PRACTICE: WSU D shifts to attack Bear Raid

PULLMAN – Washington State practiced through Election Day 2016 by working on all things related to this week’s home match up with California (Nov. 12 at 7:30pm, ESPN). The defense got off to a slow start, but quickly picked things up to shut down the scout team replicating the Bear Raid attack. On offense, it was more of the same Marks, Cracraft and Williams from last week’s blowout win.

Here are my three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:

1.     Offense surges with Marks, Cracraft, Williams

-       As you might expect from WSU's starting quarterback after seven straight wins, Luke Falk was nails on Tuesday utilizing his most dangerous weapons on offense.  Wide receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft, along with running back James Williams were Falk’s main targets and go-to players that carried the majority of the load. All three put on a clinic of explosive plays displaying great awareness with the ball in their hands with a heavy dose of explosive speed after the catch. Marks and Cracraft showed a clear understanding of Cal’s coverage tendencies on defense while Williams used his patience and quickness to shoot through gaps and make defenders miss.

2.     Defense works out kinks against the Bear Raid

-       It took the Wazzu defense almost half of the first team period to get comfortable with Cal’s offensive schemes. Once coaches reloaded several plays and saw them for a second time around, it was like a night and day difference. A few wide open receivers, some big runs and a couple missed tackles had defensive coordinator Alex Grinch start several plays over to go through correct calls and checks that his defense needed to make. After quick adjustments, from my chair the defense was all over the scout team and shut down just about every play after that.

3.     Big day for Coug O-linemen

-       As usual, WSU’s offensive line was solid in pass protection for the entire practice. But it was the run game and screen passes that really caught my attention. Not only did The Goon Squad (the WSU O-line) open up wide holes for the trio of running backs, they were hitting blocks deep into the second and third levels. On screens plays, whether it was a receiver or a running back, the big boys utilized cut blocks and their lengthy arms to dominate the defense's leverage in the open field.

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

-       Paris Taylor had a very solid practice at linebacker. He shot into the backfield on an outside run play and stopped the ball carrier deep in the backfield. On the next play, Taylor intercepted a pass and went untouched as he returned it in the other way.

-       Isaiah Johnson-Mack pulled in a deep 40-yard bomb from backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski during the offense's team period.

-       CJ Dimry caught a 25-yard pass from Falk after putting a hard inside move in 1-on-1 coverage against the scout team corner.

-       During the first team period, Frankie Luvu recorded a sack against the second team O-line. As play continued on to give receivers, quarterback, and secondary some work, Hilinski found Cracraft open about 50-yards down field that was a perfect throw and catch.

-       Erik Powell went 3 for 3 on field goal attempts.

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