PRACTICE: Cougar defense sharp vs. the scout team Duck-style offense

PULLMAN – Saturday’s practice at Washington State was planned to be brief, but one side of the ball got in an extra period afterwards and some additional reps. As to the Cougar D, well, they leaped into the spotlight from the opening whistle of Saturday’s session in going against a scout team offense modeled after the Oregon attack.

The defense had an outstanding day against a Duck-style, scout team offense on Saturday.

But after practice concluded, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had his the defense spend an extra team period against the scouts. From what I saw, it was just to get in some more work before they get back into the regular routine coming out of the bye week.

Here are my three takeaways from Saturday’s practice:

1. High energy on D all day
-       The Cougar D did more than just shut down (almost) anything the scout team tried to put together Saturday, they were playing with fire – knocking ball carriers to the ground and forcefully attacking the football on every play.  Between the front seven and secondary, bodies were flying into the offense at a high speed.  Gaps and leverage were on lockdown, and did I mention speed to the football was never an issue?  The contain men held up and did their jobs well against the read-option and other UO offensive staples, giving the defense a spectacular day in my book.

2. Falk and Hilinski attacking down field
-      Both Luke Falk and Tyler Hilinski made their short throws and hit the check downs when they needed to, but they shined brightest on the medium-range passes on Saturday.  Z Gabe Marks and Y River Cracraft each had big days with some tough grabs. Many of Falk's passes were roped through good coverage, at times squeezed right between defenders.

3. Linebackers playing fast and aggressive
-       WIL Frankie Luvu, (pictured above) MIKE Peyton Pelluer, WIL Isaac Dotson and MIKE Paris Taylor played like their hair was on fire in Saturday’s practice. Aggressive might be one word to describe their play -- a few others would be be assertive, destructive, violent, hard-hitting and disciplined. The linebacker corps, along with the D-line, will see the most stress they have all season when they host Oregon on Oct. 1. It’s imperative that they play their absolute best game against the Ducks -- one slip by a 'backer and those opposing running backs will take it the distance and/or Oregon can reel off three scores in about five minutes time.
Here are more of my observations from Saturday’s practice:

-       Safety Jalen Thompson made an impressive open field tackle against scout team QB D’Jimon Jones on what was an extremely tough play to make. Jones had Thompson out in the open with turf to spare, but Thompson read his move and wrapped him up at the perfect time. It was likely a touchdown saving tackle -- that was stopped at the line of scrimmage.

-       The front seven was dominant all day against the scouts. Robert Barber and Ngalu Tapa were very active at the nose tackle spot – controlling their gaps and the line of scrimmage well.

-       Running back Jamal Morrow had a big run where he ended up 1-on-1 with a scout team safety, I think you can guess how that turned out.

-       Falk fit a tight ball to in between a scout team corner and safety, hitting Marks for what was a 30-yard gain.

-       Slot man Kyle Sweet had nice back-to-back receptions from Hilinski. The Cougs' No. 2 quarterback put an accurate, lofty touch on both throws and Sweet made sure they ween for big gains.

-       True freshman LB Derek Moore is seeing a good amount of reps both in practice and in games. The coaches seem to really like what he's doing in practice – they were super hyped on him today with Moore zipping in to make a couple impressive plays in the backfield.

-       Walk on RB Madigan Taulelei had two of the few scout team offensive highlights on the day, ripping two big runs against the starting defense.

-       On that scout team offense, WR Grant Porter also caught a deep fade over freshman corner Marcus Strong off the arm of Jones.

-       Cracraft worked his way open on two particular plays, Falk hit him in stride and the senior wideout had some room to run after the catch.

-      RB  James Williams and Morrow had very productive days both in the run game and via the pass.

-       This just in: wideout C.J. Dimry (6-5) is a big target for Falk. He caught a few passes in Saturday's practice while appearing to me to be completely covered up. It made me think Falk might be gaining confidence in letting fly to his receivers when it comes to the 50-50 type deeper balls, because this receiving corps should be able to go make a play, even when covered well.

The Cougs next practice on Sunday night at 8 pm.

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