Sunday's practice was helmets only, but that doesn't mean it was an easy one for Washington State's defensive backs under Alex Grinch

PULLMAN – As expected, Washington State’s Sunday night practice saw the players in helmets only. That did not, however, mean it was an easy night for the Cougar defensive backs.

After the main work of Sunday’s practice was done, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Alex Grinch had his DB’s doing tons of up-downs. It might have had something to do with their performance against EWU on Saturday.

 “In the defensive backfield we probably had our worst day since I’ve been here – and I’m responsible for the defensive backs and I’m responsible for the defense. So, I’ve got to do a better job,” said Grinch.

Sunday’s practice is designed to make corrections and adjustments based off what the coaches saw from Saturday’s game film.

The offense and defense both ran through their normal routine Sunday without many visible changes – and that’s likely due to modifications that Mike Leach and his staff addressed during meetings prior to practice.

When the coaches break down the tape and find missed assignments, miscommunication, wrong reads, wrong checks, alignment issues, and other mental errors – they can usually get those issues fixed in the film room or on the drawing board during the meetings on Sunday morning.

Sometimes it only takes a coach one time to make a simple correction – other times it has to be taken to the practice field and repped until it is fixed.

When coaches see improper technique, bad footwork, eye displacement, tentativeness, slow reactions, and other physical faults – that’s when drills get ramped up on the field and some discipline comes into play.

Aside from the collapse on defense Saturday night, I think Mike Leach hit the nail on the head during his postgame interview when he said that the team failed to respond well to adversity. I agree with that statement for a few reasons:

1.  The offense played pretty well for a season opener – they put up 42 points on six TDs, and that should be enough to get a win over any FCS opponent.

2.  If it weren’t for poor play on defense, the offense wouldn’t have been in a situation where they are down by two scores early in the fourth quarter. Yes, the offense floundered during the third quarter, but stalls are expected at times and especially in the first game of the season. Still, 42 points.

3.  When Luke Falk was facing a 10-point deficit that late in the game, I think he felt a lot of pressure, rushed some things, and squandered opportunities at times. It was uncharacteristic of Falk, but it happens.

And so there it is, the Cougs did not respond well when they faced adversity. They were behind in the game, and didn’t know how to overcome it. The defense gave the offense a few stops in the fourth quarter, but it was too late as they had already given up 38 points to that point on multiple long drives.

Contrary to the pregame conventional wisdom, I think it is entirely possible that the Cougs did in fact overlook EWU. I don’t think they were ready, or ever expected to have to make a late fourth quarter comeback this early in the season – especially to an FCS school. And it didn’t end well.

But adversity was what brought this team together last year, right?

Last year is over – Gabe Marks put it well after the game when he said, “We’ve got to remember that we are not that team from last year. We’ve got to find our own identity and we need to play better football.”

He’s right. The Cougs need to form their own identity this week in practice. Hopefully, it will be one that responds well to a loss.

RELATED STORY: Grinch on what went wrong on D

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