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PRACTICE: WSU's Luke Falk continues improving one play at a time

PULLMAN – As Washington State looks to carry their momentum into Corvallis this Saturday, one thing that seems to be the focus this week is extremely high energy. As Cal found out a couple of weeks ago, Oregon State is not a team to be taken lightly. Tuesday’s practice session showed exactly how hard the team is preparing to face the Beavers this Saturday (7:45pm ESPN2).

Here are my three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:

1.     Luke Falk continues to play at extremely high level

-       At practices this deep into the season, there’s no doubt that some players are guilty of going through the motions. You can always count on at least one guy who never takes a single rep off – that’s the Cougs starting quarterback, Luke Falk. What I saw from Falk (pictured above) during Tuesday’s practice was the same poise and fire that has been igniting this team for the last five games in a row. The confidence that he’s gained after five consecutive wins is really showing in the way Falk approaches the practice field. From what I’ve been watching at practices throughout the year, what usually looks like a simulated drill in practice is now directly translating over to the games. That includes all kinds of throws, many being very similar to the 52-yard touchdown pass that Falk tossed up to Gabe Marks against ASU this past week. What’s so interesting to me is how similar Falk’s progression and development has been to what we saw from him during the 2015 season. With a winless record after the first two weeks, what started with criticism and skepticism has quickly turned to praise and awe after the some of the performances that he has delivered. 

2.     Backer’s set to have a big game this week

-       There’s one thing that Oregon State sure loves to do on offense and that’s run the football. That's great for this team and for this defense for so many reasons. First, it will be a huge test and challenge to see where this team is at when facing a run dominant Pac-12 team. Another reason would be the Wazzu front seven is going to need to play together without any lapses in gaps, leverage, or assignments. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch already preaches that to his player’s day in and day out. During Tuesday’s practice you could tell that the Coug linebackers were more than aware of their assignments – especially after the 52-yarder that they let loose in the second half at Arizona State last week. Between Peyton Pelluer, Isaac Dotson, Paris Taylor, Frankie Luvu, Parker Henry, and Shalom Luani (who can definitely be considered as a hybrid LB at this point), focus and physicality were more than present on Tuesday. Gaps were covered, leverage was met with aggression, and bodies were flying around with a purpose. This a group of guys that provide great depth at the position and who can also keep each other fresh by rotating so that the next guy can play at his highest level.

3.     Offensive line cleaning up technique and communication

-       After posting a net rushing total of negative 52-yards and giving up seven sacks to the Sun Devils' front seven last week, WSU offensive line coach Clay McGuire was all over his guys on Tuesday. As Jamal Morrow mentioned during Monday’s press conference, there was some miscommunication going on between the running backs and the offensive linemen. Whether that miscommunication was due to the front looks that ASU was showing them or from guys not hearing or seeing calls and signals, the OL looked like they had it cleaned up and figured things out by the end of practice. Whatever those guys talked about and adjusted during meetings definitely reflected on the practice field. 

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

-       Marcellus Pippins made an incredible one-handed interception as he was covering a deep ball and extended out to cut off the throw.

-       Continuing to show how in sync they are, Falk and Marks connected on perfect throw and catch that was squeezed right in between a corner and a safety deep down the field.

-       The outside contain on defense was lights out. Depending on the play call and situation, many times the contain man can come from any position on the field. For example, Pippins can be contain on one play, and Daniel Ekuale can be contain on the next. The point is that this defense understands their assignments extremely well, and it shows on the practice field.

-       The offense rolled in the sandpit (Leach Beach) after practice for whatever Mike Leach’s reasons may have been.

-       Hercules Mata’afa and Robert Barber were very disruptive in the backfield against OSU offensive looks from the scout team.

-       In team period, Dylan Hanser shot through the line and made a nice sack in the backfield.

-       River Cracraft caught a really great throw from Falk even though he was pretty well covered near the sideline.

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