Day 7: Coug D turns up heat to crush offense

LEWISTON, Idaho – Simply put, Washington State’s defense could not be stopped. Every time you turned around during Friday’s practice session, yet another spectacular play was being made. Granted, there were also plenty of moments where the offense didn’t help itself, but those on the other side of the ball outplayed and outshined the competition.

“I thought the defense was real aggressive the whole time, and constantly trying to get to the ball,” coach Mike Leach said.

Luke Falk started out the skeleton time at quarterback and was fairly successful in getting the ball where he wanted it. Gabe Marks had two great catches from Falk, one against Kirkland Parker and one after Falk dropped it in over the outstretched arms of Charleston White. Falk hit John Thompson for a big touchdown as the ball split five different defenders.

Peyton Bender came in after Falk’s 11 plays and hit Dom Williams for a touchdown on his fourth throw with Darrien Molton on the coverage. Jamal Morrow also made a wide-open catch.

Falk returned for some red-zone attempts and only hit one touchdown to Thompson, who was popped by Jeremiah Allison just as he reached the goal line. Falk’s other two attempts were a loss of two to Tavares Martin, Jr. and a drop from Kyle Sweet. Bender followed with less luck as Sweet dropped his first goal line attempt. Keith Harrington caught the second pass, but didn’t score, and Frankie Luvu (pictured above) made a great tipped interception because Bender was eying the middle of the field the entire play.

“All the young linebackers have been making plays, but Luvu has just been all over the place lately,” Leach said.

After the two signal-callers failed on three attempts apiece, the ball moved within the 5-yard line and both dominated. Each tallied a pair of touchdown passes: Falk threw both to River Cracraft and Bender hit John Thompson twice to win the skeleton drill 44-41.

Bender started off team time strong with an early 4-0 lead that included nice running from Harrington and a nice catch and run from Robert Lewis set up by a block from Daniel Lilienthal. However, the defense was just getting started, and got its first point after causing Martin to drop the ball. Two plays later, Gerard Wicks was stuffed for a 3-yard gain and Allison essentially bear-hugged Harrington to allow just a 2-yard gain. Peyton Pelluer then knocked the ball out of Thompson’s hands. Bender threw behind Kyrin Priester for an incompletion to tie the game at 5-all. On the next play, Bender dropped back looking to set up the screen to Harrington, but Reggie Coates read the play beautifully and cut in front of Bender to tip the pass to himself for a pick-six.

Two plays later, Bender threw low to Thompson — sending him to the ground — and the ball popped off his stomach and into the waiting arms of Parker Henry, making the score 12-5 in favor of the defense.

The defense finished the drill by giving up a touchdown to Thompson as he made David Bucannon and Willie Roach miss on a 5-yard in route for Bender’s only touchdown of team time.

“The defense did a good job fighting for the ball, trying to strip it,” Leach said. “They had a good collective effort on defense, and kept a high level of energy throughout the entire period.”

With the offense down 16-8, Falk stepped in looking to make a comeback like he’d done in prior practices, but his second snap flew over his head, resulting in a point for the defense. Two plays later, Harrington fumbled into the waiting arms of White, and Thompson made a catch for 5 yards, but Isaac Doston swallowed up Wicks on the next play for a loss.

Next, a false start from center Riley Sorenson and a pass too far in front of Lewis all but spelled out the loss. Three plays later, Falk threw behind a wide-open Lilienthal, who had room to run in front of him. Wicks had a good 10-yard gain on the ensuing screen pass. Cracraft dropped the ball after Allison and Darius Lemora clobbered him. The next play Falk was sacked extending the defense’s lead to 26-12.

The lone highlight for the offense came on the next play as Marks ran upfield, looked inside, but almost immediately cut outside so a scrambling Falk could get him the ball. Falk delivered, and Marks made three good jukes and dove for the end zone.

The score sat at 26-14, and the final five plays didn’t really make any difference as the defense went on to win 29-17.

“Execution was key for today, we got big plays today,” defensive end Hercules Mata’afa said. “We all just ran to the ball that helped us win today.”

Left guard Gunnar Eklund added that the offense didn’t make excuses for coming up short in a competitive practice.

“It was up and down a lot,” he said. “Today was a little flat offensively, so the defense got us today.”

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Calvin Green, who has moved to defensive back, ran some defensive routes after practice with a few wide receivers.

  • Kyrin Priester, Gabe Marks, Keith Harrington and James Williams returned kickoffs during the small time kickoffs received.

  • After Erik Powell received all kick attempts on Thursday, Brett Schafer kicked all field goal attempts. The defense had two blocks on Schafer – one on an extra point and the other from 47 yards out. He was successful on a 32-yard attempt, but missed a 35-yard kick and 45-yarder.

  • After being the main target at the ‘Y’ receiver position, Tyler Baker was limited today and did not don pads. Neither did C.J. Dimry, who went out of yesterday’s practice about halfway through the day.

    ONE MORE NUGGET:
    CF.C broke the news Friday afternoon the NCAA had denied clearance to 4-star d-tackle Thomas Toki and that he will delay his enrollment at WSU until January 2016. That in turn opened up a fall camp spot for K Quentin Breshears, who was at practice in Lewiston on Friday. Breshears, who was previously not going to participate in fall camp, now jumps right into the thick of things and will compete at kicker, primarily with Matt Abramo and Erik Powell.

    RUNNING WITH THE 1’S

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

    DEFENSE
    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 (Darrien Molton)
    CB: Charleston White
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Isaac Dotson


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