DAY FOUR: Aggressive play, short tempers

PULLMAN -- The Washington State Cougars practice in full pads for the first time Saturday, so they'll be tackling for the first time. Officially, anyway. Tempers flared a few times Friday during a practice that included plenty of aggressive play, particularly for players wearing only helmets and shoulder pads.

Romeo Pellum, a 5-foot-10, 179-pound cornerback, laid a shoulder into running back Marcus Richmond on one running play and absolutely de-cleated the 6-1, 205-pound Richmond -- perhaps a tad late after the whistle?

Richmond bounced right up and simply trotted straight back to the huddle but later, safety Eric Block planted Richmond -- ker-PLUNK! -- to the artificial turf after a short pass completion.

Defensive players regularly tried to strip the ball well after the whistle, which helped fuel the offense's frustration.

After defensive tackle Andy Roof had been tangling with offensive guard Andrew Roxas, center Kenny Alfred came up behind Roof and shoved Roof hard to the ground.

Coach Paul Wulff said he is confident there are no issues that will extend off the field. Besides, he liked seeing the offense show some spunk against the fired-up defense.

"They should be getting mad, which they did, which is good," Wulff said.

Wulff has talked at length this offseason, such as in this article, about the need to be more smashmouth on the offensive line.

BLOCK, WHO RECOVERED a fumble by running back Chantz Staden, played well while scrimmaging with the starters. Block stepped in after Myron Beck suffered a right shoulder injury and sat out most of practice.

The new coaching staff continues to experiment, trying players at different positions and/or with different units.

On Friday, 2007 starting defensive end Matt Mullennix -- who had been playing behind left end Kevin Kooyman -- started at right end ahead of Andy Mattingly.

Also, junior college transfer Bernard Wolfgramm was inserted for returning starter A'i Ahmu at starting defensive tackle.

Jason Stripling and later Hallston Higgins subbed for resting starter Kendrick Dunn at outside linebacker.

"None of these things are coaches, we just don't know these players that well," Wulff said.

WULFF SAID DUNN and No. 2 running back Chris Ivory were rested for precautionary reasons. Ivory is nursing a strained hamstring, and redshirt freshman running back Logwone Mitz took advantage of extra playing time by running the ball hard and well.

Kevin Lopina, the backup quarterback, again showed quick feet. The Kansas State transfer, who redshirted last year, was off to the races after he badly fooled the No. 2 defense with a fake handoff.

ALL THREE CANDIDATES for the kicking job showed off strong legs while kicking field goals at the end of practice, the three worked their way up to 52-yard attempts.

But all three missed their first tries from 52. Then Wade Penner and Nico Grasu easily connected on their second attempts. Patrick Mooney had plenty of distance but missed wide right.

ONE OF THE reasons the Cougars have adopted a hurry-up, no-huddle offense is simple: When executed properly, it exhausts opposing defenses.

"It's like a 2-minute drill all the time," WSU middle linebacker Greg Trent said. "It's going to make us better (defensively) when we play teams that do huddle."

ADD TRENT TO the long list of Cougars who seem totally unfazed by the fact that so many preseason forecasts have WSU tabbed to finish last in the Pac-10.

"Nobody's God," Trent reasons. "Rankings don't mean nothin' to me."

"Any team can beat any team," wide receiver Brandon Gibson said. "Stanford beat USC last year."

"The only thing we're worried about is competing, executing, being relentless and encouraging our teammates," running back Dwight Tardy said. "If we do those four things, I think we'll be fine."

WSU teams have often fed off being taken lightly, so being picked last might work in the Cougars' favor.

"A lot of guys use that as a motivator," Alfred said.

"It feels good to be the underdog," cornerback Devin Giles said.

  • Sports Illustrated ranks WSU 84th -- last in the Pac-10 -- among the 119 teams in the Bowl Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A). .

  • Reserve Keith Parr Jr. (formerly Rosenberg) became the third wide receiver in as many days to miss practice with an injury. He had ice wrapped on his left leg.

  • Approximately 32,000 tickets have been sold for WSU's season opener Aug. 30 versus Oklahoma State at Seattle's Qwest Field.

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