SPRING DAY 9: Bombs away! Cougs air it out

PULLMAN -- The injury bug continues to bite the Cougs as another member of the defense hit the bench Tuesday with an injury. On the other side of the ball, the Washington State Air Raid offense went bonkers, connecting on myriad of long touchdowns from both Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca.

Bombs away!

Cougar quarterbacks let it ride Tuesday, connecting repeatedly on long touchdowns against their defensive counterparts.

Both quarterbacks connected on two 50-plus yard completions during the afternoon scrimmage. Three went for scores.

Second-year freshman Apodaca, running the second team offense, connected with running back Jeremiah Laufasa for a 50-yard touchdown on a screen pass, followed swiftly by another 45-yard bomb to sophomore Brett Bartolone that fell just short of the end zone.

Fourth-year junior Halliday wouldn't be outdone.

Leading the first team offense, Halliday stretched the defense with a 55-yard bomb to sophomore Dominique Williams, followed almost immediately by another strike to fourth-year junior Bobby Ratliff, this one also 50 yards.

WHILE HALLIDAY CONTINUES to produce, Apodaca has become noticeably more comfortable running the offense, something he attributes to the reps coaches have made sure he's receiving in practice.

"Coaches just keep telling me to pay attention out there and know the offense," Apodaca said.

Apodaca said in the end, it comes down to three keys in making an impact out on the gridiron at Mike Leach's heavily scrutinized quarterback position.

"Know the offense, trust the offense, run the offense," Apodaca said. "That's the key."

IT REMAINS TO be seen whether those three aspects of the game have fully clicked with Apodaca, but he's undoubtedly taking steps in the right direction out there.

Leach has preached fall camp will likely once again introduce Cougar fans to another quarterback battle, and if Apodaca's production as of late is any indication, he's in this competition for the long haul.

MEANWHILE, ICE WRAPS leg braces, tape jobs and soft casts have become a familiar sight at practice as of late, and Tuesday was no different.

Senior cornerback Damante Horton, running with the 1s on Tuesday, went down early on in scrimmage with a leg injury. Horton hobbled over to the sidelines and was attended to by team trainers for about 10 minutes before having his knee iced and taped. He did not return. Horton was noticeably uncomfortable, but as has become cliché, the extent of the injury will remain unknown.

Second-year freshman Rahmel Dockery stepped in for Horton for the remainder of the afternoon.

A handful of defenders are out of action for the Cougs. Senior safety Deone Bucannon and nose tackle Ioane Gauta missed practice again, with Gauta still sporting a leg brace on his right knee. Fourth-year junior Toni Pole also missed practice with a similar injury and knee brace.

You can add senior corner Nolan Washington, senior linebacker Justin Sagote, and junior wideout Isiah Myers to the list of non-participants on Tuesday. It was unknown how many of the walking wounded were sitting out due to the Cougs being overly cautious here in the spring. WSU doesn't release injury information under Mike Leach.

Several walk-ons were also nursing injuries.

The injury-du-jour this spring seems to be leg injuries, although the Cougs have participated in full-contact scrimmaging just three times thus far.

The Cougs may be deeper and more talented than in years' past, but injuries have a way of eating up depth fast. Then again, if there are to be injuries, better now in the spring than in fall camp.

ONE BENEFICIARY OF the innumerable injuries has been third-year sophomore Darryl Paulo. Playing the nose tackle for the first time, Paulo (6-2, 270) appears light for the position, but coaches have told him that will be his niche with the team.

"I've never played nose tackle, but I was told just be ready for anything," Paulo said. "Coaches told me I'm going to be that guy that can play any position on the line just in case."

Paulo wouldn't be your prototypical nose tackle, but he does have some attributes that play nicely in the middle.

"I'm definitely strong enough, I can make a good push," Paulo said. "I just need to keep learning the position and such."

With Pole and Gauta out right now, the Cougs will need to look everywhere for depth in the middle.

Fellow big man second-year freshman Robert Barber may be an option, though he too is rehabbing injuries suffered in 2012.

Time will tell.

NOTABLE NOTES:
Sophomore Jeremiah Allison received some run with the 1's for Sagote at the WIL, and recorded a sack and an interception off Apodaca in the end zone. On special teams, senior kicker Andrew Furney was 1-1 on the day, connecting from 42 yards away to end practice. Fifth-year senior Michael Bowlin was 0-2 on the day from a similar distance.

Marcus Mason's bid to become the second string running back took a hit on Tuesday, with him fumbling twice in live scrimmaging. He did have a couple nice scampers to go with that.

Sophomore running back Teondray Caldwell once again looked strong on the day.

The starting units for Day 9 were as follows:

OFFENSE
QB: Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca
RB: Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X: Dominique Williams (Several rotations at each WR position)
Z: Gabe Marks and Kristoff Williams (Several rotations at each WR position)
Y: Brett Bartolone (Several rotations at each WR position)
H: Rickey Galvin and Bobby Ratliff (Several rotations at each WR position)
LT: Gunnar Eklund (Zack Brevick got some time)
LG: Joe Dahl (John Fullington got some time)
C: Elliot Bosch
RG: Matt Goetz
RT: Rico Forbes (Eduardo Middleton got some time)

DEFENSE
LE: Matthew Bock
NT: Darryl Paulo
RE: Xavier Cooper
BUCK: Kache Palacio (Ivan McLennan ran with the 2's)
SAM: Cyrus Coen AND Jeremiah Allison
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
WILL: Tana Pritchard
CB: Anthony Carpenter (Nolan Washington ran with the 2's)
FS: Casey Locker
SS: Taylor Taliulu
CB: Damante Horton briefly, then Rahmel Dockery

KR: Leon Brooks, Robert Lewis, Brett Bartolone