PRACTICE: Lopina returns, Cougs get defensive

PULLMAN -- Kevin Lopina and Brandon Gibson returned to the practice field Wednesday and while that passing combination found some success, the Wazzu defense ruled the day. Indeed, DE Kevin Kooyman turned in the play of the day, while a number of Cougars coming off the injury list got in some practice time. And things got a little chippy when one of the stop corps made contact with the quarterback.

Despite the return of starting quarterback Kevin Lopina (mild concussion) and wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who missed Tuesday's practice to attend the funeral of his great-grandfather, the Cougar passing attack had an off day.

The Lopina to Gibson connection was one of the few things that worked and that came towards the end of the scrimmaging sessions.

Lopina and Cougar quarterbacks all told were picked off twice, and there probably should have been a few more. During the final scrimmage of the session, the offense went back to Lopina-to-Gibson and found some success driving the ball down the field after struggling most of the afternoon.

EARLIER IN THE session, after a long scramble by Lopina, the junior quarterback slid to the turf and one of the Cougar defenders didn't stop in time and made contact with Lopina, though it wasn't anything egregious. But members of the offensive line were quick to object, and things then escalated into a noteworthy but ultimately mild scuffle.

Mostly a shoving match, Brian Danaher, Vaughn Lesuma and Greg Trent were among those in the middle of a sea of jerseys, and a few players were shoved to the ground before order was restored.

THE MOST spectacular play of the scrimmage came courtesy of defensive end Kevin Kooyman.

Charging hard around the edge, Kooyman made a leaping interception and then without losing a step, took it in for six. The other interception in the scrimmaging portions of the practice was a leaping grab by Chima Nwachukwu in the end zone and a result of a poor decision to throw into double coverage.

Romeo Pellum broke up a pass to Daniel Blackledge, delivering a big hit from behind. Fellow cornerbacks each Marcus Dawes and Tyrone Justin both got their hands on passes that probably should have been easy picks.

Justin, who has been sidelined by a stubborn ankle the past few weeks, was one of a number of Cougars coming off injuries who got turns in during Wednesday's session -- Andy Mattingly (ankle) and Myron Beck (casted hand) both saw action and running back Logwone Mitz (shoulder) was no longer wearing a yellow no-contact jersey as he was on Tuesday. Alfonso Jackson (stinger) and Chris Ivory (hamstring) did not take part in contact drills.

DURING THE SPECIAL TEAMS portion of practice, freshman Kevin Norrell, getting in extra work this week on returns with Chantz Staden (knee) out, continued to shine. On Wednesday, he ripped off a smooth kickoff return that crossed the 50 yard line.

Among the spectators at Wednesday's practice was Mike Kramer, former coach at Eastern Washington and Montana State. He was seen leaving the practice field in conversation with Paul Wulff. The Cougar coaches and players, as has been the custom during Apple Cup week, were unavailable to the media after practice in an attempt to keep the team's focus on the task of beating the Huskies.

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