PRACTICE: Sears pleased with D's performance

PULLMAN -- "Do you love football?!" yelled linebackers coach Travis Niekamp to start Wednesday's practice. "Sir Yes Sir!!" shouted the Cougars in unison. Washington State's intensity level was high today but the running back position saw still another player absent. The defensive line brought the pressure, earning a coach's praise, special teams was a focus and more.

"It was a good practice -- it was pretty warm but they did a nice job working their way through it," said Paul Wulff of the 90 degree heat. "We're handling these conditions a lot better than we have."

Back-up RB Logwone Mitz missed practice due to the flu, it was unknown if Mitz would be able to return tomorrow. What it meant was that red-shirt junior Marcus Richmond moved to back-up during practice behind Dwight Tardy, and true freshman Carl Winston became the team's third back.

"He's tough, he's competitive and he's got some natural instincts as a runner," said Wulff on Winston. "He's a good young player and he's got a lot of potential to improve."

All three backs played well in today's practice, able to find the hole with consistency and breaking through for some nice gains.

MEANWHILE, QUARTERBACK Marshall Lobbestael continues to see the majority of the time running the No. 1 offense. Freshman Jeff Tuel saw limited action with the 1's, and ran the No. 2 offense.

Lobbestael's day didn't start off great -- he was trying to hit WR Jared Karstetter and LB Andy Mattingly jumped up in the air for an interception.

At the end of practice during 11-on-11's, however, Lobbestael battled back and looked great connecting on throws to freshman wideout Gino Simone.

The two hooked up on back to back plays that led to a 35 yard touchdown hook-up between Lobbestael and WR Jeffrey Solomon.

REDSHIRT SENIOR AND No. 3 QB Kevin Lopina went down with an apparent calf injury. Lopina saw his first action in a week when he ran the second team offense for a brief stint.

But later in practice during passing drills, Lopina dropped back and something didn't move right. He started hobbling and eventually sat on the ground and was looked at by trainers. He was able to walk off the field to the sidelines where he received massage treatment on his right calf.

"I know that it's cramped up and hurting right now," Wulff said. "It's one of those things where we've got to kind of let it calm down over the next 24 hours and then probably get a better evaluation of the severity of it."

THE STARTING D-LINE today was DE Travis Long, DT Toby Turpin, DT Bernard Wolfgramm and DE Dan Spitz. The unit played well during the 11-on-11 scrimmage by putting continued pressure on Lobbestael.

During one series, the four combined to force Lobbestael to throw it away on back-to back plays.

Redshirt freshman LT Tyson Pencer and Long had a nice battle on the left edge today, with back and forth scrums that either led to a Pencer stop, or a Long pressure on Lobbestael.

"Consistency is continuing to improve," said co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears. "I'm really happy with the way the defense played today."

DEFENSIVE END Casey Hamlett saw a good amount of time rotating in with the 1's today -- as did DE Jesse Feagin, DT Josh Luapo, and DT Anthony Laurenzi, as WSU figures to use rotation on defense against the highly explosive Trojan offense.

One thing that the defense did have trouble with today was something not normally a worry -- hanging onto the football.

During catching drills, safeties Chima Nwachukwu and Eric Block had two drops a piece. CB Terrance Hayward dropped a sure fire interception later in practice against the scout team when walk on freshman QB David Gilbertson put it right in Hayward's bread basket.

"We need to catch more balls, and to me I think it's a lack of concentration," said Sears. "We have to emphasize it and we have to practice it."

AT LINEBACKER , sophomore Louis Bland sat out the day's practice in order to rest a sore left knee, which had a black wrap around it. Jason Stripling, Andy Mattingly, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Myron Beck were running with the first team in the box.

With S Chima Nwachukwu back full time at safety alongside Xavier Hicks, the CB's were Brandon Jones and Daniel Simmons. Terrance Hayward and Aire Justin also saw a lot of time working with the 1's. Both saw playing time against SMU last weekend.

SPECIAL TEAMS CONTINUES to be a key focus, the Cougs spent 15 minutes solely on kick-off returns today. During the drill, CB Daniel Simmons, RB Marcus Richmond, and WR Gino Simone were the main returners. Simone showed great burst of speed on several plays.

Looking ahead to USC this Saturday, when asked if he was worried about playing the nasty Trojan defense, Lobbestael said, "We're just trying to watch film and prepare as an offense as best we can." "They're a talented group of guys but we have a good game plan and we just have to keep preparing and try and get ready."

  • On the last play of practice, DE Daniel Spitz "sacked" QB Marshall Lobbestael after beating RT Micah Hannam.

  • Nico Grasu was 1-of-2 from 46 yards out. His first attempt went right down the middle. His second kick was blocked by DT Josh Luapo.

  • Safeties Eric Block, and Jay Matthews saw some time working with the 1's today in relief of Nwachukwu and Hicks.

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