WSU SCRIMMAGE: Cougar D racks up the sacks

PULLMAN — With nine sacks and an interception, the first full scrimmage of WSU spring camp was a good day for the Cougar defense. Two first-teamers on the Wazzu stop corps stood out in particular.

Senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer (6-0, 228) and junior d-lineman Hercules Mata'afa (6-2, 255, pictured above) had good outings on Saturday.  Mata'afa continued to show excellent quickness off the snap as he has all spring. He logged one of the sacks and had other  pressures on the day, while Pelluer covered a lot of ground and forced a fumble.

A pair of true freshman defensive backs, Zaire Webb (5-10, 169) and Isaiah Love (6-0, 174), also had great days for the second team.

Mike Leach after the scrimmage was pleased with the defense and in particular the secondary, but also noted the defense let the offense off the hook a few times.

Switching between the first and second units, second-year freshman nickel Justus Rogers (6-2, 225) played well in posting a team-leading five tackles including a sack on sophomore QB Tyler Hilinski (6-3, 217), plus the day’s only interception.

The offense had some nice plays — receivers junior Kyrin Priester (6-1, 195) and senior C.J. Dimry (6-5, 213), as well as senior running back Jamal Morrow (5-9, 200) all performed well.

But their efforts were overshadowed by some big errors by their offensive teammates, including poor snaps by projected starting center sophomore Frederick Mauigoa (6-3, 305), and multiple dropped passes from sophomore RB James Williams (5-11, 192).

The scrimmage mostly pitted the first, second, and third offensive teams against their respective defensive counterparts, though secondary players and receivers switched between the first and second teams throughout — and sophomore Noah Osur-Myers (6-4, 307), replaced Mauigoa at center after a series of bad snaps led to fumbled exchanges.

The scrimmage began with the second units lined up against one another. After the Rogers sack, Hilinski bounced back with a 24-yard touchdown to redshirt freshman slot receiver Renard Bell (5-8, 155) against coverage from fellow redshirt freshman D’Jimon Jones (5-11, 191).

Hilinski finished strong, ending up 15-for-24 for 203 yards and 4 touchdowns.

On one of Hilinski’s best plays, he connected with Dimry for a 37-yard touchdown, with Dimry avoiding a tackle by senior CB Marcellus Pippins (5-10, 176) by simply dragging the smaller corner with him as he lunged for the end zone.

Despite an impressive 30-yard touchdown run on a hand-off from senior QB Luke Falk (6-4, 225), Williams overall had a disappointing day, dropping short passes — sometimes in what appeared to be anticipation of a hit, sometimes when he was wide open.

Falk finished 9-for-21 in passing for 97 yards.

Priester shined all day, continually switching direction seamlessly and making catches in tight traffic, at one point making a forceful grab against junior DB Sean Harper (6-2, 184).

It was Dimry, however, who led the receivers on the day, with five catches for 85 yards and two scores. On one of his biggest plays, he caught a midrange pass from Falk and dashed towards the end zone, only to be stopped from scoring by a combination of Harper and Pippins.

Pippins' play was a mixed bag on the day, as it has been for much of the spring, but on one play he did a good job breaking up a Falk pass to Martin and preventing a score.

When sophomore Anthony Gordon (6-3, 189) came on the field, Mauigoa greeted him with a high snap, resulting in a fumble. On the very next play, the sophomore center appeared to over-correct his motion, and didn’t fully follow through with his snapping motion, causing another fumble.

Leach then replaced Mauigoa with Osur-Myers on the first team. He also held both centers, as well senior offensive lineman B.J. Salmonson (6-4, 300), after practice to get off more snaps with all five quarterbacks on the roster.

Senior linebacker Frankie Luvu (6-3, 240) had a good day at the WILL, at one point breaking through the pass protection to disrupt a shovel pass from Hilinski to Williams, causing what Luvu and the rest of the defense thought was a fumble, but the referees on hand (also a spring camp first) ruled it an incomplete pass.

Pelluer was quick and disruptive at linebacker as well at the MIKE, rushing past the line to force quick throws from all four quarterbacks who played.

In his best moment — and the worst for Williams — Pelluer forced and recovered a Williams fumble after the back made an 11-yard catch.

In another great play for the senior linebacker that didn’t turn out as well as intended, Pelluer blitzed and force a hurried throw from Hilinski, which was a little higher than its target, but it didn’t matter — the 6-5 Dimry was able to reach up with his left hand and haul in the touchdown anyway.

In yet another good sequence for the Cougar D, Rogers picked off a Gordon pass intended for sophomore receiver Brandon Arconado (5-11, 181), and then on the next play Love unleashed a powerful hit on the sophomore wideout to keep him from gaining significant yardage.

Elsewhere in the secondary, Webb broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Morrow to cap off a great day of speedy coverage and quick reactions for the freshman.

In one of the best defensive plays in the scrimmage, senior safety Robert Taylor (5-10, 183) landed a big hit on Webb to break up what a split-second earlier seemed like a safe pass to the middle of the field.

Harper also played well, at one point landing a hit so hard on receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack (6-3, 218) that the sophomore was slow to get up — though, thankfully for the Cougars, it ultimately looked like there was no injury on the play.

Sophomore WR Dezmon Patmon (6-4, 211) had a tough time with the coverage of CB Darrien Molton (5-10, 181), dropping passes as he anticipated the incoming hits of the junior corner.

The field goal unit had an especially rough day, going a combined 3-7 on field goals between redshirt freshman Jack Crane (6-2, 190) and senior Erik Powell (6-1, 208).  Powell, the projected starter, missed from 27 and 32 yards before making a 38-yarder, followed by a kick from 42 yards out.

Leach afterwards said it was a good first scrimmage overall, but two things he was clearly not happy about:  Powell's kicking and Williams' day apart from the touchdown run.

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