Scrimmage: Should we be worried about the O?

PULLMAN— The question begs: Is the Cougar defense that good or is the offense that bad? It's a legitimate question after Saturday's scrimmage – the third successive in which the defense dominated and the offense looked sluggish.

Led by junior cornerback Omowale Dada, the D produced four turnovers and a sack, surrendered just 64 ground yards on 24 carries and gave up but one TD – a 16-yard aerial from Josh Swogger to Chris Jordan.

Dada registered four tackles including a sack for a safety, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Two of his mates in the secondary got in on the turnover-fest as well. Sophomore free safety Eric Frampton and junior cornerback Alex Teems each intercepted Swogger, who finished the day 12-for-19 for 123 yards.

Teems, who also had a pass deflection, has impressed since camp opened two weeks ago and is vying with JC transfer Tyron Brackenridge for the starting cornerback spot opposite Karl Paymah.

"Teems is playing real well but there is a great battle between him and Brackenridge. That's a good thing to have. You need at least three corners going into the season -- three safeties, three ends and three or four tackles and I think we are going to be in pretty good shape," Doba said.

With Dada's improvement, plus a healthy Don Turner, the Cougars look like they may have five solid corners heading into the Sept. 3 opener at New Mexico.

Linebacker Brian Winter and end Mkristo Bruce were the day's leading tacklers with five stops each. Former tight end Adam West, running No. 2 behind Bruce at weakside end, continued his dramatic climb up the defensive learning curve. He had three tackles, one QB hurry and recovered a fumble.

Despite the less-than-stellar showing on offense, it was a far cry better than the meltdown of Wednesday when just about every miscue and blown assignment known to man was put on display.

"We were a little bit better offensively. We had some problems obviously, little things, things we can correct," said head coach Bill Doba. "The slotback was up too close to the line of scrimmage, wasn't deep enough. Of course that's something we can figure out, get them lined up right. We had two guys that jumped early in crucial situations. Those are the things that kill us."

The scrimmage was WSU's last before flying to Albuquerque on Sept. 2.

Freshman quarterback Alex Brink was 6-for-16 for 77 yards, including a 45-yard completion to junior wideout Jevon Miller.

JC transfer Jerome Harrison was the leading ground gainer with 29 yards on seven carries, including a nifty 21-yard scamper late in the scrimmage. Chris Bruhn rushed nine times for 18 yards. Harrison was also the Cougars' leading receiver with four catches for 36 yards. Junior wide receiver Marty Martin added four receptions for 18 yards and three other Cougars each had two receptions. In all, 11 players had at least one reception.

Junior Graham Siderius and freshman Loren Langley remain knotted, as each made 5-of-7 field goals – including a 52-yarder -- as well as their only PAT attempts. Siderius missed twice from 42 yards and Langley missed from 23 and 40 yards.

"It muddies the waters, muddies it up a lot," said Doba. "That's good, that's a good thing to have. If Graham (Siderius) could do it we could redshirt Loren. That would be an awesome thing to do. I would like to be able to do that but we'll see. We still have almost two weeks before we kick off."

Junior punter Kyle Basler, the 2003 Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP, averaged 44 yards on three punts, including a 52-yard boot. Twice he put the ball inside the 20-yard line.

The offensive line looks pretty well set, except at right guard, where it's a veritable all-comers tournament for the starting nod. "We've got several guys battling out for the thing," said Doba. "Riley Fitt-Chappell (the leader coming into camp) has a concussion and won't be back until Tuesday and he's got to figure into the mix. I'm real pleased with Norvell Holmes -- he's done an excellent job and really improved his game. Holmes, Patrick Afif and Fitt-Chappell -- those will be the three guys battling it out. Maybe (backup center Sean) O'Connor -- we'll see how he comes along and go from there."

The two starting tackle positions are nailed down by seniors Calvin Armstrong and Sam Lightbody, while center is in the talented hands of Nick Mihlhaueser. Left guard looks to belong to second-year freshman Bobby Byrd, though Afif could see action there as well.

Classes begin Monday, so the players will get the day off – their first since workouts opened on August 9. Picture day is set for the morning of August 28.

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