PRACTICE: WSU's Alex Grinch intensely demanded continued improvement from the Cougar defense during Wednesday practice

PULLMAN – As Washington State works to keep their three game winning streak alive, Wednesday at practice coaches continued to demand more from players. The intensity was elevated and the energy was high on Rogers Field – especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Here are my three takeaways from Wednesday’s practice:

1.     Grinch demands perfection

-       During Wednesday’s practice, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Alex Grinch was probably the most intense I’ve seen him all season. It wasn’t that the defense was having a bad day, but more like Grinch was not going to allow anyone to take the day, or even one play, off. Grinch is already a pretty vocal guy so when you hear his voice echoing even louder you know he means business and that he’s not going to let even the slightest mistake slide. For most of the session he was all over the defensive backs, screaming and shouting out different techniques and pointers that they’ve all heard about a million times by now. He was also reinforcing certain things that the defense clearly went over in the film room such as communicating with each other pre-snap to recognize formations and route concept tendencies they talked about in meetings. When the scout team would complete certain passes that Grinch wasn’t happy with, he would constructively chew the defender out, coach him up, reload the play, and then run it until it was perfect. One thing was for sure, Grinch definitely wasn’t there to take the day off.

2.     Falk and receivers playing in sync

-       One of the things that we noticed last week when the Cougs torched Stanford through the air was how Luke Falk took more chances with his receivers when they appeared to be covered. After Tuesday’s practice, head coach Mike Leach said that Falk’s timing with the receivers is part of the reason why those throws were attempted. Whatever the reason may be, it has carried over into practice – and the receivers continue to snag these tough throws out of the air. What most would consider to be 50/50 throws look more like hit or miss throws. What I mean by that is that Falk is placing these throws in such a position to where the likely outcome is that the receiver either makes a great catch and pulls it in or that the ball is tipped or falls incomplete. We saw it last Saturday when Falk went deep for Tavares Martin a number of times, but the ball was either overthrown or it was a bit outside of the lines. The point is that these throws are calculated and are relatively safe in regard to maintaining possession. On top of that, receivers seem to be making these tough catches more often than not.

3.     Luvu was lights out Wednesday

-       Junior linebacker Frankie Luvu is arguably one of WSU's hardest hitters on the team, and he’s not just one of those players that brings it on game day – he plays with maximum effort on every rep that he takes in practice. On Wednesday, Luvu was flying around the field making plays and smacking bodies around. In the midst of his destruction, he recorded a sack and an interception. His pick came after he sniffed out a screen play and cut off the throw at the last second, taking the ball the other way for a potential pick-six.

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

-       Play of the day: During the offense's team period, Falk threw a deep pass up to senior receiver John Thompson. Because of the route and angle of the throw, the ball came in awkwardly. Thompson got his hands on the ball but bobbled it a few times. As it bounced back into the air freshman linebacker Dillon Sherman was there to snag it for an interception.

-       Second-year freshman Hunter Mattox and third-year sophomore Nick Begg have performed very well during the past few Thursday Night Football scrimmages. Each got a handful of reps with the 1’s and 2’s on Wednesday. The looked like they handled their jobs well and made a positive contribution.

-       During the offense's team period against the starting defense, fifth-year senior receiver CJ Dimry caught a 10-yard pass and put a move on the corner to gain an extra 15-yards after the catch.

-       Junior linebacker Dylan Hanser recorded a sack against the scout team during the defense's team period.

-       Falk had a very good practice, showing continued improvement with pocket awareness. His feet are much more active than weeks past. His ability to step up into the pocket versus scrambling looks light-years ahead of where he was at the beginning of the season.

-       Freshman safety Jalen Thompson put a massive hit on one of the scout team receivers, launching him up in the air and right on his back.

-       Fourth-year junior running back Gerard Wicks ripped off a big 24-yard gainer on the ground during the offense's team period.

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