Scrimmage No. 1: Good news and bad

PULLMAN — The good news coming out of the weekend's football proceedings down on the Palouse was that the passing game appears to be in great shape. The bad news is that the old crimson bugaboo – penalties – reared its ugly ahead again. And the really bad news is that injuries are spreading faster than boll weevils in an unpicked cotton field. Fall camp isn't quite a week old and already eight players are shelved.

Four starters are among the wounded: safety Hamza Abdullah (thumb sprain), offensive tackle Calvin Armstrong (ankle sprain), running back Chris Bruhn (quad contusion) and offensive lineman Riley Fitt-Chappell (concussion). In addition, there are two big-time contributors, tight end Cody Boyd (hamstring strain) and running back Allen Thompson (concussion) plus freshman DB Ian Bell (hamstring strain) and junior safety Aaron Joseph (concussion).

Fortunately, none are out for the season, but the down time among them could range from a couple of days to two weeks or more. The season opener, at New Mexico, is just 19 days away.

With Bruhn and Thompson out of action, WSU's first scrimmage of the season offered a good opportunity to showcase the passing attack. In 65 offensive snaps Sunday afternoon, the Cougars put the ball in the air a whopping 45 times, with seven different receivers pulling in at least one ball.

Josh Swogger completed seven of 17 attempts for 133 yards – including a 43-yarder to his favorite target from spring workouts, junior receiver Marty Martin. Swogger threw no interceptions. Second-year freshman Alex Brink completed 10 of 20 aerials for 127 yards, one INT and two touchdowns, both going to junior tight end Troy Bienemann on strikes of 11 and five yards.

Brink also connected with true freshman Michael Bumpus on a 41-yard thing of beauty as Bumpus hauled it in despite being hemmed in by two defenders. In all, Bumpus caught four balls for 64 yards, earning the post-game praise of his head coach and reaffirming that he may be the most exciting wideout prospect on the Palouse since Tim Stallworth nearly 20 years ago.

Youngsters Mike Reilly and Gary Rogers took a handful of snaps behind center as well.

Reyshawn Bobo

Unfortunately for Rogers, the touted true freshman from Kamiak High in Mukilteo, Wash., one of his attempts turned into the highlight of the day. Defensive end Reyshawn Bobo tipped a Rogers pass at the line of scrimmage, grabbed it out of the air and then sprinted 25 yards down the sideline on the return.

"Our offense looked good in the beginning of the scrimmage. I thought we were going to be an offensive juggernaut," said head coach Bill Doba. "We took it right down and scored, but we had too many penalties today. That really hurt us."

The penalties, mostly found in the offensive line, were due to so-so execution, but also to a scrappy defensive that brought the heat knowing that the running game, minus Bruhn and Thompson, was compromised. Adam Braidwood, Mkristo Bruce, Aaron Johnson, Paul Stevens, and Bobo combined for four sacks. They also stuffed what few running plays they saw, limiting the first, second, and third unit offense units to just 29 yards rushing on 24 attempts.

The battle for the starting placekicking job was sizzling on Sunday. Junior Graham Siderius and freshman Loren Langley each had 12 attempts, three from 27 yards out, four from 32 yards out, two from 37 yards out, and two from 42 yards. Siderius connected on eight of his 12 attempts, and both point-after attempts, while Langley knocked through nine of his field goal tries and both point-after attempts. "It's still up in the air," Doba said of the kicking situation. "Riley-Fitt Chappell wasn't there to snap so the timing was off a little bit. Nick Mihlhauser was snapping and that threw them off a bit."

Middle linebacker Will Derting left the scrimmage clutching a wrist. No word yet on the severity.

Doba saluted the scrimmage play of JC transfer receiver Greg Prator who "had a couple of catches and did a great job of blocking."

The Cougars continue their fall camp schedule with a 10:30 a.m. practice Monday, August 16. The next scrimmage will be held at Martin Stadium on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Kevin McCall was the leading rusher Sunday, carrying the ball 13 times for 24 yards. Bienemann was the top receiver with five catches for 46 yards and the two TDs. Bumpus was close behind with four catches for 64 yards.

Fox Sports Northwest's "Before The Bigs" will feature Doba Monday, August 30 at 6:30 p.m. The half-hour show will rerun September 23 at 6:30 p.m.

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