, that would be the end of Bender's fortune. He was sacked two plays after the fumble and threw seven incompletions on his final nine throws. He did throw a nice zip pass touchdown to Thompson on his second-to-last play.

"The first half of team play the offense couldn't really get into a rhythm which was caused by a number of things including defensive disruption," Leach said.

Falk came into the team play with the defense up 16-9. Similar to Bender, on his fifth pass, Falk threw an interception but he turned it on from there.

Falk was pushed far back in the pocket, and flushed to his left as Gabe Marks came back to make the catch and run for 15 yards. Then from under center, Gerard Wicks burst through the o-line for a 12-yard gain.

In the red zone Falk hit Lewis on a tough spot, but Lewis recovered the bobbling ball and ran the ball in from the 12 yard line. Next he hit Cracraft on a sliding grab to give the offense a 24-22 lead. His next pass went incomplete giving a three point lead to what seemed to be the end.

But Leach wasn't done, and called for one more round to determine a winner.

Falk lined up under center, snapped the ball handed to Wicks who jumped left and found some space to power through the goal line, giving the offense the decisive 28-23 win.

"The O-line did a great job setting up the run, and when you get the run game you can get the rest of the offense going easier," Falk said. "The receivers were getting open, I was finding them, and I think as a whole we were just more consistent as a team."

Leach said practice was streaky, but competitive.

"Both the offense and the defense got hot, and stayed hot," he said. "Some good stuff."


  • Special teams also got some decent work at kickoff blocking as well as field goal kicking. For the second straight day, Erik Powell and Brett Schafer had good showings. Matt Abramo only kicked during warm-ups.

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