Cougar defense, torched for several long plays during Tuesday practice, rebounds with a solid Wednesday

PULLMAN -- Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch broke an early huddle with WSU's defense, saying "Have a great day." The defense, coming off a Tuesday practice where the offense ran amok with several chunk-yardage plays, took Grinch's words to heart.

The Cougar defense flew around and made big deflections and forced short passes throughout practice. When competing against the offense's two deeps in skeleton, the defense was able to stop big gainers by keeping the plays in front of them.

Although Luke Falk and Peyton Bender were successful in completing the majority of their passes, the defense limited the receptions to plays near the line of scrimmage. Only two completions gained 15 or more yards.

Falk finished the skeleton drill 15 of 18 for 128 yards. Falk got two shots at the defense. He was forced to take a lot of underneath routes because of the great defensive coverage. It was hard to see all of Bender’s throws, but the young QB played well during skeleton.  From what I could see, however, the defense kept Bender’s throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

The defense held nearly every receiver in check during skeleton. Tyler Baker was the lone exception, as he was able to rattle off pass reception plays of 10, 15 and 16 yards from Falk. The 16-yard reception was the most impressive because Baker had to contort his body with the defender draped all over him, but the fifth-year senior wouldn’t be denied. Darrien Molton had the best individual defensive play when he dove to break up a Falk throw. The offense did two up-downs after skeleton.

During team time involving Bender, the first play was all defense. Kache Palacio came around the edge, causing enough pressure to unsettle Bender, leading to an Isaac Dotson interception. On the next play, Logan Tago nearly sacked Bender, but the second-year freshman found Keith Harrington for an eight-yard gain.

Bender finished the team time 4 of 5 for 36 yards, including 12-yard passes each to Kyle Sweet and Jamal Morrow. The secondary had great coverage, allowing the D-line to make Bender uncomfortable and force him to throw short passes, that did lead to modest gains.

Special teams worked on several things, with an emphasis on punting. The field goal portion of practice was intense, as the goal was to block Brett Schafer’s attempts. it wasn't pretty for Schafer, who had three of his six tries blocked. Schafer made one kick but missed five total with the three blocks and the other two misses sailing wide.

The punt drills included a lot of focus on blocking. That included blocking to protect Zach Charme, blocking to aid the return man, and a few reps blocking punts. The blocking punts came at the expense of the scout team. Coach Eric Mele focused on gunner blocking before moving into full punt drills. The team also ran a few kick return drills with a concerted effort to set good blocks throughout the field.

NOTE: If you’re wondering where our customary listing of the first string offense and defense has gone, WSU has made it clear all interview access to coaches and players will be denied if we continue to publish who is running with the 1s.

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