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Notes and quotes from Washington State's final scrimmage of the spring football season

SPOKANE — Cougar center Riley Sorenson said Saturday that he and his fellow offensive linemen know head coach Mike Leach loves them the most. As a result, explained the senior from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., “We just have higher expectations."

“We can’t take a day off. We just have to work that much harder to exceed expectations,” Sorenson said following the Crimson and Gray scrimmage at Albi Stadium.

“I thought we had a pretty good scrimmage. We could have cleaned it up a little bit,” said the 2015 All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick. He noted that Leach is fond of reminding people that he spent 10 years as an offensive line coach, and because of that he holds a special place in his heart for the guys up front.

RUNNING BACK JAMES WILLIAMS, WHO redshirted last season as a true freshman, wasted little time Saturday making his presence felt, hurdling defensive back Jalen Thompson as he turned the corner on his first catch.

“I expected him (the defender) to go a little lower,” Williams said through a big grin. “I didn’t clear it the way I wanted to. I just wanted to make stuff look pretty.”

Williams, pictured above, said he first tried hurdling a defender in high school in Burbank, Calif., and scored on the play.

“I said to myself ‘that felt good!’ and I’ve been trying to hurdle people all spring.”

He piled up 67 all-purpose yards Saturday: 42 on six pass receptions and 25 on six rush attempts, including a 10-yard run for a touchdown.

“This is big for me – this is as close to a game as I’ve been in since my senior year,” he said. “It’s been two years since I’ve done something like this.”

In addition to reshirting last season, Williams missed most of his senior campaign at Burbank High in 2014, going down with a season-ending knee injury in Week Two.

“I was pleased but not surprised,” Leach said of Williams stellar work in Spokane. “Some guys have a little anxiety in a situation like that (but not Williams).”

THE SCRIMMAGE FORMAT HAD THE squad divided into Crimson and Gray sides, but the offensive linemen (wearing all white) and quarterbacks (wearing all anthracite) mixed and matched with both sides.

Luke Falk said he wasn’t sure which side he’d play for until about five seconds before he ran out to take his first snap with the Gray side.

Leach said the way sides were divvied up affected the way some units performed.

“I think the big thing is that we jumbled up our offensive line to the point where we never got a cohesive effort up there,” he said. “But in order to make it competitive, that’s what you’ve got to do.

“In some cases we didn’t give them a fair shake and in some cases they just have to go out there and play better.”

Leach was pleased, overall, by the performance.

“I felt we had some good things,” he said. “I thought it was competitive. I thought it was disjointed a little more than I’d hoped. But that’s kind of the risk of doing it the way that we did it.

“I thought Luke and his group started out slow, but then they heated up as things went along. I thought Hilinski had a good day. (Peyton) Bender got some good work but he never really settled down. I thought we could have been more precise.

Gabe Marks caught a pair of touchdown passes from Falk, hauling in a screen at the 10 and racing into the end zone in the first half, then grabbing a 7-yard toss at the back of the end zone as Falk drove the team 75 yards in the final 1:48 of the first half.

“I think we’re better when we go up-tempo,” Marks said. “I wish we could go up-tempo all the time. I know we can’t do that, though.”

FALK SAID HE WAS PLEASED WITH how his Gray unit played. While on the slower side overall, he thought the productivity was good given the mixing and matching of talent. Things truly started to click on final drive of the first half, he said.

“I think our defense, overall – our D-line, our linebackers and our secondary are all playing at a really high level,” he said. “They’re making us better by being more competitive. Our team is going to be a lot better because of it.”

Falk said he was a surprised to run out onto the field for the first series of the game and see Marks lined up with him.

“That was a nice surprise,” he said. “I don’t think Gabe and I have ever been on the same spring team. How many times did I target him? 15?”

Marks caught 11 passes — tying him with Robert Lewis for the game high. Falk completed 23 of 28 passes for 170 yards and the 2 TDs to Marks.

HALFTIME WAS BRIEF, BUT THE entertainment was top notch. Fans who remained in the stands were treated to a show by junior kicker Erik Powell. He hit a series of long-distance kicks off a tee. He concluded his brief workout with a pair of shots from 61 yards out — the first sailed just over the cross bar and the second bounced off the cross bar.


  • Media coverage of the game was like a Cougar reunion. Erik Coleman, a mainstay on WSU’s three 10-win teams of the early 2000s, handled the color for the Pac-12 Networks while quarterbacking standouts Jason Gesser and Alex Brink served as the color and sideline talent on the Cougar radio broadcast. In addition, former Cougar receiver Tyler Baker was on hand as the beat writer for CF.C while Jack Thompson, Jeremiah Allison and Bill Moos were interviewed on the sidelines by the Pac-12 Networks’ Ashley Adamson.
  • The Cougars will wrap up their 15-session spring season with a practice on Tuesday.
  • Quarterbacks were off limits Saturday so the defense piled up 12 "touch sacks" with Ngalu Tapa and Nick Begg leading the way with 3 each. Begg converted to defensive end this spring after two seasons at tight end/slot.
  • One of the highlights of every spring game in Spokane is the opportunity for fans to take photographs and secure autographs from Cougar players. This year was no different as kids and parents flocked to the field with cameras and Sharpies. Logan Tago and Chandler Leniu (photo below) are all smiles during the fan fest.

Logan Tago (45) and Chandler Leniu (Bob Johnson/CF.C)

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