Spring Ball: OL struggles, D stepping up

PULLMAN -- Washington State offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy, the key figure in the Cougars' move to the no-huddle offense, is clearly a glass-half-full kind of guy. On a day when the defense dominated, Sturdy found plenty to like in his offense. He's also a realist, and said matter-of-factly on Friday after WSU's second scrimmage of the spring season that "we've got a long ways to go."

On the positive side, Sturdy was impressed -- but not surprised – with the work of running back Chris Ivory, who rushed for 38 yards on six carries and scored the only two TDs of the afternoon. "Ivory's Ivory. He's a great back and obviously did some really good things for us today."

Ivory's first score came on a 1-yard-run and his second score was an impressive 15-yard effort. Both scores were with the second team offense.

As for the rest of the offense, Sturdy noted that the first-, second- and third-string units each was able to put together at least one good drive, but he was quick to point out that all of those drives sputtered due to mental mistakes.


"It's encouraging that the kids are positive, they're eager, they're excited, but we've got a long ways to go yet," he said.

Starting quarterback Gary Rogers took most of the snaps and completed 9-of-21 passes for 98 yards and no TDs or INTs. The weather was cold and windy with a touch of snow, so those numbers are perhaps more impressive than they look.

Running back Logwone Mitz had the play of the day, ripping off a 46-yard gain early in the scrimmage. He also nabbed a 12-yard pass and was shoved out of bounds just short of the end zone. Both he and fellow back Marcus Richmond exited the scrimmage early with what are believed to be non-serious injuries.

Tight end Devin Frischknecht, the heir apparent to Jed Collins, had a nifty catch, hauling in a 15-yard Rogers pass amid tight coverage. He was one of 10 receivers with at least one grab during the scrimmage. Sophomore Daniel Blackledge was the pacesetter with three receptions for 27 yards.

Backup QBs Kevin Lopina (3-5, 38 yards, 1 INT), Marshall Lobbestael (3-5, 53 yards) and Cole Morgan (0-4, 1 INT) each split time with the second and third units. Freshman J.T. Levenseller saw action late, but did not throw a pass.

Lobbestael found receiver Randy Johnson for the catch of the day, a one-handed grab covering 35 yards.


ON DEFENSE, cornerback Markus Dawes was on the sidelines throughout the scrimmage with an undisclosed injury, so Romeo Pellum took the majority of first-unit reps. He played well, knocking down several passes and intercepting one by Lopina.

Linebacker Marshal Pirtz also had an interception, picking off a Morgan pass dropped by receiver Michael Willis. Later in the scrimmage Pirtz sniffed out a run play and stopped it deep in the backfield. The redshirt freshman from Boise has spent most of his time this spring with the second unit.

Andy Mattingly, the linebacker-turned-defensive end, posted one of the four sacks the defense registered. Also finding the quarterbacks were LB Cory Evans, DE Bob Hilgert and DT Adam Hineline.

Their production is indicative of the struggles the offensive line is having in the Cougs' zone blocking schemes in the transition to the no-huddle .

"It's a simple scheme, we're just not executing it right now," said offensive line coach Harold Etheridge.


The first-team offensive line is made up of LT Vaughn Lesuma, LG Andrew Roxas, C Kenny Alfred, RG Dan Rowlands and RT Micah Hannam. For the most part, the second team has lined up with Joe Eppele and Reed Lesuma at the tackles, B.J. Guerra and Kevin Freitag at guard and Chris Prummer at center.

Etheridge said he's been impressed by the way Alfred is playing, but the other veterans aren't where they need to be.

HEAD COACH PAUL Wulff was succinct when asked for his assessment after the scrimmage. "We've got a lot of work to do," he said, adding "offensively the ones were okay at times. Our depth isn't where it needs to be. We're going to make some mistakes and we know that."

One bright spot, he said, was the defense playing better than they did in the first scrimmage.

• Walk on junior running back Jace Perry had a pair of nice first-down runs. He finished the day with 9 carries for 43 yards.

• Back up defensive backs Myron Bell, Eric Block, Easton Johnson and Tyrone Justin each took turns with the ones.

• Defensive end Jesse Feagin suffered a knee injury midway through the scrimmage and did not return. There was no word on the severity of the injury.

• The placekickers, working against a driving wind, took a pounding. The trio of Wade Penner, Patrick Rooney and Matt Myers went a collective 2 for 6 from 37 yards out.

• Punters Reid Forrest and Dan Wagner each punted twice, with the longest – 45 yards -- coming from Forrest at 45 yards.



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