The Cougar defense started practice working on four different drills: picking off the ball and following the quarterback’s hips, ripping past a blocker then scooping up fumbles, a separate drill causing fumbles and recovering, and finally a drill tracking down players and ripping the ball out then recovering. More drills and position group work followed. Jeremiah Allison showed good work during drills when breaking for interceptions, and Isaac Dotson did a great job snagging the ball at its highest point. Calvin Green also showed a great nose for the ball.
The defense joined the scout offense on Martin Stadium and ran 11-on-11. The 1s and 2s for defense took on the offense’s scout team, while the scout defense took on the offense 1s and 2s. The 1s and 2s showed great reaction to the ball. Peyton Pelluer was around the ball on numerous occasions.
The defensive backs split from the rest of the defense to face wide receivers for 1-on-1 drills. The DB v. WR drill was the one time the defense struggled in Wednesday’s practice. Numerous times Luke Falk and Peyton Bender found their receivers as the defense tried playing catch-up. Green continued his growth in the secondary with an interception and a pass break up.
“Calvin is fast and physical, we considered him a little as a defensive back coming out of high school,” Leach said. “He played DB in high school. He’s a fast guy and more physical than he looks.”
The team did some work on bubble screens, and the defense struggled to get off their blocks. Before skeleton, there was punt work. The hang time from Zach Charme was impressive, with an average around 4.12 seconds.
Next was skeleton work. On the second play, Pelluer jumped in front of a Bender pass for the first interception. During Bender’s time at QB, the defense had several good plays. Shalom Luani dove to knockdown a pass, but the throw found John Thompson, who scampered in for a touchdown. The defense showed good reaction time, and there were several times the defense had good coverage initially causing the QB to wait. Falk jumped in and it was more of the same. The D caused late throws, short gains and a few drops.
“I thought the defense did good, bounced back and had a lot of enthusiasm all day,” Leach said.
The skeleton moved to the goal line, and Parker Henry broke up a pass to Keith Harrington while Dotson picked off Bender on his second throw. During Falk's turn, the defense continued to react quickly to the ball carrier. Marcellus Pippins gave up a score on the next play. Bender returned and the defense knocked away two passes. Luani was late with his coverage allowing Falk to throw a TD on his first play back.
The team moved into kickoff drills focused on the kicking and coverage work of the team. Erik Powell had four kicks, and Quentin Breshears had two kicks.
During team time, Falk ran with the second team o-line, and it did not go well. The defense was everywhere on every play. The highlights included two sacks and two interceptions. Darryl Paulo and Allison broke through the offensive line quickly and swarmed Falk to get the defense within two points, 7-5. Later on three consecutive plays the defense had a sack from Ivan McLennan and Paulo, then interceptions from Darius Lemora and Chandler Leniu. The defense was whooping and hollering following the last pick. Two more missed chances from the offense gave the D a 20-7 lead going into Bender’s time.
“Today was a great day for the defense. We were bouncing around, getting to the ball, trying to cause turnovers and have fun, be a team,” Lemora said.
A change at QB nearly got the offense a win. The defense struggled and gave up two touchdowns and several first downs. There were some highlights before the final play, including pass knockdowns from Aaron Porter and Paulo. Paulo’s swat tied the drill at 24 apiece. In the red zone, Darrien Molton lost Gabe Marks on the next play giving the offense a two-point lead. The only way the defense could win was an interception. After jumping the gun in skeleton, Luani made a great play on the ball for the game winning interception as the defense won 27-26. The defense went crazy.
DE: Darryl Paulo
NT: Robert Barber
DT: Hercules Mata’afa
Rush LB –Kache Palacio
WIL LB – Jeremiah Allison
MIKE LB – Peyton Pelluer
NICKEL CB: Isaac Dotson
CB: Darrien Molton
CB: Marcellus Pippins
FS: Shalom Luani
SS: Taylor Taliulu