With the regular season for WSU concluded, preparation for their bowl game began Saturday inside Martin Stadium but instead of the usual practice format that the Cougs have followed -- where offense and defense go off into their own team periods -- Mike Leach decided to have the two units go toe-to-toe against each other for the entire session.
The Cougars haven’t had a full one-on-one team period since the last practice of fall camp in Lewiston, way back in August.
As you might expect, both sides were pretty fired up and they showed no signs of taking a step back after ending the regular season with back-to-back losses. As junior linebacker Peyton Pelluer (pictured below) illustrated through a banged up and bloodied face after practice, Saturdays are for the boys.
Here are highlights and takeaways from Saturday’s practice:
- During O-line/D-line one-on-ones, the Cougs starting five offensive line won every single rep they took against the defensive starting linemen.
- During the 7-on-7 period, LB Isaac Dotson had an interception in his hands after crossing in front of a pass from QB Luke Falk but the ball slipped out of his hands and harmlessly fell to the turf.
- CB Darrien Molton and WR Gabe Marks had a competitive practice going against each other, including several one-on-one reps in man coverage. Molton covered Marks like a blanket for most of the day but the Cougs' No. 1 receiving threat also made some tough grabs in showing why he is a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 pick.
- WR C.J. Dimry made a nice catch after Falk found him in a one-on-one matchup with Kirkland Parker playing the corner position.
- On one of the first plays of the team period, backup QB Tyler Hilinski connected with RB James Williams on a 30-yarder. And those yards weren’t easy to come by as Williams bobbed and weaved behind three key blocks that he picked up down field behind o-linemen Drew Norvell, Frederick Mauigoa and Noah Osur-Meyers.
- Hilinski also connected with Marks on a 23-yard touchdown pass after the grabmaster beat Molton in man-to-man coverage. The same happened on the next to last play of the day, except Marks pulled in a fade from about five yards out.
- Safety Hunter Dale intercepted Hilisnki at the goal line after he attempted a short pass to Robert Lewis.
- After pulling in a short completion, WR Tavares Martin put a two-step move on linebacker Paris Taylor and then left him in the dust, breaking into the open for a 25-yard gain.
- Pelluer made a nice stop at the line of scrimmage when filling his gap to shut down a Gerard Wicks rush attempt.
- Falk hit Williams for a 22-yard touchdown pass, however, from my angle I saw a clear block in the back that would have potentially wiped out the play. Eduardo Middleton gave Ngalu Tapa a love tap and a half on the back of his shoulder, forcing Tapa to the ground and opening up a huge lane for Williams.
- On the last play of the session, the offense had the ball on the three-yard line and went with a run. Safeties Shalom Luani and Jalen Thompson along with Pelluer flew into the gap and gang-tackled Wicks short of the end zone.