Perhaps the team looked happier because they slept in their own beds. It might have been some home cooking. Maybe its Martin Stadium that did the trick.
Whatever the case might be, Luke Falk looks like he’s really turning it on right now. It could be that he’s getting even more comfortable with the offense, but the ball just came off his hand with a lot more zip today.
In 7-on-7, Falk was perfect on his first drive. He pushed the ball down field more than he has all camp. He knows the season is getting closer and now that the team is back in Pullman Falk can really settle in and get comfortable on his home turf.
“I think we’re playing more in sync together”, said Falk after practice. “We’re starting to get our timing down. I think our O-line is getting off the ball a lot better. I think our young guys are stepping up. So I think we’re doing a lot of good things.”
Turnovers on offense are now a rarity on the practice field. If I recall correctly, there hasn't been a single fumble by any of the running backs so far in practice (knock on wood).
Through 10 days of fall camp, both quarterbacks have thrown for a combined total of 11 interceptions (Falk with 5, Tyler Hilinski with 6). Those are very impressive numbers considering they both have multiple drives in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 reps every single day. Falk and Hilinski hardly ever throw the ball into traffic.
The offensive line is really coming together. Only one sack was recorded on the day and once again the offense line opened several big holes for the backs.
“I think they’re our most sound group from top to bottom," said Falk when asked about Cougar running backs. "They’re a really explosive group… When we have four studs like that (Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Keith Harrington), you know, why not give them the ball. They need to be touching the ball as frequently as possible. Whether it be in the run game, pass game, anything like that.”
When those big holes opened up today, it was Morrow and Wioks running through the lane.
On one run, Wicks popped through the line into the open field with only safety Shalom Luani to beat. Wicks runs as hard as they come, but I wouldn’t consider him the most elusive guy on the team. It looked like he tried to make a quick move but Luani made a great open field tackle giving Wicks notice that he has some power, too. I’m sure if Wicks just decided to run him over the hit would have gone his way. Either way, Wicks read the hole and hit the next level at full speed.
Morrow had his share of nice runs as well, scoring two touchdown runs on back-to-back plays in the red zone. One of his runs had the entire team in cheering in awe after he broke a few ankles sending a couple defenders to the ground because of his elusiveness. Morrow had nothing but turf in front of him after doing his thing and casually walked into the end zone.
In all honesty, over the past two years I haven’t seen so many plays in practice where running backs are untouched going up the gut. I’m sure these backs are licking their chops when they break linebacker depth at full speed on a dead sprint. If these are the kind of holes opened up against opposing teams this season, it really won't matter who’s in the rotation at running back.
River Cracraft had the play of the day. He was wide open over the middle when hit with a nice pass from Falk. As he turned up field and took a few steps he lost control of the ball and it popped up into the air. Cracraft quickly turned his head to grab the ball back out of the air and continued on his way for the score. It was almost comical because there was no one near him who could have caused the bobble.
Like I said before, the pass game, run game, and the offense as a whole are rolling right now.
Behind the starting line is still a bit of a puzzle at this point. A lot of movement is still happening and today there were some new looks.
Eduardo Middleton and Cody O'Connell moved to tackle. B.J. Salmonson moved to guard. Cedric Bigge-Duren returned to guard while Frederick Mauigoa stayed at center. Salmonson has previously been the guy to come in when someone goes down.
My best guess is the coaches want to see a few more guys at other spots and get players experience at every position across the O-line so they can be ready for anything.
Looking at the WSU defense, Garrett McBroom was back on the field and looked like he could become an instant contributor. McBroom quickly got thrown into the starting mix and demonstrated today why the coaches have been so high on him. He’s very quick, strong, and has good feet. He was pushing offensive linemen around today and at times had them trying to chase him from behind. McBroom looks to add more to this developing D-line and might get a lot of playing time this year if he can keep performing like he did today.
One position that doesn’t get a lot of glory during Leach’s Air Raid practices is linebacker. With limited offensive formations in practice, these guys are either dropping into pass zones or blitzing the quarterback. It's almost like they are just taking up space and forcing the offense to work around them. Today's practice did show more action from the guys behind the D-line.
Peyton Pelluer, Isaac Dotson and Paris Taylor really understand their assignments. Part of the reason they don’t get much recognition in practice is that they are where they need to be. Whether it's filling their gaps or getting their depth in coverage, these guys don’t make a lot of mistakes. Taylor in particular is playing with a lot of energy and hit power right now. With his size, frame, and strength, (6-3, 223) there’s a whole lot to be afraid of when you come over the middle against him.
Pelluer shares the same kind of presence on the field and is also extremely active on the outside in screens and tosses. He’s not the fastest guy back there, but his lateral movement is excellent which gets him across the field quickly. Pelluer carries a lot of heavy momentum when he’s running and is likely to knock over a few blockers before he gets to the ball carrier.
Taylor and Pelluer appear to be a really good combo at the MIKE spot.
My favorite position; because that's what I played, is nickel. Parker Henry and Kirkland Parker have to be having the most fun on the field at any given time. They are just outside of the box so they can play pass or run on any given snap. Henry is without a doubt one of the best down field players the Cougs have.
Today, Henry lined up on the edge against the offense's 3-back formation. It was a run play that called for a lead blocker to pick up Henry on the outside. Henry shot into the backfield, knocked over the running back coming to block him and cut the legs out from under the ball carrier. Pretty incredible thing to do at this level for a former walk-on.
Taking exception to the efficiency of the Coug QB's, Kirkland Parker stepped in front of what Hilinski thought was an open receiver in the end zone. Not only did he intercept the pass, it would have been a pick-six in a game.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was pretty unhappy with the overall performance of his unit today, aside from the solid play by some of the defenders. Grinch had the 1s and 2s on defense running sprints after today's practice.
It’s hard to tell what went wrong and who did what, but it was easy to see what went right. It was the offense making big plays and the defense playing on their heels today.
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