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PRACTICE: WSU freshman Mason Vinyard at RUSH linebacker dominates Thursday Night Football

PULLMAN – As storms creep over from the western side of Washington onto the Palouse, the Washington State Cougars endured buckets of rain and wind Thursday night. The Cougs concluded their final practice session in preparation for their homecoming matchup against the UCLA (7:30pm, ESPN) and once again Thursday Night Football scrimmage was dominated by defense.

Here’s who had the best performances in this week's TNF scrimmage:

DEFENSE

MVP: Mason Vinyard – RUSH

-       Freshman RUSH linebacker Mason Vinyard had a heckuva day helping the defense stifle the Air Raid from start to end. On the first drive of the day, Vinyard made instant impact as he shot into the backfield to stop a run attempt 5-yards behind the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, pass protection broke down causing backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski to scramble outside of the pocket. As Hilinski was looking for a target down field, he lofted up a pass that was intercepted by Vinyard and returned about 10-yards.

DB: Marcus Strong

-       Freshman corner Marcus Strong had a solid day defending freshman receiver Dezmon Patmon. Strong was tested deep multiple times when the offense threw it up to Patmon, their 6-4 receiver, hoping he would out jump the 5-9 corner. On two attempts Strong played Patmon with near perfect technique, breaking up both passes while avoiding interfering with the receiver. Strong is developing very quickly and has already found a spot in the 2-deeps on the depth chart.

DL: Nick Begg

-       Third-year sophomore Nick Begg (pictured above) is another player who has improved tremendously over the past few weeks. He continues to disrupt the offense's blocking schemes and always seems to force himself into the backfield. As we’ve seen how effective the Cougs shuffle pass play has been the past few games, Begg was the only player to stop it in TNF. I haven’t seen any opponent the Cougs have played do that. Begg and second-year freshman defensive lineman Hunter Mattox, have both seen reps with the 2’s in practice playing that D-tackle spot. My guess is that with the suspension of Logan Tago for at least the UCLA game coaches are looking for more players to step up and fill in some depth.   

OFFENSE

QB: Anthony Gordon

-       Considering how poorly each offensive unit performed during TNF this week, freshman Anthony Gordon did stand out by putting together the best drive of the day. He took the offense down the field, ending with a 20-yard touchdown strike to second-year freshman receiver Kainoa Wilson. Gordon had a couple other big completions as he found third-year sophomore receiver/runningback Keith Harrington for a 21-yard gain, then later with a 23-yard pickup to freshman receiver Brandon Arconado.

WR: Brandon Arconado

-       Brandon Arconado is quickly becoming the go-to receiver for QB’s playing TNF. He’s a reliable target, has great hands, and understands the offense very well at this point in his Cougar career. He hauled in a handful of big gainers and even converted a catch on a fourth-and-short attempt. Arconado is really good at creating space between himself and defenders down field, which in turn leaves him wide open time after time.

OL: Frederick Mauigoa

-       The O-line might have been the weak point on the field during TNF today, but regardless of the offense's performance freshman Frederick Mauigoa continued to execute his job at a high level. He plays with exceptional awareness and always has his head on a swivel. At center, Mauigoa is constantly being attacked from both his left and right side so having good field awareness is essential to picking up stunts and blitzes. He has a strong ability to sort things out in front of him before committing to take on a block, which he then meets with a lot of force and contact.

RB: Alijah Lee

-       Again the offense really struggled today. Run plays and pass attempts rarely picked up positive yards, but whenever yards were gained on the ground it was almost always Alijah Lee with the ball. As a third-year sophomore walk-on, Lee looks like he could be the next man up behind WSU's three headed monster at running back (Gerard Wicks, James Williams and Jamal Morrow). He’s a short guy that packs a big punch and has the strength with elusiveness to break tackles then fight for yards after contact.

RELATED: CFC TV: Manning breaks down rotation at RUSH


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