PULLMAN -- Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis after practice on Monday said that the Cougars, players and coaches alike, believe they can compete at a high level even if some fans don't. And he had some pointed remarks for those in the Cougar Nation who are questioning the coaches and players on the effort, performance and end result in the close win over MSU on Saturday.
The Cougs came out for a hour long shoulder pads and helmets only session on Monday, but the defense came out with some fire that seemed to be a carry-over from their fourth quarter against MSU.
"I think we're more confident now," MLB Alex Hoffman-Ellis said. "We got that monkey off our back with that first win so I think we got some momentum. And we're developing this little swagger about us. I think we did a good job coming out tonight and starting the week out fast. We're looking to maintain that."
Since Saturday's 23-22 win over FCS school Montana State, disappointment and a lack of support has been expressed towards the coaching staff and players by a vocal segment of the fans.
Hoffman-Ellis wanted to remind people that the Cougars clawed their way back from the dead, and he had a few other things to say.
"I mean, if they can't find the answer for themselves… They can easily look at Virginia Tech or Minnesota for example -- both lost to 1-AA schools, whereas we were down and we fought back," Hoffman-Ellis said.
"As far as the critics go, if they consider themselves Cougs fans, they'll take it for what it was, appreciate it for what it was. It was an ugly win but it was a win nonetheless, and we fought. And we’ve got some momentum to build off that."
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THE DEFENSE ON Monday was without several key players who were getting some time to rest up. Safety Chima Nwachukwu, CB Nolan Washington, CB Daniel Simmons and DT Bernard Wolfgramm all sat Monday out. Paul Wulff told
CF.C after practice that they, along with RB Chantz Staden, don't have serious injuries.
"They're just sore enough where today wasn't a good day for them do to much," Wulff said. "If anything, get a little bit loose and try to loosen up their bruises, but I think by tomorrow they should be pretty good."
The Cougars did see some players return to action however, including MLB Mike Ledgerwood (stinger) and RB Logwone Mitz, who both saw extensive time running with the 1's. (Note: Mitz was actually in on some special teams play on Saturday but the reason he's noted along with Ledgerwood as returning to action is because in the practice week leading up to the game, he was held to light duty with some bumps and bruises.)
In the defensive backfield, stepping in with the 1's were corners Anthony Carpenter and Damante Horton, while Deone Bucannon ran alongside S Tyree Toomer. Bucannon is coming off a big performance on Saturday with the special teams unit, and Wulff said the more action the true freshman sees, the more he’s impressing.
"He's done a remarkable job just for two games," Wulff said. "He got some playing time at safety, it's just about getting comfort. It's not that easy for anyone to come into college and really come in and play at a high level with consistency because of the learning that's involved, so we're trying to bring him along at the right pace."
THE FIRST TEAM offense and defense spent their time lined up against the scout teams getting down the schemes in preparation for Southern Methodist.
The last time the Cougars and Mustangs matched up, WSU pulled out a nail biting 30-27 OT victory in 2009. But SMU is coming off a bowl win last season (over Nevada), and they may have a mental edge as well.
"They've got a new quarterback who ended up starting the last half of the year and played extremely well," Wulff said. "A lot of their players are all back from a year ago and they ended up going on a run, going to a bowl game, and winning their bowl game, so they're just a more confident team."
The Cougar offense continued to work on increasing the tempo and executing better. In the first two weeks, the Cougars have turned the ball over on their first two plays, and on Saturday the offense was held in check for the first 45 minutes. What must the team do against SMU to be competitive? Wide receiver Jared Karstetter said the answer is obvious.
"We need to execute," Karstetter said, "take care of the ball and... we need come out quicker. We need to keep our defense off the field earlier in the game and get some drives put
together -- and put some points up on the board early.
"It's been a point of emphasis to work on it the last couple weeks," Karstetter said on starting quickly. "It's something that our team has to get better at and improve on. I don't think anyone's trying to start out slow, we just have to work at it in practice and carry it over to the games."