Spring Ball: Day 12, Scrimmage 3

PULLMAN -- The Cougars closed out their last scrimmage before the Crimson & Gray game with a high-intensity, hard-fought affair Saturday morning. The entire contest was run with the No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense and the No. 2 O against the No. 2 D. The result was, without doubt, the team's most impressive session of paint-swappin' to date as both sides showed flares of dominance.

Senior quarterback Jason Gesser led the way, completing 15 of 24 passes for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns, all against the No. 1 defense. Junior Matt Kegel was almost as impressive, finishing 7 for  14 for 146 yards and two more touchdowns. He also had several balls dropped by the backup receivers.

Freshman signal caller Chris Hurd also had a solid day, going six-of-eight for 73 yards and a touchdown pass to Scott Faries.

Each quarterback had the best day of his respective spring on Saturday.

Gesser's TD passes went to Devard Darling (11 yards) and Trandon Harvey (20 yards). The drive on Harvey's catch was particularly impressive, as the offense blew down the field, needing just two plays to go 65 yards. The touchdown pass was setup by a 45-yard pass from Gesser -- the Hurlin' Hawaiian Heisman Hopeful -- to Jerome Riley.

Riley had an amazing day, catching four balls for 129 yards, including a 53-yarder in which he juked several defensive backs. He appears to have fully recovered from the hamstring injury that had him down for the past week.

The offense seemed to focus on the tight ends more Saturday than in past scrimmages. Mark Ahlberg had a 28-yard touchdown catch from Kegel, and Troy Bienemann nabbed a pair of catches for 16 yards.

It was a bittersweet day for the running back corps, as the top two runners, John Tippins and Jermaine Green, couldn't get much going on the ground, but the backups looked very good. Tippins carried 8 times for 14 yards, and Green managed 37 on 12 carries. Green was also responsible for a fumble after a catch that was recovered by defensive lineman Bryan Olson.

On the other hand, sophomore Lavell Anderson had six carries for 63 yards and a touchdown, accounting for all the yardage in a touchdown drive against the No. 2 defense. JC transfer Tony Ryan, seeing his most action of the spring, rushed for 44 yards on five carries, slashing through huge holes made by the O-line.

The great offensive stats shouldn't overshadow the performance made by the defense. Free safety Erik Coleman, on the day his predecessor ascended to the NFL, picked off two Gesser passes, including one he returned 68 yards untouched for a touchdown. Those were just the second and third INTs Gesser has tossed in his entire spring career at WSU. DB Cole Sheridan , the Pride of Pullman, also had a pick on a Kegel pass.

The defensive line, despite missing starters Rien Long (out to concentrate on grades) and Fred Shavies (dislocated his finger) dominated at times, particularly against the run. The unit has amazing speed, as evidenced by the fact that virtually no running backs were able to get any yardage when trying to go to the outside.

The linebacker corps had a solid day on Saturday, as Al Genatone had a sack and Kevin Sperry had his best scrimmage of the spring. Sperry appears to be getting more comfortable in the defense, and is following his instincts to flow around the ball. He had several hard hits at the line of scrimmage Saturday.

Drew Dunning struggled throughout the scrimmage, hitting on only five of 13 field goal attpemts. However, the majority of his misses were from beyond 45 yards, and he was missing his usual holder, Collin Henderson, for most of his attempts. Hurd is the backup holder, but has only been practicing at it for a few weeks.

The finale to spring workouts, the Crimson & Gray game, is set for April 27 in Pullman.


A month ago at the Pierce County Cougar Club dinner, Mike Price said he planned to continue his two-quarterback rotation in 2002, but that it would be "unlike any platoon in the nation." He didn't elaborate. But given the ho-hum results of last season's version, in which Kegel played the first series of the second quarter, you can hardly blame Mike for wanting to try something new.

Well, folks, the something new appears to have been sampled on Saturday. And it is indeed a bit different. But that's all we're going to say. You'll just have to show up August 31 in Seattle to find out what we're talking about.

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