Cougs apply finishing touches before Thursday Night Football

PULLMAN – Thursday’s practice at Washington State saw the 1’s and 2’s get a few more reps inside Martin Stadium before they collide with Eastern Washington on the Cougs’ home turf this Saturday (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Then it was time for the youth and reserves to take the field for Thursday Night Football.

Thursday’s session saw the Cougs’ front line players in helmets only, running through some drills and plays against the scout team units to make any last minute adjustments.

WSU head man Mike Leach always runs his Thursday practices, and crowd noise blasted through the PA system in Martin Stadium to replicate the noise that will fill the stadium on Saturday.

To my eye, the team looks sharp, focused, and ready to start the 2016 season off on a high note. Offense, defense, and special teams all look like they’ve got everything together right now – they just need a different team in front of them. That said, you never know what you’ll see when the whistle blows and the plays matter.

After the Cougar starters and key players finished the short practice, Thursday Night Football saw the young guys and lower depth chart players in some live scrimmage action.

There was tons of excitement and enthusiasm on both sides of the ball during TNF.

The first offensive drive only took four plays to move the ball 60 yards and in for a touchdown. The defense allowed some big holes early and let the ball carriers just run right through them. Some missed tackles and missed assignments might have been to blame, but from my vantage point the offense took what the defense gave them and made them pay for it.

Aside from one interception today, second-year sophomore quarterback Anthony Gordon looked impressive in the pocket and behind the ‘gun. He has picked up the offense quite a bit since arriving shortly before fall camp.

Indeed, Gordon made a few throws today that really threaded the needle to find his receivers’ hands. On a beautiful pass to slot receiver Renard Bell (pictured above). Gordon felt the pocket collapsing and stepped up to make the throw that hit Bell right in stride as he proceeded to reel off a 45-yard gainer.

Bell has really turned some heads after the way he played in fall camp this year.

“He’s doing just what he’s supposed to be doing,” inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shepard said of Bell.  “I mean that’s what we recruited him for – so he can come here and flash. That’s what he does -- kid can run and cut on a dime.”

On defense, my hat goes off to safety Darius Lemora after his TNF performance.

The fourth-year junior came away with an interception, fumble recovery, and looked to be one of the only defensive players that was playing downhill to make a tackle. After practice, linebacker coach Ken Wilson noted that Lemora will be suiting up for this Saturdays game because of his play in recent days.

Some other players on offense that really stood out to me were Alijah Lee and Killian Page. These two walk on running backs played big against the defense in TNF, breaking tackles and ripping off some explosive runs. Lee scored twice, once on a goal line run – another on a 29-yard screen pass.

Just two more days before the season gets underway in Martin Stadium. After a short stretch and warmup session Friday morning, the Cougs will have one more walk through session and meetings before game day.

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