Devonte McClain, a converted offensive lineman, caused plenty of defensive havoc during Thursday Night Football

PULLMAN – Another day, another great day for the Cougar D but this time it was in Thursday Night Football. In two days, we'll learn if all this great defense at practice makes perfect in defending what is a prolific California offense when Washington State takes the field Saturday in Berkeley.

Let’s dive right into the action, because it was a gooood battle. Peyton Bender had a solid night leading the offense, eventually getting a great-effort touchdown from D.J. Thompson, who lunged for the end zone for the offense’s first score. Bender also converted on a fourth-and-8 to Kyle Sweet. James Williams also contributed on critical plays in Bender’s drive, including a third and 10 catch and scamper for 12 yards.

Bender didn’t get away from the defense unscathed, however. Devonte McClain (pictured above) had his first spark of excellence against the Cougar backup QB. On a rip through the O-line, the former offensive lineman broke through and stripped Bender of the ball.

McClain, senior who never has been on scholarship, is on track to see some playing time this season, said DL coach Joe Salave'a.

Bender yielded to Tyler Hilinski, who moved the ball well but also got a taste of McClain while struggling in the red zone. Hilinski navigated down field with nice passing to Alijah Lee, who had 28 yards throughout the drive. Hilinski also put a perfectly-placed ball, just over the outstretched fingers of Treshon Broughton, into the hands of Isaiah Davis. After getting to the 11, McClain sacked Hilinski on back-to-back plays. Hilinski completed a short pass on third down, but was unable to convert on fourth down, leading to up-downs for the offense.

“McClain had a big night tonight. Being a former O-linemen, he showed how far he’s come tonight,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “He’s playing really hard right now, and he gave great effort.”

Finally, Christian Jorgensen stepped up for his chance, only again to fall victim to McClain. After a tough start for the young QB, Sweet caught a pass from Jorgenson, but Dakota Sinchak didn’t let up, ripping the ball from Sweet’s hands. Who should be there but McClain to come up with the recovery.

“He’s a graduate, senior, All he’s looking for is an opportunity to prove himself,” defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said. “It’s good to see him have some success. That’s what this is all about.”

Sinchak wasn’t done after the strip.  He nailed Erik Anderson before the ball got in the area. Anderson and the offense were upset, but the defense was elated with Sinchak’s play. Calvin Green also got a big hit during TNF. Jorgenson lofted a ball to Davis, but as the ball arrived Green popped Davis, causing an incompletion. Then Kingston Fernandez picked up a sack, leading to a fourth-and-15.

After a few drops earlier in TNF, Kaleb Fossum rebounded with a sliding 35-yard catch to put the offense in striking distance. At the 1, James Williams rammed into the end zone for the offense's second touchdown. The coaches decided to give Jorgenson one more shot from the 5, and he hit Fossum for the third and final TD of the night.

During regular practice, many players on defense got a chance to run with the 1s and 2s. Frankie Luvu and Aaron Porter were running with the twos, one of the first times I’ve seen them together on the field. Luvu had a great interception on a diving effort, and Willie Roach fought for a pick with Davis and won.

Offensively, it’s not a surprise but a lot of wide receivers got runs with 1s. Daniel Lilienthal, John Thompson, and Tyler Baker received a good number of snaps. There seemed to be an increase in snaps for Tavares Martin Jr. and Kyrin Priester with the 1s, but I would just chalk that up to the team wanting to get as many playmakers on the field as possible. Worth noting, Luke Falk hit Gabe Marks, who ran a beautiful route, for a touchdown against the scout defense during the offense’s 11-on-11 time.

Finally, special teams had a lot of drills Thursday. The team practiced their “buzzer-beater field goal attempt” drill, and Erik Powell doinked one off the right upright, but it caromed inside the goal post for a successful attempt. The team went nuts when they realized the kick was good. During warmups, Powell hit at least one kick from midfield. Coach Eric Mele also worked in punting and kickoff tweaks. The team was looking good in many areas of both kickoff and punting. For kickoffs, the team was setting their return blocks more effectively, albeit against the scout team. As for punting, Zach Charme keeps looking better and better. He had excellent hang time and command on his kicks.

Notable Notes

  • Isaac Dotson was not wearing a penny for the first time since returning to practice this week. He participated in a few snaps of Thursday Night Football so he could re-acclimate to game speed.

  • Before Thursday Night Football the team was not wearing pads, just helmets, shorts and jerseys.

  • Suli Hameed, Matt Abramo, Amosa Sakaria, Xavius Boone, C.J. Dimry and T.J. Fehoko were limited in Thursday’s practice.

Offensive Thursday Night Football

QB: Peyton Bender / Tyler Hilinski / Christian Jorgenson 

RB: James Williams, Alijah Lee 

LT: Andre Dillard / Cedric Bigge-Duren 

LG: Cody O’Connell / Noah Osur-Myers 

C: Sam Flor / Carlos Freeman 

RG: B.J. Salmonson / Mack Hopkins 

RT: Brandon Evers / Davis Perrott 

X: Erik Anderson / Kaleb Fossum 

Y: Kyle Sweet / Madigan Taulelei 

Z: Xavius Boone / Kainoa Wilson 

H: D.J. Thompson / Nick Begg 

Defensive Thursday Night Football

DE: Jeremiah Mitchell / Hunter Mattox 

NT: Ngalu Tapa / Devonte McClain / Austin Brown 

DT: Reggie Coates / Jacob Laird 

Rush LB: Logan Tago / Dylan Hanser / Nnamdi Oguayo 

WIL LB: Nate DeRider / Aaron Porter / Greg Hoyd III 

MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu / Triston Brock 

NICKEL CB: Treshon Broughton / Colton Teglovic / Darius Lemora / Isaac Dotson 

CB: Pat Porter / Dakota Sinchak / Kyle Torres 

CB: David Bucannon / Deion Singleton / Aaron Hecker 

FS: Hunter Dale / Calvin Green / Skylar Cracraft 

SS: Kirkland Parker / Willie Roach / Kameron Powell 

Offensive 1s

QB: Luke Falk 

RB: Gerard Wicks / Keith Harrington 

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 


Defensive 1s

DE: Darryl Paulo 

NT: Robert Barber 

DT: Destiny Vaeao 

Rush LB: Ivan McLennan 

WIL LB: Jeremiah Allison 

MIKE LB: Peyton Pelluer 

NICKEL: Isaac Dotson / Parker Henry 

CB: Darrien Molton 

CB: Marcellus Pippins 

FS: Taylor Taliulu 

SS: Shalom Luani 

Offensive 2s

QB: Peyton Bender 

RB: Jamal Morrow 

LT: Andre Dillard

LG: Cody O’Connell 

C: Sam Flor 

RG: B.J. Salmonson 

RT: Brandon Evers 

X: Kyrin Priester 

Y: John Thompson 

Z: Tavares Martin Jr. 

H: Tyler Baker 

Defensive 2s

DE: Hercules Mata’afa 

NT: Ngalu Tapa / Daniel Ekuale 

DT: Reggie Coates 

Rush LB: Logan Tago / Dylan Hanser 

WIL LB: Nate DeRider 

MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu 

NICKEL CB: Parker Henry 

CB: Pat Porter 

CB: Charleston White / Marcellus Pippins 

FS: Hunter Dale 

SS: Kirkland Parker  

Eric Mele


RELATED: CAL 101: Pressuring Goff is job 1 for Cougs

Cougfan Top Stories