Spring finale: D steps up, but one Koncern remains

PULLMAN -- The story line Saturday in the Cougars' final scrimmage of the spring football season was that the defense, led by sack-happy Adam Braidwood and big-play Tyron Brackenridge, didn't let the offense dominate the way it had so often over recent weeks. But for the multitudes in the stands or listening on the radio, the contest was further evidence that the biggest weakness on this team may not be lack of depth at tailback, safety or linebacker, but want of consistent placekicking.

Specialists Loren Langley and Graham Siderius, as they have most of the spring, were inconsistent on Saturday. Between them, they missed a PAT and 4 of 12 field goals. That's pretty much been the story all spring.

Siderius, with the stronger leg, sometimes looks like the full-meal deal --- as he did connecting from 48 and 42 yards out on Saturday --- and other times seems hellbent on imitating Timothy Robbins in Bull Durham (he missed Saturday from 28 and 24 yards).

Just to make it official, the phrase "the kicking game continues to be a source of concern" has now appeared in three consecutive CF.C scrimmage recaps.

"We still need to work with our field goal kickers," Doba said. "About the time I think one guy has the job won, he will miss two and the other guy comes through. That is something we will have to continue in the fall."

That's a major disappointment, because the Cougars hoped the spring session would be a springboard to better things in the kicking game following a 2004 campaign in which freshman Langley connected on just 5 of 11 field goal attempts while Siderius, a senior-to-be who focused mostly on kickoffs, made 1 of 3 treys.

One bright spot in the leg department, though, continues to be punter Kyle Basler. He had a great spring and capped it Saturday with booming punts of 54, 55 and 56 yards. He'll contend for All-America honors in 2005.

ANOTHER GUY WHOSE performance Saturday portended good things for the Cougars was defensive end Adam Braidwood, a senior-to-be from British Columbia. Four of his five tackles came in the form of sacks. And his linemates added another six sacks, with Reyshawn Bobo posting three of them and Bryan Olsen, who led all tacklers with six stops, getting two. Head coach Bill Doba called Olsen's work "great."

Defensive end Adam Braidwood closes in on QB Alex Brink during the WSU spring finale on Saturday. Braidwood tallied four sacks on the day.

The defensive play of the day belonged to Brackenridge, who intercepted freshman quarterback Cole Morgan and took the ball to the house. Brackenridge also registered five tackles on the day and figures to remain locked in a heated battle with Wally Dada come August for the starting left corner spot.

While the offense had its moments, the defense's performance was the real story because it struggled against the high-octane O so much this spring.

"Overall I was very pleased with our progress," Doba said after the two-your workout. "I thought the defense played a little better than they have. I really like the attitude of this club."

Asked to look ahead to next season, Doba was succinct: "I think we are going to be pretty good. There is talent," he commented. "You don't know playing against each other. We'll find out against Idaho (in the season opener)," he did caution.

In the quarterback department, where incumbent starter Josh Swogger (foot) remained on the sidelines as he has in every scrimmage this spring, Alex Brink completed 9 of 17 passes for 156 yards, including a four-yard scoring strike to tight end Troy Bienemann. Brink and second-year freshman Gary Rogers (9 of 17 for 76 yards) took the majority of snaps in the finale. Morgan completed 4 of 7 passes for 38 yards, including a five-yard scoring aerial to Kip Curtis.

RB Jerome Harrison averaged 4.8 yards per carry, scoring a pair of TDs in Saturday's spring finale.

Jerome Harrison, who had a monster spring season, scored on runs of six and four yards and racked up 67 yards on 14 carries. Fullback Jed Collins, seeing time at tailback this spring because of depth issues, carried the ball 20 times for 44 yards and one TD.

"We were really sharp early (in the scrimmage)," Doba noted. "We went through six or seven series without any penalties. Then we kind of lost focus and got a little sloppy at the end."

  • The leading receivers Saturday were Troy Bienemann (three catches for 25 yards) and Michael Bumpus (three for 44).

  • Asked to list some players who surprised the coaches, Doba pointed to several relatively unknown Cougars. "I keep saying I was surprised with Gary Rogers' improvement," he commented. "All of our quarterbacks have improved. Offensively, Sean O'Connor has stepped in and Charles Harris has played pretty well on the offensive line. Today I thought Bryan Olsen had a great day. He got free and showed a lot of emotion. We really need a backup defensive tackle. When we get the full compliment of linebackers, that will shore up the running defense."

  • Star middle linebacker Will Derting had wrist surgery Friday morning to "revise his hardware" to better promote healing. He is on target to get the cast off in about eight weeks.

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