Washington State Football: Game week preparation for EWU shifts practice focus

PULLMAN – The long road has finally come to an end. It's been a strenuous offseason for Washington State that began sometime in early January and is now officially over. The first game week of 2016 began with a brief Sunday night practice.

Sunday night's short practice had the players in helmets only. They needed just an hour to work on some final touches before the season starts.

Throughout the season, Washington State coaches use Sundays to keep their players fresh and mentally sharp.

The Cougs have been grinding and improving day by day since they began fall camp in early August. All the pieces are coming together for their regional matchup Saturday evening at 5pm with Eastern Washington in Martin Stadium.

There weren’t many corrections to be made on the field tonight – or “reloads” as they are called by staff and players.

It's common that Sunday preparation is much different than your typical practice in that players aren’t necessarily pushing themselves to make big plays to impress coaches. They are still practicing with tempo and speed, but its more of a mental thing than anything else.

The scout teams give both sides a proper look so they can get into the correct calls and rep their playbooks. Repetition is a crucial component of preparation because it allows players to become familiar with plays and schemes they anticipate using on game day.

It’s also a day for the coaches to make sure their players understand what they’re seeing on the field.

For example, in the case of a defender who fills the wrong gap or makes an incorrect call, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, or any assistant, can stop the practice and coach their guys up to make adjustments to assure everyone is on the same page.

Same goes with the offense. If a receiver drops a pass for whatever reason, head coach Mike Leach will absolutely stop practice and reload the play. 

On Sunday, the scout team that works with the offense is basically just there to give them a formation look they should expect to see game day. So if a receiver drops a wide open pass, there’s not a whole lot of coaching to do. Leach will surely get after his guys if they aren’t looking sharp, reload and run the play again until he's satisfied.

Monday is normally the day for coaches to put together a full game plan that will be implemented in meetings on Tuesday. Don’t worry, it's not last minute. These coaches already have a pretty good idea about who and what they will be facing in the upcoming game.

With EWU’s Cooper Kupp and their high powered offense coming to town this weekend, the boys have no room for error in their preparation. Players and coaches will be hitting the film room more than they have at any other time during the offseason as they work together to dissect the Eagle's playbook and schemes.

Players, coaches, alumni, and fans included – no one wants to see the Cougs start the season the way they did against FCS opponent Portland State last year. A loss to Eastern could be absolutely devastating to the teams’ confidence and chemistry moving forward.

With a lot of hype and optimism surrounding the Washington State football team this year, the Cougs must start strong – and that includes having a strong week of full speed, full contact practice starting on Tuesday.


RELATED: WSU Preview: Eastern Washington in week one


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