DAY 6: Lightning strikes, then for Offense

LEWISTON, Idaho – When Mother Nature struck, Mike Leach looked to her as a teaching tool. The Cougars were in the middle of a skeleton drill at Sacajawea Middle School when lightning forced a 30-minute delay. Leach chose use the time to simulate what a half-hour off the field is like during a game. “I just handled it like halftime,” Leach said of the NCAA-mandated postponement.

“After the delay, we came out, got everyone stretched out and we got back to work.”

“I thought the team did good responding after the delay.”

When time was called for lightning, the offense was leading 12-6 in the drill. Luke Falk had some help from Tyler Baker, who ran across the middle of the field past Peyton Pelluer – who was eyeballing Falk instead – giving Baker just enough space to make a catch.

The first play back from the delay, Gabe Marks dropped Falk’s pass after a good juke to get himself open.

“Today was a good day by everyone, I had a drop today, I need to fix that, but it was a good day,” Marks said. “I’ll fix the drops by coming out and catching 50 balls or so to the side that I dropped it. I did that today, and I’ll do that until I think I’ve fixed it.”

Peyton Bender came in and almost threw an interception on his third attempt, but Pelluer and Ivan McLennan couldn’t come down with the ball. Later, Baker made an incredible catch for Bender in double coverage to continue his stellar camp.

Bender finished his time outside the red zone hitting Marks for a touchdown. Kyle Sweet, Tavares Martin Jr., Williams and Priester also hauled in catches from Bender during the drill.

“Baker finds a way to make things work when nothing is happening. He has a funny way of finding himself behind people,” Leach said. “And Marks has done a good job of catching and bursting upfield, what he does best, and I thought he did pretty good job of that today.”

Falk returned to the field for some work inside the 10-yard line, hitting Robert Lewis over three defenders, and then Kyrin Priester for a nice catch. Dom Williams had back-to-back grabs against Isaac Doston and Darrien Molton before Priester reeled in another nice grab against Pelluer to end Falk’s skeleton time.

Following the offense’s drubbing of the defense – the final score was 55-28 – defensive coordinator and secondary coach Alex Grinch was visually and verbally upset. The defense received several up-downs before gearing up for team time.

Bender started off the session with a one-yard gain Daniel Lilienthal, but was picked off on the ensuing play when the ball got knocked into the air and snagged by Chandler Leniu.

He didn’t sit and wallow, though, coming back to hit Baker for a 70-yard touchdown.

Two plays later, Lilienthal had a great catch with Marcellus Pippins close behind. As the offense approached the red zone, Kirkland Parker had a nice swap to break up a touchdown throw from Bender.

After being beat by Lilienthal earlier, Pippins knocked the ball out of Priester’s hands to preserve a tight 10-9 game. However, Bender hit Morrow in the flat and Baker on a diving catch for two more scores before closing out the drill with a 5-yard loss to John Thompson.

Falk took over with a 16-11 score and the defense immediately worked the game closer, with some quick stops and a big sack from Hercules Mata’afa. After a 10-yard catch by Baker and a complete miscue between Falk and Williams, the score was tied 17-all.

But the offense rallied – and never looked back.

Gerard Wicks burst through the offensive line for a 20 yard gain, then Lewis caught a 15-yarder en route and ran for eight more to bump the score to 23-17. On the next play, Falk had to throw it away as Mata’afa tried to get a second sack, and then threw behind Marks, but somehow the redshirt junior made the catch in front of Charleston White. Williams caught a nice easy throw as he lost his defender for Falk’s first touchdown.

A knockdown from Frankie Luvu and a sack from Reggie Coates brought the defense within six. Two plays later Wicks caught a pass in the flat and bullied his way into the end zone, thanks to a huge block from Marks on White.

Baker had the ball pop out on the next play, and Williams had a ball knocked from his hands making the score 30-26 in favor of the offense.

Leach then gave Erik Powell a chance to end the session, explaining that if his kick was good, no one would run. If it was bad, everyone but the kicker would run.

With the pressure on, Powell lined up from 37 yards out – and nailed it.

“I thought the team did well after the delay,” Leach said of the session in shoulder pads and shorts. “I thought the last part of practice was inspired. I thought skeleton was competitive and team [time] was a war, so I thought that was good.”

  • Quentin Breshears and Calvin Green were both present for the first time this fall. Breshears spent much of the time stretching and working with the kickers, but didn’t take any kicks. Green spent most of the day watching the other wide receivers.

  • River Cracraft was limited again, however, he did participate in some 7-on-7 to start the day and then spent much of practice on the stationary bike. Prior to the lightning delay, Daniel Ekuale headed for a bike as well. He did not participate in the 11-on-11 team time.

  • The team did its first set of full field goal work: a full kicking team and a full defense to attempt blocking the kick. Eric Powell was the only one to take kicks, going 4 of 5 including a 47-yard kick. His only miss was from 37 yards out.

    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks (Keith Harrington and Jamal Morrow)
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Ecklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    Z: Gabe Marks
    H: Robert Lewis

    DE: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Robert Barber
    DT: Hercules Mata’afa
    Rush LB – Kache Palacio/Ivan McLennan
    WIL LB – Jeremiah Allison
    MIKE LB – Peyton Pelluer
    NICKEL CB: Darius Lemora
    CB: Charleston White
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Isaac Dotson

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