Cougars crisp all around, Norrell shines

PULLMAN--The Cougars had to set their alarms earlier than normal this morning for an 8 a.m. practice -- sometimes that means a bit of lethargy creeps in. But this morning on the Palouse saw crisp play in team drills, by both offense and defense alike. Kevin Norrell was a grabmaster, the No. 1 d-line was strong against the run, while their o-line counterparts provided solid pass-pro, plus more.

Overall, the morning's practice definitely belonged to the Cougar offense -- they excelled in the passing game.

The practice didn't start so hot, however, for quarterback Marshall Lobbestael. In the first 7-on-7 drill, Lobbestael was trying to hit Kevin Norrell when he was picked off by cornerback Daniel Simmons. The interception marked Lobbestael's third in his last two practices.

But Lobbestael quickly bounced back and looked sharp for the remainder of the session -- the Lobster developed a nice rhythm with wideout Kevin Norrell this morning.

NORRELL HAS A fantastic practice on Saturday, with some great catches both during drills, and during scrimmaging.

During the last 25-30 minutes of the morning session, Paul Wulff had the offense and defense battling it out and this is where Norrell truly shined.

In one series, Norrell had two great catches on a drive that led to a score. On the first reception, Norrell sneaked past the second team linebackers and was wide open for a 28-yard gainer, a play he probably could have walked into the end zone had Lobbestael put a little more fire on the ball.

Just a few plays later, Norrell and Lobbestael connected on a perfect pass and catch, 18-yard touchdown grab. Cornerback Aire Justin had great coverage, but Lobbestael was able to thread the needle to find his man.

"First thing waking up, I was wondering how I was going to get through this two-a-day -- but every day I try and get better and as a team we looked pretty good today," said Norrell.

Norrell has seen an increased amount of time working with the No. 1 offense of late.

"I keep working hard and hopefully I'll be rewarded but wherever the team needs me I'm ready to be," said Norrell.

DURING THE MIDDLE of practice, after a defensive stop on third down, Wulff signaled onto the field walk-on kicker Blake Dunn for his first attempt.

His new Cougar teammates absolutely erupted as Dunn knocked in a 39-yarder that went just inside the left upright. He looks to have already acquired a nickname, and was congratulated heavily on the sideline as player chants of "Little Bootie!" rang out across the field.

THE FIRST TEAM offensive line -- consisting of center Kenny Alfred, right tackle Micah Hannam, left tackle Steven Ayers, right guard B.J. Guerra and left guard Zack Williams, had an on-going battle today with their counterparts on the d-line -- defensive tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Toby Turpin, and defensive ends Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman.

One big reason the passing game was going so well, the front line was giving Lobbestael, Kevin Lopina and Jeff Tuel plenty of time to find their open receivers.

On the other hand, the d-line did a great job against the run -- limiting the Cougars to mostly short yardage runs.

WHEN WORKING WITH the second team offense and going against the first team defense, freshman QB Jeff Tuel showed great poise, including a third down play where he ran out of the pocket and threw across his body to find Collin Huemmer for a prescient 18-yard gain.

A few plays later Tuel lofted the ball over the fingertips of LeAndre Daniels, connecting with redshirt junior Randy Johnson for a 28-yard TD.

FRESHMAN RUNNING BACK Carl Winston has seen an increasing amount of time working with the second team offense, and has shown great footwork, as well as hands, out of the backfield.

Winston got in on some plays with the 1's during scrimmage, and busted off a nice 14-yard gain.

MEANWHILE ON DEFENSE, Bellevue native Eric Block got in on some plays with the number one defense against the second team offense.

Block was solid in breaking up a Tuel pass intended for Nick Proen, a ball that was sure to be caught otherwise.

  • During 7-on-7 drills, Daniel Simmons tipped a Lopina pass intended for Jared Karstetter that fell right into the arms of safety Chima Nwachukwu. Nice teamwork on the pick.

  • Redshirt senior tight end Tony Thompson showed great hands and route running skills during drills. Thompson made some nice grabs during scrimmaging, including a 25-30 yard reception from Lopina.

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