Day 8: Cougs go wild on special teams

LEWISTON -- Washington State held its shortest practice of fall camp Saturday on the eve of the Cougs' first (and only) official scrimmage of camp on Sunday. The offense came out firing on all cylinders during the skeleton drill. In 11-on-11, the offense started hot, cooled off and then finished really strong. The Cougs also did the most special teams work they have all camp.

WSU started the second-to-last day in Lewiston the same as all the others -- drills to stretch and warm up each position. But the entire session lasted only 90 minutes.

On special teams, the Cougs did field goal kicking, kickoffs and punting in full 11-on-11 work. Find out more in the notable notes section at the bottom of the story.

“We’ve got a lot of the same guys this year, so we’re better now than we were a year ago,” Mike Leach said after practice.

Skeleton drills started with Luke Falk at the helm -- he threw only one incompletion in his first stint leading the offense.

He overthrew Robert Lewis on on route and then Peyton Bender came in. Bender hit every receiver during his first part of skeleton, including a touchdown pass to WR Gabe Marks who had CB Darrien Molton on the coverage.

Running back Keith Harrington also had a nice play out of the backfield where he lost Rush Kache Palacio and LB Paris Taylor for a catch and run of 15 yards. The play daidn't damped Palacio's enthusiasm, though.

“Practice was fun, I was flying around today,” Palacio said. “I was fast, it was a short practice and the energy was alive today.”

Falk returned with the score sitting at 24-9. This part of skeleton was working on third down conversions. Falk converted on each of this throws, to Lewis and WR John Thompson, who both beat their defenders. Bender stepped in and hit all three of his throws to receivers Thompson, River Cracraft and Tavares Martin (pictured above) for first downs. The defense lost 34-9.

“Today there was a quick, fast tempo and the offense just got the better of the defense,” said running back Jamal Morrow. “Everybody was moving around fast, it was good.”

The Cougars started their team session early (around 3:30 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m.), and Bender didn’t waste anytime getting started.

He hit his first four throws before missing low to Harrington. He then hit wideout Daniel Lilienthal who had a good toe-tapping catch in the front of the end zone. He finished with two back-to-back incompletions as wideout Kyrin Priester dropped the ball after being hit by MIK Peyton Pelluer, and nicekl back Darius Lemora grabbed Thompson early but no pass interference was called. The score ay this point 12-8 with the offense ahead.

Falk entered and started off cold. On one of his first throws corner Marcellus Pippins stepped in front for an easy interception. On the next play, safety Taylor Taliulu stopped Harrington for a short two-yard gain, tying the score 12-12.

On third down, Falk hit Marks near the line of scrimmage and Marks ran seven more yards for a first down. The offense had two more great plays after that including a nice 15-yard gain from Lewis, who used great moves to get open, and Gerard Wicks ran for 15 hashes of his own before defensive back Willie Roach knocked him out of bounds.

However, the defense wasn’t going away.

Wicks was swallowed up in the backfield for a loss, and then d-lineman Hercules Mata’afa had a huge sack. Falk sat in the pocket too long, and didn’t scramble soon enough which allowed Mata'afa to track him down.

But after that play, the defense didn’t score again.

Falk hit Dom Williams on a quick touchdown from the 10-yard line. He followed that by scrambling left to avoid DE Darryl Paulo and hit Wicks for a five-yard score. Finally, Falk lined up under center with two tight ends, Lilienthal and Nick Begg (who is the only TE listed on the roster). Falk play faked to the running back and nailed Williams in the quick slant to beat Pippins.

“I thought Luke did well, I mean we had a lead when Bender was pulled,” said Leach. “He played pretty steady, he had two plays that I didn’t think he played great, but did a great job in the red zone.”

As the Cougars wrap up Lewiston on Sunday, the team is scheduled to hold their official scrimmage. For those interested in attending, practice will start at 2:30 p.m. but the scrimmage will not start right away. The team will stretch and do their normal 45 minutes to an hour of drills before the scrimmage is expected to get underway.

NOTABLE SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES:
  • Matt Abramo finally got to show what he can do, and it was good. The freshman went 4 of 5 on field goal tries. His only miss was from 42 yards out. He had makes from 19, 27, 33, and 47-yards. Kyle Celli served as long snapper again, and River Cracraft was the holder. No blocks today from the defense. They had a good opportunity to block the 47-yarder due to it’s low trajectory, but the o-line held and no defensive linemen could get a hand on it.

  • The kick returners had another good day -- Harrington, Marks, Priester and Martin each had returns of at least 30 yards. Note -- We missed this initially: the Cougs were running blocking and return drills against the scout team, and coverage was NOT the emphasis.
    There were three touchdowns out of seven kickoffs -- Harrington, Priester and Martin all ran back kicks for score. Quentin Breshears also had a kick out of bounds.

  • The kickoff work was handled by Breshears and Abramo. This was Breshears' first day doing any competitive kicking (yesterday was his first day in camp, where he did some work stretching and warm up kicking).

  • The punters had a good day. Erik Powell and Zach Charme competed. Both had good hang time with decently deep kicks. There were two touchdowns on punt returns both to Marks out of six punts. Again, all the focus here was on setting up the returns and against the scout team, and not on the coverage units.

  • CB Charleston White was nowhere to be found today, I did not see No. 4 during any drill. He laid a big hit on a wide receiver yesterday and sat out the final several plays of Friday’s practice.

    RUNNING WITH THE 1’S

    OFFENSE
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks (Keith Harrington and Jamal Morrow, also took a few reps with ones)
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison
    X: Dom Williams (Daniel Lilienthal saw a number of reps with 1s)
    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 – Jeremiah Allison
    MIKE – Peyton Pelluer
    NICKEL BACK: Isaac Dotson (moved up because of shifting D with Charleston White not playing)
    CB: Darrien Molton (stepped in with first string D with White out)
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Shalom Luani (moved here with Dotson at nickel)



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