PULLMAN — The lengthy hiatus from football drills wasn’t evident in the Cougars first practice since Thanksgiving Break. And if this Apple Cup had been missing a little spice, a little bulletin board material, well, starting safety Tyree Toomer took care of that.
Husky safety Nate Williams was quoted earlier this week as saying the Huskies hate the Cougars and vice-versa, but his comments didn’t get a whole lot of play. The Cougs have won four of the last six Apple Cup trophies, but Washington shut out WSU 30-0 in their last meeting in 2009. Tyree Toomer hasn’t forgotten.
"Hell yeah, we hate UW," Toomer said emphatically. "We hate them probably 10 or 12 times as much as the students do. We don't like them. And that Cup is coming into Pullman and it's staying here.
"We definitely haven't forgot about (2009). We definitely had a serious injury problem -- a lot of guys we're out including myself. So we had a lot of our 2's and 3's ended up starting for us at the end of the year. But now we're pretty much healthy, we have our guys out there so I think we'll be good."
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THE HUSKIES ENTER the contest with the opportunity to reach a bowl game for the first time since the Rick Neuheisel era (2002 Sun Bowl.) Wazzu also has the opportunity to play spoiler for QB Jake Locker's bid for his first bowl game, but Cougar RB James Montgomery said the Cougs aren’t focused on that aspect.
"Their bowl hopes are not extra incentive for us in the Apple Cup. We just want to come out and win. If they were 0-11 like they were a few years ago, we'd still come out with the same attitude,” said Montgomery.
BASED ON THE attitude and emotion that began during warm-up drills for Washington State on Monday, you might have thought this team was on their way to Pasadena. The Cougars were in shoulder pads and helmets for the extended practice session, but it looked and felt more like a full contact session.
"We feel good, we're fresh, we're excited to be back out here," Tyree Toomer said. "We had a couple of weeks (off) but we can't wait to get after it for our last game."
THE COUGARS ARE certainly healthier than when they last played at Oregon State. WR Gino Simone (head) returned to practice, and all the usual nicked up players for the Cougars such as Sekope Kaufusi (shoulder) were able to practice at full tilt.
Simone made the play of the day while running with the 1's, when he dove full extension to haul in a pass from QB Jeff Tuel.
Another positive return for the Cougars was CB Damante Horton. Usual Starting CB Daniel Simmons remains sidelined with a shoulder injury and it appears likely the redshirt sophomore will miss the Apple Cup. Horton saw plenty of time backing up starting CB's Aire Justin and Nolan Washington, but his availability remains in question.
"It was great to have Damante back and moving around," Paul Wulff said. "We'll see how he's moving around the rest of the week. I wouldn't expect him to play but unless all of a sudden unless every day he makes big jumps of feeling very good. But it was good to get him out there moving."
LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis was a spectator for Monday's session, as had been the case throughout the season. In his place Monday evening rather than Kaufusi, however, was Darren Markle. The redshirt freshman saw plenty of action running with the 1's, while Kaufusi spent the majority of his day running with the 2's and backing up starting MLB C.J. Mizell.
OVER ON THE defensive line, senior DE Casey Hamlett saw extensive action with the 1's, backing up starters Kevin Kooyman and Travis Long. Hamlett had the best performance of his career in the Cougs’ victory two weeks ago at OSU with two sacks.
On the inside, Brandon Rankin and Steven Hoffart were also heavily involved Monday night, backing up starters Bernard Wolfgramm and Anthony Laurenzi. Rankin, although playing in rotation at Oregon State, also had two sacks in Washington State’s 31-14 win.
Following practice, the team spent around five minutes running gassers. With three weeks off before the Apple Cup, the concern has been the Cougars will come out rusty. Wulff doesn’t believe that will be the case.
"It's a reality that sometimes teams don't come off of them real well and they are rusty (but) this team admires and looks at the next day, every day. And we just get better and better. We've progressed through the whole season and I'm not going to worry about it. We're going to practice hard, do what we do and come out and play."
"I think it was a great thing," Toomer said of the double bye. "After going 11 straight weeks at this level, a couple guys were beat up and we had a lot of injuries. A lot of people were playing with nicks and pains but those couple weeks gave us time for our bodies to recover. Now we're fresh and feel like it's the first day of fall camp."
A Weather alert has been issued in Pullman with 4-8 inches of snow expected on Tuesday. The streets of Pullman are already covered with plenty of Ice and Snow, and the latest alert is on from 10 a.m. Tuesday until 8 a.m. Wednesday.