TUEL: 19-21, 285 yards, 2 TDs
SPOKANE -- The Washington State Cougars don’t expect miracles out of Mike Leach. For $2.25 million a year, however, they do expect excitement and improvement from the football team.
So far, so good.
The Cougars thrilled a spring football crowd of 10,713 with a series of highlight-reel plays on both sides of the ball in a highly entertaining Crimson and Gray Game at Albi Stadium. No “official” score was kept, since the offenses and defenses were kept separate.
“I thought it was a great setting and a great environment,” Leach said.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel, who will be a senior this fall, agreed.
“Loved the crowd,” he said.
It took all of three plays for Leach’s vaunted offense -- and Leach’s daredevil play-calling -- to take center stage.
Faced with third-and-17 on the offense’s 16-yard line, Tuel uncorked a long bomb that hit Marquess Wilson in stride and in the palms down the left sideline. Cornerback Damante Horton watched helplessly as Wilson pulled away for the 84-yard score.
Tuel, coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he saw little action, completed his first 15 passes. He finished 19 for 21 for 285 yards and two touchdowns in the five series in which the No. 1 offense squared off with the No. 1 defense.
Tuel picked apart a defense missing several key players. Leach’s pass-happy offense is renowned for its ability to spread out defenses and find receivers in space, and that happened all afternoon with Tuel in charge.
“It’s not a very complicated offense, there’s just a lot of ways to run it,” Tuel said. “Coach Leach has really done a good job with helping us quarterbacks with our progressions and reads.”
Wilson, an All-America candidate who set school records with 82 catches and 1,388 receiving yards as a sophomore last season, responded to a Leach verbal jab earlier in the week by hauling in four balls for 149 yards and the TD.
Leach said after Tuesday’s practice that Wilson needs to work harder in practice. Leach repeated his remarks after Saturday’s scrimmage.
Wilson, soft spoken and humble, said he’s guilty as charged.
“I definitely felt I brought it a lot more to this game than the rest of the spring,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he has been giving 100 percent in practice “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” By calling him out in public, Wilson said coaches are “just pushing me to be the best player I can be, and it’s helping me a lot.”
Leach said Dominique Williams also needs to work harder in practice, but the coach had no complaints about Williams’ Saturday performance.
The redshirt freshman caught five passes for 121 yards and a TD.
Leach said Wilson and Williams were “impressive, and it was nice that that was revealed. Now we can know what to expect.”
Leach, Tuel and Wilson said the final spring scrimmage -- a 15th and final practice session will be held Tuesday in Pullman -- was the best of the spring.
Asked if the Cougars have made as much progress as he had hoped at this point, Leach said, “Never is, but I think we’ve steadily improved. I think we’re a little ahead of where I expected. We’ve made a lot of progress.”
THE DEFENSIVE STAR of the day was buck linebacker Logan Mayes, who was credited with 4 1/2 quarterback sacks. To protect the quarterbacks, who were off limits for full contact, defenders only needed to touch the quarterbacks or be in position to hit them to earn a sack.
“I thought we ran to the ball good on defense,” Leach said. “Of course, you had Mayes, who turned into a sack specialist.”
Mayes, who will be a sophomore this fall, was happy with the defense’s effort.
“I was pretty confident,” he said. “I felt like we had a good day (on defense). We were pretty aggressive.
“We had a couple big busts, but those are just scheme things that will get fixed as we go on. It’s still spring ball; everyone’s still learning the defense.”
Mayes, who backs up senior Travis Long at buck linebacker, lines up in a down position similar to a defensive end at times. Mayes is exceptionally quick, and his strong play delighted one spectator in particular -- father Rueben, the College Football Hall of Fame running back who starred for the Cougars in the 1980s.
Safeties Deone Bucannon and Matthew Simmons had interceptions on a pleasant, sunny afternoon. David Gilbertson threw one of the picks while playing with and against a mix of starters and top reserves. Gilbertson finished 12 for 16 for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Gilbertson may have thrown a second TD, but officials ruled Andrei Lintz fumbled before he crossed the goal line after making a fine catch on a short pass. Fans booed the call.
Lintz, who had 88 receiving yards in the latest in a series of strong spring performances, tied Williams for the team lead with five catches. Six running backs combined on just 17 carries for 65 yards and no TD’s. Running time was used in the second half.
Junior college transfer Michael Bowlin showed a strong leg on kickoffs and punts, but missed badly on a 52-yard field-goal attempt. Andrew Furney (39 yards) and Wes Concepcion (24 yards) both converted their lone field-goal tries.
Injured players who did not play included quarterback Connor Halliday, linebackers Tana Pritchard, Chester Su’a and Darryl Monroe, safeties Tyree Toomer and Casey Locker, wide receivers Kristoff Williams and Henry Eaddy, center Matt Goetz and defensive ends Jordan Pu’u Robinson, Lenard Williams and Justin Clayton.
DARREN MARKLE VS. RICKEY GALVIN|
Jeff Tuel 19-21-285, 2 TD
David Gilbertson 12-16-162, 1 TD, 1 INT
Cody Clements 5-9-64, 1 INT
Jesse Brown 4-5-57
Rickey Galvin 1-7
Carl Winston 4-7
Leon Brooks 3-26
Marcus Mason 2-7
Kyle Lappano 5-14
Manuel Lamson 2-4
Carl Winston 2-4, TD
Marquess Wilson 4-149, TD
Bobby Ratliff 4-47
Andrei Lintz 5-88
Leon Brooks 4-20
Bennett Bontemps 3-20
Dominique Williams 5-121, TD
Marcus Mason 1-2
Blair Bomber 3-13
Gino Simone 1-12
Rahmel Dockery 1-7
Rickey Galvin 1-13
Isiah Myers 1-15
Kyle Lappano 1-2
Brett McDonald 2-55
Max Hersey 1-1
Manuel Lamson 1-(-1)
Logan Mayes 4.5
Toni Pole 1.5
Xavier Cooper 1
Matthew Bock 1
Dylan Rabinowitz 1
Deone Bucannon (Gilbertson)
Mathew Simmons (Brown)
Andrew Furney – 39-good
Michael Bowlin – 52- wide left
Wes Concepcion – 24-good
Wilson 80-yard touchdown catch from Tuel (Furney Kick)
Winston 1-yard touchdown catch from Tuel (Furney Kick) tuel 6-6, 72 yards
Furney 39-yard field goal
D. Williams 6-yard touchdown catch from Gilbertson (Bowlin kick)
Wes Concepcion 24-yard field goal