Fall Camp Day 20: Cougs get specific

PULLMAN -- The Cougs gave Rogers Field a rest and took the action to the turf of Martin Stadium Saturday, running through a minimal-contact, position-and-unit specific session. A few freshmen look to be bypassing the red-shirt option, the Cougs survive a brief injury scare and a suddenly very important member of the defense talks crimson mindset with the showdown at Auburn less than a week away.

Junior defensive end Lance Broadus, a 6-2, 226 pounder who appears to have the lion's share of the responsibility for filling the shoes of the injured Matt Mullennix (torn ACL), said he's slowly becoming comfortable in the role, noting the pressure has been nothing to laugh about but come game time, he'll be ready.

"There's a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure," Broadus said. "Everybody was depending on Mullennix to play that role, and now the back-up guys are playing it, so a lot of pressure."

Broadus said one of the things he'll be focusing on as the Cougs head into the final practices before the opener is his run defense. While he says there's much to learn, the entire defense is buckling down, getting primed for what's shaping up as one of the bigger openers for the Cougs in recent memory.

"We've always been rallying around each other. No matter what, we're always going to stick together," Broadus said of the defense. "We'll make it work."

Broadus spent much of Saturday running with the first team defense, joining sophomore Mike Graise and freshman Kevin Kooyman in virtually every series.

Not practicing for the defense was senior d-end Mkristo Bruce, who left the session after the first play with an injured hand, returning to the sidelines with ice wrapped around it. No need for a collective groan from the Cougar nation, however. Precautionary X-Rays were negative and the honors candidate will practice tomorrow, said the Washington State SID. Coach Robb Akey added Bruce merely banged up his hand a little.

Kooyman, Andy Mattingly, the No. 2 strongside linebacker, cornerback Kerry Maddox and running back Chris Ivory, all donned a red helmet Saturday, essentially indicating they will travel to Auburn.

All four players looked to be up to the challenge Saturday, among them Kooyman, who batted down a Gary Rogers pass, sending the ball into the waiting hands of linebacker Scott Davis for the interception.

Ivory also had a good day, garnering a touchdown, making several nice cuts and looking confident and capable beyond his years. Ivory joins a RBs unit that, boasts sophomore DeMaundray Woolridge, freshman Dwight Tardy and junior Derrell Hutsona, along with with junior Kevin McCall.

The offense as a whole looked proficient all day despite three interceptions. Starter Alex Brink, who was not intercepted, Rogers and No. 3 Cole Morgan looked as comfortable as they have all fall, making few mistakes and contributing to the expectations that the aerial attack can definitely make some noise this fall. Looking especially sharp were wide receivers Jason Hill, Chris Jordan, Benny Ward and Charles Dillon, along with Andy Largent, who all made impressive, athletic grabs on the day.

The day was hardly owned by the offense, however, as an aggressive defense came to play. Especially impressive was the defensive line, as Ropati Pitoitua and Fevaea'i Ahmu helped stuff the run and created some backfield havoc.

The secondary, with seniors Don Turner and Tyron Brackenridge at the corners, also played up Saturday picking three passes, one by Davis, another for Turner, and the third for freshman walk-on safety Jason Butler, while also recording a litany of pass-break-ups and blanket coverages.

Although both units appeared fairly evenly matched on the day, one series belonged solely to the defense, as Broadus and Ahmu got to the QB before the Turner pick.

The kicking game once again provided few answers, as juniors Loren Langley and Romeen Abdollmohammadi combined on 6-of-9 FG attempts. Langley found the uprights on 3-of-5, and Abdollmohammadi was 3-for-4. Neither looked to consistently make solid contact, although seemingly adding to Langley's prospects is he appears to be the primary kickoff man and back-up punter. Both players continued to sport crimson helmets, lending no clues as to who will start come game-day. Bill Doba has said he will only travel one kicker to Auburn.

The punting game, in sharp contrast to the placekicking unit, continues to look better and better. Sophomore Darryl Blunt continued his torrent fall with several impressive boots Saturday.

The Cougs won't be changing their practice habits this week, as they'll continue to practice outdoors unless inclement weather hits, apparently preferring not to practice in Washington State's indoor practice facility to try and simulate humid weather conditions. Doba said all players will be drinking a gallon of water a day all week, as they have in years past to stave off muscle cramping.

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