COUGAR D ON ATTACK SATURDAY
PULLMAN — Yes, Jeff Tuel threw for two touchdowns and nearly 300 yards. And yes, Andrei Lintz, Gino Simone, Bobby Ratliff and others on offense had big days as well. But oh, that defense. Seven defenders recorded at least one sack, and the Cougs racked up twelve, yes twelve, sacks overall. For good measure, the Cougar D grabbed four takeaways, too.
The Cougs ran about 110 plays but for the offensive line, it must have felt like 500. It was a performance they’re going to want to forget as soon as possible.
As sharp as the aerial attack looked at times, the offense was stagnant as well due in large part to a total collapse by the o-line. RT Jake Rodgers went down early on and at the end of practice was on crutches with a boot on his left foot. With Rodgers out, the 1s on the offensive line were made up of LT John Fullington, LG Gunnar Eklund, C Elliott Bosch, RG Dan Spitz and RT Rico Forbes.
The unit struggled throughout and at one point allowed three consecutive “sacks” of Tuel against the first team defense. (A sack was recorded when the defender was able to grab the QB). In total, the offensive line (1s, 2s, and scouts) allowed 12 sacks. DE/LB Logan Mayes led the way with four sacks while working with the 2s, and Xavier Cooper had three sacks in his work with the starting unit.
Following the third straight sack, OL coach Clay McGuire had seen enough and stopped play so the lineman and Cougar RBs could perform 15-20 up downs.
Defensive line coach Joe Salave’a chuckled when informed his unit recorded so many sacks.
“It’s never good enough,” Salave’a said. “That’s the one thing about our philosophy. There’s a level that we have to get to as far as how we play defense. It’s always good for those guys to experience these kinds of days because it affirms their hard work but they understand how I feel about our progress and where we need to be.”
Cooper pointed out the WSU cornerbacks’ tight coverage on the WRs made it a challenge for Tuel -- which opened the door for the d-lineman to make plays. Travis Long, Jordan Pu’u-Robinson, Anthony Laurenzi, Lenard Williams and Eddie Releford all recorded a sack.
Pu’u-Robinson was another who had a very good day. Robinson spent his day working with the 2s and recorded a sack, a tackle for loss and a blocked extra point.
Tuel and the WRs did still enjoy a fair amount of success. Tuel was 19-of-33 for 288 yards with 2 TDs. And the receivers did a fantastic job on Saturday holding onto the football and making plays.
One grabmaster who continues to shine with the first-team is Lintz. The redshirt senior had five receptions for 88 yards and a TD. Lintz had a great play midway through the scrimmage when he caught a short pass from Tuel, evaded a defender, and burst upfield for a 40-yard gain.
Simone had another productive day with the 2s – he led all Cougar wideouts with seven receptions for 101 yards, the highlight coming on a 43-yard TD from QB David Gilbertson.
Ratliff added five catches for 74-yards and a TD while fellow WR Marquess Wilson had two catches for 51 yards.
“I feel like on the receiving end we improved tremendously,” Tuel said. “Coach Leach challenged us to be more physical and I think we did that today which was good to see. We’re getting on more of the same page and we’re knowing what each other is going to do.” Here's more from Tuel:
But the cornerbacks made plays as well. Daniel Simmons, Mitchell Peterson and Kyle McCartney each had an interception and Matthew Simmons and Casey Locker forced a fumble. There were a number of other pass deflections and near interceptions to boot.
One player in particular who seems to be getting better each day is CB Damante Horton. He’s often matched up against Wilson and on Saturday there were several plays where Horton would climb the ladder to bat a ball away from the All-America candidate.. Wilson is likely to win most of those 1-on-1 battles, but Horton has looked sharp as of late.
“Our offense is high-powered, so our offense is going to take a lot of the respect but we as a defense want to be there to cover that up and make the big plays too,” Cooper said. “I think we’re coming together as a unit and I think we’ll be ready for this season.”
Tuel was 6-of-6 to start the day and was threading the needle with consistency and accuracy. In the second series of the day for the 1s, Tuel led a 5-play 60-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Lintz.
Tuel also had the interception late when a pass intended for Wilson sailed on him and Simmons somehow managed to get one foot inbounds to secure the pick. Despite that hiccup, Tuel said he’s starting to get into an Air Raid groove.
“I feel really comfortable and I think I’m really starting to get a grasp of the plays,” Tuel said. “Once you get it memorized you can really start playing physically and not thinking about things. One of the things Coach Leach harps on is not being hesitant. You just really need to let it go and just let it fly.”
The Cougs got in some punting work for about 40-45 minutes prior to the scrimmage. Mike Bowlin continues to boot the ball with great distance.
During the scrimmage Bowlin had a kickers’ dream when there was a botched snap on his PAT attempt. Bowlin picked up the ball, scrambled to the sideline and threw a wobbly pass up in the air that TE Mansel Simmons went high into the air to secure. Simmons then evaded a defender and rumbled his way into the end zone.
Kicker Andrew Furney was 2-of-2 on his FG tries, connecting from 39 and 33-yards out. Walk-on Wes Concepcion also added a 33-yarder.
With eight practices in the books, the Cougars are now over halfway done with the spring session. Leach said although the Cougars have made plenty of strides, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“We’ve had major improvement but there’s nobody in America who’s satisfied with where they’re at with spring football,” Leach said.
QB Connor Halliday did not participate in the scrimmage. With Halliday out, David Gilbertson ran the 2s. Gilbertson had two TDs, one to Simone, and one to freshman WR Rahmel Dockery.
RB Carl Winston closed out the scoring with a 3-yard TD run.
McCartney had his interception off scout team QB Jesse Brown when he tried finding WR Henry Eaddy in the end-zone. Peterson’s pick came off of QB Cody Clements.
Safety Tyree Toomer was held out of practice for the second straight day, (Leach does not discuss injuries.). With Toomer out, Anthony Carpenter jumped in with the 1s.
At linebacker, the 1s were WIL Chester Sua, MLB Darryl Monroe, SAM Eric Oertel and BUCK Travis Long. MLB Darren Markle and WIL Cyrus Coen also got in some reps with the starters.
Here's some of what Lintz had to say:
Leon Brooks 2-3
Teondray Caldwell 2-5
Kyle Lappano 5-23
Manuel Lamson 1-8
Marcus Mason 3-9
Carl Winston 2-6, TD
Jeff Tuel 19-33-253, 2 TD, 1 INT
David Gilbertson 15-26-192, TD
Cody Clements 8-12-108, 2 TD, 1 INT
Jesse Brown 4-7-34, 1 INT
RECEIVING (Only Players with multiple catches or a TD)
Bobby Ratliff 5-74, TD
Gino Simone 7-101, TD
Marcus Mason 3-13
Marquess Wilson 2-51
Bennett Bontemps 2-28
Andrei Lintz 5-88, TD
Isiah Myers 4-64, TD
Mansel Simmons 4-47
Rahmel Dockery 1-11, TD
Blair Bomber 3-55
Kristoff Williams 2-45
Carl Winston 2-0
Lintz 3-yard touchdown catch from Tuel
Dockery 11-yard touchdown catch from Clements
Simone 43-yard touchdown catch from Gilbertson
Ratliff 26-yard touchdown catch from Tuel
Myers 51-yard touchdown catch from Clements
Winston 3-yard touchdown run
Michael Bowlin – 28 yard attempt – muffed
Andrew Furney – 38-yard attempt – good
Andrew Furney – 33-yard attempt – good
Wes Concepcion – 33-yard attempt – good
Mitchell Peterson (Clements)
Kyle McCartney (Brown)
Daniel Simmons (Tuel)