ANDREW FURNEY EMBRACED BY ERIC RUSSELL SATURDAY
SPOKANE – College football players love to “bet” on their final spring scrimmages. No money changes hands, of course -- that is an NCAA no-no -- and “bets” often consist of little more than the right to brag in the locker room for a week or two.
Darryl Monroe declined to reveal what “bet” was at stake Saturday in Washington State’s Crimson and Gray Game. However, the colorful linebacker said the winners won’t be getting a thing from his Crimson team after the Gray completed a two-point conversion pass on the final play to win 22-21 ... with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left on the clock.
“The way they won, they ain’t gettin’ nothin’,” said Monroe, who tallied five tackles on the day, one for loss. “That wasn’t a win. They know we won, so all bets are canceled.”
Monroe’s upbeat manner suggested he wasn’t really all that upset. Besides, it was impossible to take Monroe too seriously when he conducted interviews while wearing funky sunglasses with rainbow-colored frames.
“I gotta stay fresh when I’m out here,” Monroe deadpanned. “The sun will mess up my mind, and I want to be able to focus.”
QB SITUATION: After WSU’s scrimmage last weekend, coach Mike Leach said Connor Halliday would start ahead of Austin Apodaca “if we were to play today.”
Asked after Saturday’s scrimmage if that was still true, Leach said, “Well, it’s pretty close. They’ll get to (fall) camp and they’ll fight it out.”
Obviously, there’s plenty of unofficial and official spring, summer and fall workouts before WSU opens the season Aug. 31 at Auburn.
Halliday, a redshirt junior who split time as the starter with the graduated Jeff Tuel last season, completed 38 of 58 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. However, he missed two wide-open receivers in the end zone in the first half (albeit wind-aided), threw three interceptions -- one near the defense’s goal line -- and occasionally forced the type of high-risk passes that dogged him last season.
Apodaca, a redshirt freshman who runs better than Halliday, completed 27 of 45 passes for 279 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Apodaca also scored on a 1-yard run.
“Other than the turnovers, Connor played pretty decent in the second half,” Leach said. “I thought Austin settled in and played good (eventually). He played nervous and panicked a little bit in the first half.”
Halliday and Apodaca took turns running the No. 1 and 2 offenses, which basically played against the No. 1 and 2 defenses, respectively.
SLOW START: The Cougars started slowly before 8,340 fans on a windy afternoon where threatening skies made way for sunshine much of the way.
“We were slow and sloppy at first,” Leach said. “I thought we tightened things up in the second half.”
“That’s how we were a little bit last year toward the end of the season,” wide receiver Gabe Marks said. “We’d come out for games, and we’d be like we were tired out there or something. We’ve got to figure out a way to fix that.”
Marks himself would appear to need no fixing. He caught 11 passses Saturday for 107 yards and two TDs.
MISLEADING STATS: The 2012 Cougars came in last in the country in rushing (29.1 yards per game) and quarterback sacks allowed (4.8). Thus, there was cause for concern Saturday when the Cougars finished with minus-17 yards rushing and allowed 10 sacks against a defense that did not blitz and was missing several key players.
Of course, the Cougars threw 109 passes and ran the ball just 32 times (counting the 10 sacks) in the 2 1/2-hour scrimmage. Also, with quarterbacks off limits for tackling, sacks were credited to defenders who touched the quarterback or were judged likely to have been able to bring down the quarterback.
Leach said the offensive line “certainly” played better in the second half. Leach said blitzing was ruled out because some offensive linemen weren’t used to playing with one another, and backups occasionally found themselves lined up against starters.
Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said he was “really happy overall” with the defense. Breske noted that it’s been “a totally different spring” than last year, when the new coaching staff switched WSU’s base defense from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 and ordered far more blitzing.
GRATEFUL MAN: The Cougars were hoping for a school-record 15,000 fans Saturday -- they set the record of 10,713 last year (and likely undercounted significantly due to an open back gate) -- but Rico Forbes was grateful to play in front of anyone.
Forbes, a former Texas high school and junior college player, has nailed down the starting right offensive tackle spot after missing both his previous seasons at Washington State due to knee surgery. Both years, he tore right anterior cruciate ligament in fall practice.
“There were times off and on, especially after last season, when I questioned if I wanted to be doing this,” Forbes said.
Now that he’s playing again, Forbes said, “It’s a dream. Not many people get to do this.”
JACK THIS: Tana Pritchard often refers to legendary WSU quarterback Jack Thompson as “Uncle Jack,” but Pritchard points out that he is not a true blood relative of the “Throwin’ Samoan.” His father Dave was a teammate and close friend of Thompson's at WSU and part of the first wave of Samoan players to join the Cougars.
Pritchard, who played quarterback and seemingly everything else at Clover Park High School, has been starting at WILL linebacker one year after seeing almost all of his playing time on special teams as a redshirt freshman.
“I feel good,” said Pritchard, who posted three tackles Saurday. “I’ve got a lot of opportunities.
“Coach Wilson (new linebackers coach Ken Wilson) is great. He’s a great teacher.
“I have a bunch of guys around me who are awesome linebackers. They’re helping me out … and the defensive front line has just been ‘killing it’ all spring. It makes my ‘reads’ easy.”
Listed a 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, Pritchard said he plans to put on “10, 15 pounds before the fall.”
NOT DONE YET: As they've done for the last several years following the final spring game, the Cougs will have one more practice before calling it good. They'll be back out on the field Tuesday.