PRACTICE: WSU passing game goes inside

PULLMAN - Washington State was back at it on Wednesday continuing to prepare for their first Pac-12 game of the season when they face Oregon this coming Saturday at Martin Stadium (6:30pm, Pac-12 Network). The Ducks come to Pullman looking for some revenge after losing last season to the Cougs 45-38 in double over-time in Eugene.

If you ever happen to find yourself hanging around a Las Vegas casino on an typical Wednesday night, there’s a chance you might run into a 6-4 blonde-haired skinny dude with a WSU hat on and a wrist band that reads “BRAD”. You notice the guy because he's hitting the slot machines for hours on end.

Okay, not really – but that’s kind of what Luke Falk was doing at Wednesday’s practice on Rogers Field.

Time after time Falk found inside (slot) receivers River Cracraft, Robert Lewis, Kyle Sweet (pictured above), and John Thompson with throws all over the field. In a way, it was like watching someone sit there and pull a lever that magically made this machine turn over – a "slot" machine.

Were he to have been in Vegas, it was as if Falk never lost and never ran out of attempts. Practice almost looked rigged.

Okay, that's enough fantasy - on to reality.

Come Saturday, Coug fans will finally get a real taste of what this team is made of. Earning a win will be tough, but again on Wednesday in practice I see a team that looks ready and prepared.

Here are my three takeaways:

1.     America's Best Slots (ABS as they call themselves) make a statement

-       I say this with all honestly, compared to previous weeks, Falk looks way better and much more comfortable. Now with that said, it’s clear that his receivers are putting in extra effort to make sure that they come down with every single ball that’s thrown their way – especially the slots. Not excluding great play coming from Gabe Marks and company, Cracraft, Sweet, Lewis, and Thompson (America’s Best Slots) really took their unit to a new level in Wednesday’s practice. Fighting for the football, getting vertical, taking that extra step to get open, blocking for each other down field – it was fun to watch. All four guys hit big explosive plays, each of them getting their share of scores for the day.

2.     Ball hawks come to play

-       I may have missed a few, but I counted at least eight interceptions by the defense on Wednesday. Second-year safety Hunter Dale accounted for three – two coming during the 7-on-7 period and one later during the team period. Other interceptions were hauled in by Peyton Pelluer, Paris Taylor, Shalom Luani, Treshon Broughton, and Darius Lemora. Turnovers are a huge part of what defensive coordinator Alex Grinch drills into his guys to accomplish for the Cougs to have their best chance at winning football games. The more they get used to snagging loose footballs in practice, the more likely they are to make it happen in a game.

3.     CJ Dimry, again!

-       It seems like every single practice session this guy manages to creep into every highlight and takeaway that I observe. He’s getting a lot of reps and he’s making the most of those reps. He caught ball after ball Wednesday and simply made it look easy every time. There are so many strong qualities to his game that very few players can bring to the table. To me, it’s his unusual combination of size, speed, quickness, and vision that separates him from others. Dimry has a lot of potential to be a big threat. Hopefully, he can prove me and everyone else right this weekend just as running back James Williams did in the Idaho game. There’s a lot of talent on this roster, almost too much to account for. Not a bad problem to have – but In the end, winning trumps all.

Here are more highlights and observations from Wednesday’s practice:

-       During the team period NT Robert Barber brought big time pressure forcing an interception by Treshon Broughton against the scout team. He ripped through his block and put a big hit on the quarterback.

-       The starting offensive line didn’t allow a single sack all day during both team periods. That's right. None.

-       As the offense worked on red-zone attempts during team, backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski threw three consecutive touchdown passes on tosses to Thompson, Sweet, and Dimry.

-       Marks made a spectacular over the shoulder grab on a throw from Falk. He was covered man-to-man by safety Jalen Thompson who had deep help over the top. Falk fit the ball right where only Marks could make the catch with both defenders out of reach.

-       WR Isaiah Johnson-Mack stretched out for a ball that was thrown by Falk a little outside of his range. He kept the ball alive and made the acrobatic catch while falling to the turf.

-       While playing with the scout team, second-year defensive lineman T.J. Fehoko recorded a tackle-for-loss after bulling through blocks from senior center Riley Sorenson and fourth-year junior left guard Cody O'Connell to tackle fourth-year junior RB Gerard Wicks behind the line.

-       WR Kaleb Fossum returned a punt for a touchdown during a full speed rep. He reversed field about half way through the return and went untouched for the score.

-       Falk looked to be sacked on a play, but stuck with his reads and found a wide open Marks for a nice touchdown throw.


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