Cougs play an uneven Thursday Night Football

PULLMAN – In its first Thursday Night Football scrimmage, a few players stood out – Tyler Hilinski and James Williams on offense, and Dylan Hanser and Parker Kirkland on defense. A few things both sides did also stood out – for less-than-stellar reasons. The offensive line struggled, including fumbled snaps and a false start that almost cost Hilinski, while the defense gave up big gains.

Still, coach Mike Leach was pleased with the freshman quarterback’s performance.

“I thought Hilinski did a really good job moving around,” he said, “moving his feet and keeping some stuff alive.”

Before Thursday Night Football, the players gathered in Martin Stadium for the first time this week, in helmets, jerseys and shorts.

Both Luke Falk and Peyton Bender got some work with the ones in the 7-on-7 and the 11-on-11 drills against the scout defense to begin practice, while the defense worked on some positioning drills against the scout team minus the o-line.

The kickoff coverage and return teams got some time against scout teams, working on technique for blocking and shedding blocks. There was some punt work with the coverage and return team working against the scout teams. Zach Charme looked good on his distance and hang time against the scout team. Special teams also worked on field goal work, which included some misses and makes from Erik Powell and Brett Schafer. Charme also worked on punting kickoffs on the chance the Cougs ever give up a safety.

The scout offense took on the defense while the quarterbacks and wide receivers worked on routes and receiving on the other end of the field. Soon after the offense battled the scout defense. Falk took the snaps for the offense. While the offense progressed and scored five touchdowns against the scouts, the defense had success against the scout team.

Desinty Vaeao and Robert Barber showed quick burst to the ball carrier through the scout o-line. Shalom Luani almost had the most impressive play of the day when he shot through the o-line, setting up a screen, and nearly intercepted the ball. Charleston White had a pick, but he and Isaac Dotson also gave up a nice juggling catch to Xavius Boone.

The Cougars simulated some crowd noise to give Falk a chance to work with his hand motions and shouting commands out to the o-line. The defense flew to the ball on multiple plays against the scout team, highlighting how it has taken to new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s mentality to attack the ball.

“All the guys are competing, and we’re hoping at some point we don’t just have a starting 11Alex Grinch said. “A major goal for us is to see our depth and playing more than just 11 guys out there a week.”

The players participating in Thursday Night Football put on their pads and got under way. Hilinski started a little slow, but it didn’t take him long to get into a rhythm. B.J. Salmonson started with two rolling snaps that caused the offense immediate trouble. Sam Flor replaced Salmonson at center after that. Hanser didn’t make things easy for the offense either as he got a sack and a tackle for loss early in the game.

Parker Kirkland nearly had three plays in a row where he made a big contribution to the defense. He laid big hits on receivers Kyle Sweet and Erik Anderson. The team ran into a couple fourth downs before the goal line, but Hilinski found D.J. Thompson on one occasion and ran for the second one himself.

Right before the scramble, the team had a fourth-and-1, but a false start from right guard Moritz Christ made it a fourth and six, but that didn’t stop the young quarterback from California. After his snapping issues, Salmonson got a second chance when he replaced Christ at right guard.

“We started off a little slow on the o-line, and then we started getting going,” said offensive line coach Clay McGuire. “We need to pass protect better. I think some of the guys got nervous, but they’ll settle in and they’ll play better.”

At at the goal line, Hilinski missed two throws on the first two plays. Williams was stopped near the line of scrimmage, but on fourth-and-goal, Hilinski found Erik Anderson for a leaping catch for the offense’s only touchdown. After the touchdown, Christian Jorgenson stepped in at quarterback, but, had several incompletions and threw an interception to David Bucannon. Williams was the bright spot here including a 22-yard run. Alijah Lee fumbled, but Salmonson recovered the ball.

“Jorgenson just needs to learn the stuff, he hasn’t been here very long, but he just needs to develop,” Leach said.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Suli Hameed, C.J. Dimry and T.J. Fehoko were limited in practice today. Tyler Baker didn’t have his non-contact penny on today.

  • According to @BKRansford on Twitter, redshirt freshman wide receiver Zaire Andre was granted his release from WSU on Wednesday. Andre's name still appeared on the official roster as of late Thursday night, assumedly with the paperwork still to clear.

    THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

    Offense:
    QB: Tyler Hilinski, Christian Jorgenson
    RB: James Williams, Alijah Lee
    LT: Andre Dillard
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: B.J. Salmonson, Sam Flor
    RG: Moritz Christ, B.J. Salmonson
    RT: Brandon Evers
    X: Erik Anderson
    Y: Kyle Sweet
    Z: Isaiah Davis
    H: D.J. Thompson

    Defense:
    DE: Reggie Coates
    NT: Ngalu Tapa
    DT: Hunter Mattox
    Rush LB: Dylan Hanser, Logan Tago
    WIL LB: Frankie Luvu
    MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu
    NICKEL CB: Darius Lemora
    CB: Pat Porter
    CB: Kyle Torres
    FS: Kirkland Parker, Hunter Dale
    SS: Skylar Cracraft

    RUNNING WITH THE 1’S

    Offense:
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: River Cracraft
    Z: Gabe Marks
    H: Robert Lewis

    Defense
    DE: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Robert Barber
    DT: Destiny Vaeao
    Rush LB –Ivan McLennan
    WIL LB – Jeremiah Allison
    MIKE LB – Peyton Pelluer
    NICKEL CB: Isaac Dotson
    CB: Darrien Molton
    CB: Charleston White
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Shalom Luani

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