SPRING BALL DAY SEVEN: Defensive intensity

<b>PULLMAN--As the Cougs closed in on two weeks of spring ball, Friday's practice offered a heightened intensity. Even the Cougar coaches got into the act, with defensive coordinator Robb Akey grabbing a deflected pass and taking it into the end zone. At that point, you just knew the day was going to belong to the D.

Coach Akey's voice boomed across Roger's Field and his defense immediately responded, imposing their will on an offense that found itself facing a brick wall on Friday afternoon.

Akey, who played linebacker, defensive end and tight end at Weber State, showed he still has some gas in the tank, grabbing a pass deflected by Paul Stevens early on in the session. Not satisfied with just making the pick, Akey promptly turned on the jets, taking it the distance. His high flying celebration fired up the defensive players -- a pair of great interceptions followed and the clamps upon the offense were tightened even further.

Linebacker Scott Davis wrapped his hands around a Josh Swogger pass for the first pick. Later, cornerback Tyron Brackenridge, who is competing for a starting cornerback job, gained prime position to pick off a deep ball.

Senior Adam Braidwood, who recorded a sack on quarterback Alex Brink, credits the offensive backfield with forcing him to step up his game. Braidwood said the young and inexperienced running backs have picked things up relatively quickly, particularly in blocking schemes.

DESPITE A DAY that belonged to the defense, Brink continued to show an improved sense of when to tuck and run and when to let it fly. Redshirt freshman Gary Rogers had his moments as well, with newly improved footwork plus accurate passing from both inside the pocket and when rolling out.

Receiver Benny Ward again turned heads on Friday, turning a short pass into a long catch-and-run for a big gainer.

Ward has displayed nice moves and a knack for making plays this spring. The 6-3, 190-pounder enrolled at Washington State in January after taking the winter to get his academic house in order. The true freshman has seized the opportunity this spring to show why he was worth the wait.

Sophomore Michael Bumpus has added 15 pounds over the off-season and said he's taking a more confident approach to football. Bumpus' goal is for every play he runs on offense to be second nature.

Friday, Bumpus displayed good concentration on a one-handed grab of a Brink pass but hearts skipped a beat when he didn't jump to his feet right away later in the day. Bumpus stayed down for a moment after leaping for a jump ball in traffic.

As he finally got off the turf, coach Bill Doba asked if he was hurt to which "Bump" answered with a quick and unequivocal, "No."

Doba quipped, "You can't hurt steel."

Mkristo Bruce went down early in practice with a left ankle sprain. Bruce came back to the practice field walking on his own power but with an ankle brace. He was expected to be held out of Saturday's scrimmage.

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