Spring Ball: Best scrimmage, but DBs take hit

PULLMAN -- The offense executed much better, the defense looked sharper, and there were big hits on both sides of the ball. Indeed, it was the Cougs' best scrimmage of the spring as Gary Rogers, Matt Eichelberger, Brandon Gibson and others turned in top-shelf performances. It wasn't all good news, however, as one of the starting members of the secondary may be going under the knife.

Gary Rogers, the clear No. 1 at quarterback, played well with the first team on Friday in Martin Stadium, completing 11 of 17 passes for 129 yards hooking up with Brandon Gibson for a 10 yard touchdown. "Today was a huge improvement for us," said Rogers. "We came out and executed really well offensively. We put some points on the board so that felt good. The receivers are doing really good, the o-line did a good job picking up blitzes and stuff like that. Everyone was on the same page today so it was a good scrimmage."

Head coach Paul Wulff was happy with the team's performance on Friday.

"We're actually really proud of the way the guys performed today, especially since this has been the fourth tough practice in five days. Both our veteran quarterbacks played better this scrimmage than they have in previous scrimmages so that was encouraging. On defense, its tough to say until we watch the film. It looks like we tackled fairly well, at least the starting unit," Wulff said.

Cornerback Romeo Pellum has played well this week filling in for starter Markus Dawes (shoulder). Good thing, too.

Head coach Paul Wulff dropped the news after the scrimmage that Dawes may be going back under the knife again.

"Markus' shoulder has been bothering him. There might be something in the cards for him to possibly have another surgery on that other shoulder so we can hopefully have him back by (this) season," Wulff said after the scrimmage.

Dawes had surgery on the other shoulder previously. A former JC transfer, the corner has missed nearly all of the last two seasons and received a medical waiver prior to this season. Back on the field, Kevin Lopina capped off a good week of practice with a stellar performance with the twos. Lopina was 8 for 12 including a 10 yard touchdown pass to Benny Ward. Lopina also ran for a score on a seven yard option keeper.

Marshal Lobbestael and Cole Morgan threw just one pass each.

The first team defense looked sharp -- especially against the run as they held Chris Ivory to five yards on six carries. DT Matt Eichelberger notched two sacks while DE Andy Mattingly found the quarterback once for a sack of his own.

Gibson had an all around great day hauling in four passes for 37 yards and the touchdown plus an 11-yard run. And in what may have been the biggest hit of the scrimmage, Gibson absolutely leveled safety Chima Nwachukwu on a running play.

Daniel Blackledge had a big day at receiver as well, with four catches for 70 yards including a diving grab deep downfield.

The running back situation was less of a sore spot than it has been all week, simply because Chris Ivory was able to participate and Logwone Mitz practiced for the first time since injuring his toe earlier in the week. Ivory, who has been participating in roughly half the spring practices as he works on his academics, only managed the six yards on five carries, but did pick up a nifty 34 yards – sprung by tight end's Tony Thompson block -- on a pass reception out in the flat. Mitz fared better on the ground, with 35 yards on five touches. Joseph Campbell, the only running back still standing by the end of Thursday's practice, capped off his week with four carries for 23 yards.

Linebacker Jason Stripling is still out with a nagging injury. Coach Wulff described it as "a pulled hamstring and it's just not getting as good as it needs to be to go full speed."

DB's Tyrone Justin and Deon Ford and TE Trevor Mooney are all sidelined with undisclosed bumps and bruises.

The trio of Cougar kickers are still lacking consistency, but all three seem to have pretty strong legs. Wade Penner looked solid on Friday, making 3-of-4 with a long of 50 yards. Matt Myers was o-fer on the scrimmage while Patrick Rooney was 1-3, the make being a 47 yarder. Rooney also put a big hit on Blackledge on a punt-return.

Gary Rogers is happy with the progress the team has made and is looking forward to having Jeshua Anderson, currently running track and aiming for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, as a target. "We made huge steps today just coming out here with intensity and a purpose," said Rogers. "These past three weeks we've been coming out here looking to improve and I feel we've been doing that. We're looking forward to next week…(and) Jeshua will fit in really well…with that speed, obviously he's a serious threat."

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