SCRIMMAGE NO. 1 - Defense rules

PULLMAN -- In a turnaround from this past spring, the defense gained the upper hand over their counterparts on offense in what coach Bill Doba termed a sloppy showing in the team's first scrimmage. The front four of Braidwood, Johnson, Pitoitua and Bruce impressed and while the offense was inconsistent, there wasn't a shortage of big plays.

For all the inconsistent play on Saturday, Doba was pleased with his defense, especially the stout play of the defensive line.

Defensive tackle Aaron Johnson was lauded for his efforts, though the head coach noted that several of the plays were made while working against the second team offensive line due to scrimmage format.

"(Johnson) and (Ropati Pitoitua) can really make a big difference," Doba said. "That front four is going to be pretty good."

The pair of tackles logged a collective 11 starts and appeared in a combined 17 games last season as freshmen. This season, added bulk on both of their parts is expected to benefit the Cougar defense.

"I know both of us have gained about twenty pounds since last year," Johnson said. "That's basically our job, just to keep everybody off our linebackers."

Outside on the ends, Matt Mullenix, Mkristo Bruce and Paul Stevens came up with sacks while Mike Graise provided some pressure on the edge.

Tough day for Swogger
Saturday, in the Cougars' first scrimmage of fall training camp, Josh Swogger looked as far from sealing that starting gig as ever before.

"I'm just not playing the way I want to play right now," he said after his one for eight passing performance.

"These last couple days haven't been that good," he said. "I've just got to go home and look at myself in the mirror, and just get things together – just shake things up and just come out and start playing better. Right now it's up to me."

Doba said the pressure Swogger is putting on himself is a good thing and will benefit him on game day. The thought process is facing adversity now could make the strong-armed Ohio native more prepared for the rigors of Saturday afternoons.

"He needs to just relax," said Doba. "You try to be completely error free, nobody's going to be that way."

Swogger said that he feels pressured, but not from Brink. He said he is putting a lot of weight on his shoulders.

"It's just not coming to me right now. I don't know if I'm slow on my reads or what it is right now, but I'm just late with throws," he said. "I'm not making bad reads, I'm just making late throws."

While Swogger spoke of his struggles, Brink was seen smiling and joking with teammates, seemingly carefree.

"I thought it was pretty good," Brink said of his eight of 14 for 68 yards passing performance. "It was inconsistent at times, I made a few mental mistakes I really shouldn't be making right now, but I felt like I was throwing the ball well and I hit some good throws."

The battle between Swogger and sophomore Alex Brink will continue for the near future. Doba said Saturday a decision had not been made between the signal callers and there was no timetable for when a conclusion would be reached.

ONE PLAY Swogger was pleased with Saturday came early. After checking off receivers, Swogger found tight end Troy Bienemann in the middle of broken coverage. He hit the big senior in stride, allowing Bienemann to make some nifty yards after the catch.

In all, the pass was good for 64 yards and a first and goal from the six yard line. The series stalled, setting an early tone of sloppy play and mistakes that would carry through the remainder of the scrimmage.

"Pretty sloppy, really …," Doba said of the afternoon. "We played kind of cautious today, we didn't really cut it loose."

Big play day
Consistency may have been missing Saturday, but there was no shortage of big plays. In addition to Bienemann's long catch and run, Benny Ward and Jerome Harrison had nice showings.

On his way to 100 yards on 6 carries, Harrison let the small crowd leave Martin Stadium knowing the rock-toting duties are in good hands. Harrison weaved his way 51 yards through traffic near the end of the scrimmage as part of a two-minute drill. Kevin McCall also rushed for 24 yards, including a nine yard touchdown score.

Benny Ward somehow came up with a one-handed grab that turned him around before he raced down the left sideline, just beating cornerback Alex Teems. In all, the Gary Rogers-thrown pass was good for 54 yards.

Eric Frampton intercepted Rogers on the second play from scrimmage, catching a ball that overshot Ward and hit the safety right between the numbers. He raced 29 yards down field on the return.

Cory Evans, a safety in high school making the transition to college linebacker, apparently has not lost his ball skills. He collected an interception in the end zone to stall a drive.

Turner staying healthy
Cornerback Don Turner worked with the first team, along with Alex Teems and Omowale Dada. The competition between Turner and Dada for the lead spot opposite Teems has been stiff.

"It's good competition and that's a spot you can roll people in and out a little bit and keep them fresh," Doba said.

"Competing with these guys everyday is going to make you a better player," said Turner.

In his three years as a Cougar, Turner has been repeatedly limited by injuries. He said he has added about 10 pounds and worked on being more aggressive since last spring.

Return timetables were finally offered for the Cougars' high-profile injured players.

Will Derting (hamstring) will be held out approximately two weeks and tight end Cody Boyd (ankle) will miss 4-to-6 weeks.

X-rays came back negative on Derting but coaches want to be on the safe side with the All-America candidate. Avoiding risking further injury and missed time by bringing him back too soon seems to be the main goal.

"As long as he can get back for the Washington game, I'll be happy," Doba joked.

Boyd has three benign bone cysts in his left ankle, consistent with a stress reaction, head trainer Bill Drake said in a statement.

In addition, tight end Jacob McKinney tore lateral cartilage in his right knee and will be out for three weeks, according to the statement.

Adam West took a knee to the head during Friday's weather-shortened second session and suffered a concussion. He will be reevaluated 48 hours after the injury and is out until more is known.

Alaska-native and WSU walk on defensive end James Maloney has decided to quit the team for personal reasons. Walk-on receiver Blake Ferguson, who was with the Cougars last season, has also left the team for personal reasons.

More than 60 former WSU players took in the scrimmage as part of "The past meets the present" event.

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