PRACTICE: Cougs crank it back up with Ducks in mind

PULLMAN – The Cougs cranked it up in practice on Thursday. Both the offense and defense responded well after a somewhat sloppy practice on Wednesday kicked off the bye week sessions. On Thursday, the Air Raid offense was firing on all cylinders, while the Washington State defense fixed some issues that they had the day before against a dual threat QB scout teamer.

Here are my three takeaways from Thursday’s practice:

1. Falk quick and accurate
Luke Falk must have had a tune up sometime between Wednesday and today’s session. He was much quicker with his decisions and throws, getting rid of the ball in a far more timely manner.  More importantly, he found open receivers on almost every play -- and delivered sharp throws to his receivers in stride, on the play side. He was decisive on both short and deep ball completions. And while he utilized all the receiver talent, he shined brightest on the deep passes in really showing some great touch.

2.     Martin and Marks, Go and Go-to
Gabe Marks is surely the Cougs' top receiver, but Tavares Martin (pictured above) and Falk are continuing to develop chemistry and they were in perfect step with one another on Thursday. Martin and Marks are getting open more than anyone, which is great to see because it allows the offense to attack sideline to sideline, and keep opposing defenses on their toes. True, the Cougs are feeling the absence of Dom Williams right now in my view, but the continuing emergence of Martin could be big the rest of the season as Falk finds more and more confidence in throwing to him.

3.     Defense stifles some Duck-style schemes
The Cougar D got torched by scout team QB D’Jimon Jones Wednesday but after watching the D on Thursday, it appears that's exactly what they needed. The crimson stop corps looked to me to make considerable progress on Thursday in learning and adapting to Oregon’s offensive schemes. It was a great call in my view by defensive coordinator Alex Grinch to put Jones at QB to give the defense that dual-threat look - Jones is the perfect athlete for such a role. On Thursday, the WSU D looked much more prepared and it looked like they had learned from the mistakes they made the day before. Indeed, the stop corps looked comfortable with what varied looks they were seeing –they contained Jones all day, never letting him loose for a big run.

Here are more highlights and observations from Thursday’s bye week practice:

-       Wideout C.J. Dimry might be ready to start finding his way into the rotation on Saturdays. He caught several passes, short and deep, from Falk.

-       Safety Jalen Thompson had a huge day. He was playing fast and physical in both pass defense and against the run. He had several tackles for loss, and recovered a fumble -- after he himself stripped Jones in the backfield.

-       This just in. Marks works hard at practice. He runs full speed every single rep, regardless of whether he gets the throw or not. On Thursday, Marks caught balls on about every route in the playbook. Short, intermediate, deep, you name it – he was out there competing.

-       LB Paris Taylor laid a monster hit in the backfield against one of the scout team running backs. Taylor brought a lot of energy to the practice field on Thursday.

-       One of the defensive keys to containing Jones on Thursday was found in the discipline from the linebackers and defensive ends. They forced Jones in the read-option to make the handoff by keeping the contain man focused on the QB, while the rest of the defense looks to take away the gaps for the running back.

-       Martin broke free for a couple wide open TDs against the scouts.

-       RB James Williams ripped a big 20-yard touchdown run.

-       RB Jamal Morrow caught a short pass, made a few moves and deftly picked up 25 yards after the catch.

-       Walk on RB Killian Page turned in the biggest play by the scout team against the starting defense. It was the only long play the 1s allowed, but Page busted off a long run, breaking an arm tackle on the way to the end zone.

-       Rush Dylan Hanser made a nice pass breakup after coming off the edge on a rush.

-       WR Robert Lewis caught a deep throw from No. 2 QB Tyler Hilinski where Lewis outjumped freshman defensive back Skyler Thomas.

RELATED STORY: Cougar D struggles against dual threat, scout team QB


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