Big plays mark WSU’s second spring scrimmage

PULLMAN -- The Cougs have now had two scrimmages this spring -- and the two could not have been any more different from one another. While there were some long drives put together by the offense, and some solid third and fourth down stops by the defense, it was the big plays by both sides of the ball that characterized Saturday’s scrimmage.

Indeed, after a first scrimmage that featured zero turnovers and only three offensive plays gained more than 20 yards, Saturday’s practice was completely different.

The first drive of the scrimmage included quarterback Peyton Bender and the second team offense going up against the second team defense.

After an unsuccessful first two plays, Bender hit Y receiver Kyrin Priester on an out route to move the chains on third and eight and the offense never looked back.

Bender did an excellent job of taking what the defense gave him and put together an impressive drive. He was faced with two fourth downs, but converted them both with completions to running back James Williams and H receiver Kyle Sweet.

The drive ended with a physical four-yard touchdown run by Williams, and kicker Erik Powell converting the extra point.

The first stringers then got ready to square off. Quarterback Luke Falk threw a beautiful first pass to Y receiver River Cracraft for a first down, but the defense stole the spotlight after that.

Nose tackle Robert Barber blasted through the line and wrapped up running back Gerard Wicks for a loss on the second play. The next two plays were incomplete passes and the defense had earned a punt, but the coaches wanted more reps out of the 1’s, so they started the drive over.

It turned out even shorter than the first as versatile defensive back Charleston White, back at safety on Saturday, intercepted Falk’s pass on the first play and would have easily been able to return it for a score if it were a game.

The drive was then started over for the third time and the offense decided to make some big plays of their own. After two short completions, Falk found Gabe Marks on a 35-yard touchdown pass that got a little momentum back for the offense. Kicker Mitchell Cox made the extra point.

The 3’s took the third drive and the offense had quarterback Christian Jorgensen at the helm. This matchup was dominated by the defense.

On the second play from scrimmage, Jorgenson threw a slant that was tipped up by a linebacker and intercepted by safety Hunter Dale. Jorgenson did get on track for a little while including a nice completion to H receiver Kainoa Wilson, but the defense ended two more drives on fourth down thanks in part to sacks by linebackers Tristan Brock and Greg Hoyd. After an interception and two stops on fourth downs, the 3’s first round of work was over.

It was now Hilinski’s turn to quarterback the second team offense. He picked up one first down on a 10-yard completion to running back Williams, but the O was stopped on downs. The offense line struggled at protecting Hilinski on this drive and Mike Leach stopped the drive and walked onto the field to let them know that they were not performing to his standards.

The drive was restarted and it again did no look good for the offense as they faced a third-and-10, but Hilinski broke the pocket and scrambled for a first down. This got momentum back for the offense and on the very next play Hilinski hit Marks on a post route for a gain of 35 hashes that gave the offense a first and goal from the five.

After two incompletions, Hilinski used his feet to make another play. This time instead of running for yardage, he broke out of the pocket and bought some extra time for Priester to get open in the end zone, zipping him a pass for the score. The extra point was made by Cox.

The 1’s then took the field for the second time and the drive started with a bang for the offense.

Falk flipped a screen pass out to Williams, who made an impressive run after the catch and gained over 40 yards before being tackled by Mike linebacker Peyton Pelluer The defense fought back with Rush linebacker Logan Tago recording a sack and White batting down a pass intended for Cracraft.

With the offense facing third-and-15, Falk lofted a pass high to Cracraft who went up and over a defender and made the best catch of the day -- and maybe all of spring ball.

This still left the offense with a fourth-and-two, but Falk tossed a quick pass out to Marks who did the rest to pick up a first down. Running back Jamaal Morrow then punched it in from three yards out for a score and Cox finished the drive off with the extra point.

The 1’s then stayed out for another drive, but this one started in the red zone at the 20-yard line.

This was meant to emulate a sudden change of events (turnover by the offense, big return on special teams) that puts the defense in a difficult situation. The defense did not pass the test.

Falk tossed a quick screen pass out to X receiver Tavares Martin who took the pass 20 yards for a score. The coaches wanted to try the situational drill again and the defense fared better than the first time. But an impressive catch in traffic by Priester got the ball to the one-yard line and the bruising Wicks punched it into the end zone from there. Instead of an extra point, the ball was backed up and Powell tried a 41 yard field goal, but he missed.

When the 3’s came out for their next round of work it was freshman early-enrollee quarterback Justus Rogers getting his first scrimmage reps of the spring.

He had a shaky start as his first pass was nearly picked off by his former Bellevue High teammate, Nate DeRider. A short run by Alijah Lee and a sack by Nick Begg brought up fourth-and-long and the drive was started over.

After another sack by Begg and an incompletion, Rogers and the offense were faced with a third-and-long. Just when it looked as if the young quarterback was overmatched, he hit Y receiver John Thompson for a gain of 11 hashes and a first down. This really got his confidence going as he put together a nice drive with several good completions.

The drive ended with Rogers lofting a ball to the back of the end zone and Thompson making a great catch while dragging his toes in bounds for a score. The ball was again backed up for a 41-yard field goal try that Cox missed.

It was then time for Bender’s second drive with the 2’s and he again looked impressive.

Bender had a string of completions to a variety of receivers that got the ball down to the 27-yard line. He then hit speedy H receiver Robert Lewis over the middle who took the pass in for a score.

Bender put together two impressive drives on the day and was the only quarterback that was not stopped by the defense on downs or by way of a turnover today.

On the next drive the 1’s took the field for the final time and Wicks helped the offense get things going with a powerful 11-yard run on the first play.

The defense, however, was unfazed and put together a few nice plays of their own -- the next three plays were an incompletion, a three-yard completion and another tackle for loss by Barber on a running play.

On fourth-and-eight, Falk hit Lewis on an out route that got just enough to keep the drive alive. The offense then tried a jet sweep to Martin, but Will linebacker Frankie Luvu showed his athleticism and dropped Martin for a loss. Two straight completions by Falk gave the offense a first down at the 23-yard line and it was here that Morrow put an end to the drive.

He took a hand off from Falk and made the most impressive run of the day -- juking a defender in the hole and turning on the jets the rest of the way for a touchdown. This put an end to the work day for the first stringers.

The final drive of the day featured the 2’s with Hilinski. On the third play of the drive, defensive lineman Kingston Fernandez stripped running back Williams and defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo made the recovery.  The drive’s quick ending caused the coaches to re-spot the ball and start the drive over.

After a couple of nice runs and seven completions to seven different receivers by Hilinski, the offense was looking at  a first-and-goal from the three-yard line.  Cornerback Deion Singleton made a nice deflection on a fade route on first down and the defense stuffed Morrow for no gain on second down to bring up third-and-goal.

Hilinski then threw another fade route to the corner of the end zone and cornerback Marcellus Pippins got a hand on the pass -- but Martin caught the ball after it was tipped up into the air for a touchdown on the last play of the day.

Today’s scrimmage was another back and forth battle where both sides did a lot of good things.

The big play ability of the offense and defense shined brighter than anything today and it made for a very exciting scrimmage.

The Cougs have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and today’s scrimmage, from my chair, was one of many other reasons to be very excited about the 2016 season.

-- Cole Madison, C.J. Dimry, Isaac Dotson, Daniel Ekuale, Keith Harrington, Carlos Freeman and Parker Henry were inactive today.
-- Garrett McBroom was running with the 1’s at the tackle spot.
-- As mentioned earlier, Charleston White was back at safety.
-- Shalom Luani was at the nickel back spot today.
-- White to safety and Luani to nickel back may have been because first string nickel back Parker Henry did not practice today, but with how well White continues to do at safety no one should be surprised if he lines up at safety at some point this season.

Scrimmage No. 2 Depth Chart:
No. 1 Offense
QB: Luke Falk
RB: Gerard Wicks/Jamaal Morrow/James Williams
Offensive Line: With Madison out, the offensive line continues to rotate a lot of guys at different spots and featured many guys running with the 1’s and 2’s.
X: Tavares Martin
H: Robert Lewis
Y: River Cracraft
Z: Gabe Marks

No. 1 Defense
Cornerback: Darrien Molton
Cornerback: Deion Singleton
Safety: Jalen Thompson
Safety: Charleston White
Nickel: Shalom Luani
Mike: Peyton Pelluer
Will: Frankie Luvu
Rush: Logan Tago
Nose: Robert Barber
Tackle: Garrett McBroom
End: Hercules Mata’afa

No. 2 Offense
QB: Peyton Bender/Tyler Hilinski
RB: Gerard Wicks/Jamaal Morrow/James Williams
Offensive Line: As mentioned earlier, With Madison out, the offensive line continues to rotate a lot of guys at different spots and featured many guys running with the 1’s and 2’s.
X: Kaleb Fossum
H: Kyle Sweet
Y: Kyrin Priester
Z: Isiah Johnson

No. 2 Defense
Cornerback: Treshon Broughton
Cornerback: Marcellus Pippins
Safety: Hunter Dale
Safety: Willie Roach
Nickel: Kirkland Parker
Mike: Aaron Porter
Will: Paris Taylor
Rush: Dylan Hanser
Nose: Ngalu Tapa
Tackle: Kingston Fernandez
End: Nnamdi Oguayo


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