SCRIMMAGE NO. 4: Hosses excel; Langley a leg up

PULLMAN -- There weren't a lot of offensive fireworks in Washington State's Friday night scrimmage at Martin Stadium, but the first-string offensive line served notice against the No. 2 defense that it's rounding into fine form. In addition, Loren Langley may have gone a leg up on Graham Siderius in the placekicking race, and safety Michael Willis picks off two balls and lays some serious wood on Marty Martin.

The starting offensive line --- center Nick Mihlhauser, guards Sean O'Connor and Norvell Holmes, and tackles Bobby Byrd and Charles Harris --- looked great squaring off against the No. 2 defensive line of Odell Howard, Matt Eichelberger, Matt Mullennix and Adam West.

QB Alex Brink was only pressured once or twice, and Jerome Harrison, back in action after being sidelined with a stomach ailment, had a big hole to run through on his 39-yard TD jaunt.

"Offensively we are ahead of where we were a year ago," said head coach Bill Doba. "Defensively we are trying some new things. We've had some assignment errors and we need to get that cleaned up."

The second-unit O-line didn't fare as well its first-unit brethren. Starting defensive ends Mkristo Bruce and Adam Braidwood pressured quarterbacks Josh Swogger and Gary Rogers often, and each posted a sack in the process.

The second-string O-line consisted of freshman Kenny Alfred at center, Dan Rowlands and Andy Roof at guards, and Spencer Hollison and Derek Hunter at tackles.

The day's offensive MVP was Michael Bumpus, who turned in a few long gains on short passes, unleashed some nice shake moves, and picked up some big punt-return yards. He finished the night catching four balls for 51 yards. Marty Martin was the scrimmage's leading receiver with eight balls for 41 yards.

DESPITE THE FIRST-TEAM offensive line's domination, the defense wasn't without it's highlights. And there were several, including two interceptions by Michael Willis, one by Don Turner, four sacks and two punishing hits delivered by Willis and Lorenzo Bursey.

With the news earlier in the day that starting defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua will miss the next 6-8 weeks with a broken leg, freshman Fevaea'i Ahmu (6-1, 284) took the field with the No. 1 defense. Ahmu looked impressive throughout, as he worked with the first and second string. Senior Bryan Olson (6-2, 282) rotated with Ahmu on the first string. The rest of the defense fielded its usual starters except one, as DeWayne Patterson stepped in at safety in place of hobbled Husain Abdullah.

IN THE KICKING DEPARTMENT, Loren Langley looks like he's gained an edge in the competition with Graham Siderius. Langley nailed each of his kicks, while Siderius missed from about 35 and 45 yards out. And for what it's worth, Langley got first crack at each placekick, while Siderius went first on kickoffs.

Getting consistent production out of the placekicking is a prime objective for the 2005 Cougars following a meltdown in 2004, in which Langley made only 5 of 11 field goal tries and Siderius 1 of 3.

NOTES:
• Friday's scrimmage was intended to be a quasi-game atmosphere, kicking off at 7 p.m. six days before the Cougars open the season at home against Idaho at the same time.

• Freshman receiver Brandon Gibson of Puyallup continues to impress. He scored one of the evening's two offensive TDs, a 16-yard catch from quarterback Gary Rogers, and turned in the offensive play of the night with a leaping catch on the sideline that he brought down on his tip-toes to stay inbounds.

• Brink hit 9 of 13 passes for 85 yards and made only a couple truly bad throws: one was too high for Chris Jordan on a comeback route, and another was floated into coverage in the end zone and was picked off by Willis. Gary Rogers completed 12 of 24 passes for 80 yards.

• Defensive end Mike Graise, a second-year freshman from Inglewood, Calif., looked solid once the second and third-stringers were in, getting a pair of sacks.

• At least nine freshman and three transfers are ticketed to see significant playing time this year. The freshmen are Ahmu, Gibson, Alfred, Willis, receiver Benny Ward, linebackers Greg Trent, Jason Stripling and Cory Evans, and tailback DeMaundray Woolridge. The transfers are Hunter, Bursey and defensive end Lance Broadus. Freshmen on the bubble to play include running back Dwight Tardy, cornerback Shelton Danzy, safety Courtney Williams and linebacker Lamar Brumfield.

• The defensive play of the day belonged to cornerback Bursey. He smoked receiver Benny Ward on a pass to the flat. And then on the next play Ward ran the same route, but grew a pair of alligator arms once the ball approached, apparently remembering the last play. Ward's act drew loud jeers and laughs from the sidelines.

• Bill Doba summarizing Friday's controlled scrimmage: "We just wanted to get substitutions done in a game like situation. We have had enough hitting, the kids are tired of hitting each other."

FOR MORE OF DOBA'S THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS, RANGING FROM ROPATI'S BROKEN LEG TO PLAYER SURPRISES, CLICK TO Bill Doba's post-camp insights


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