WRs on the mend as Cougs dodge raindrops

PULLMAN—It rained on Washington State's parade Wednesday, as the Cougars endured several heavy rain flurries that mildly affected the team's last pads-on practice before traveling to Cal for Saturday's game. A pair of receivers provided the best evidence yet that recent injuries are on the mend, one defensive starter was serenaded on the field while another missed practice, and we finally have an answer for one running back's continual jersey changes.

The rain affected the Cougars to some extent, mostly on offense. Quarterback Alex Brink and center Nick Mihlhauser muffed one exchange, a sight almost never seen in practice from those two.

On another pass, Brink overshot Jason Hill by a good 10 yards in the back of the end zone when the ball seemed to slip out of Brink's hands.

But there were also plenty of highlights. Hill had the play of the day on offense, indicating the junior is getting back to full health after being about 80 percent against UCLA with a deep thigh bruise. The Cougars' playmaker gathered in a one handed touchdown catch from Brink against tight coverage from Tyron Brackenridge.

The Cougars have not generated many turnovers this season but Husain Abdullah has made a number of picks during the practice weeks, including Wednesday, when he showed good closing speed and anticipation in intercepting a Cole Morgan pass.

Starting receiver Chris Jordan (groin pull) saw significantly more time than he did yesterday. It remains to be determined if he or Brandon Gibson will start Saturday against Cal.

Jerome Harrison wore a yellow jersey for the second straight day but got a little more work than he did on Tuesday. The No. 2 running back in the nation is expected to be good to go Saturday.

DeMaundray Woolridge got the majority of snaps when Harrison wasn't in, and also filled in on kickoff returns for Lorenzo Bursey, out 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury. Coach Bill Doba had said the staff would look at Woolridge this week to see if he or Benny Ward will return kicks, along with Brandon Gibson, if Bursey's absence. Doba likes how Woolridge brings the return up quickly and with power but said he wants to see him handle the kickoffs a bit more cleanly.

Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua was held out of practice, sticking to the "hard day, easy day" schedule laid out for him by head trainer Bill Drake. Pitoitua will play against Cal, but probably won't start over freshman Fevaea'i Ahmu.

Wednesday was junior linebacker Scott Davis' 22nd birthday, and the team sang "Happy Birthday" to him after practice. To make a football analogy, the Cougs' vocal efforts were akin to a slotback reverse that gets stopped behind the line of scrimmage.

We've reported on a number of jersey number changes by freshman running back Dwight Tardy this season, including Nos. 44, 31, 21 and 10. Well, mystery solved. It turns out 31 is Tardy's "real" number—always has been—and the other jerseys are "scout-team" jerseys, worn so Tardy can simulate whichever tailback the WSU defense will face in a given week. For example, No. 44 was for Idaho's Jayson Bird, 21 was for UCLA's Maurice Drew, and 10 is for Cal's Marshawn Lynch.

Among the players the Cougs intend to redshirt, Tardy has been oft-mentioned this season by coach Bill Doba as one who has impressed him, along with offensive lineman Kenny Alfred.

Defensive backs coach Ken Greene has a regular group of players that work out with him each day for at least 10-15 minutes after practice. While starters such as Alex Teems and Omowale Dada sometimes join in, the regular group consists of Courtney Williams, Michael Willis, Xavier Hicks, Ian Bell, Tyron Brackenridge and Geoff Kirkwood.

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