Cougars shuffle offensive line

MATT GOETZ

PULLMAN — Washington State's starting offensive line remained consistent through the Cougars' first five games, but that could change this weekend if "Thursday Night Football" was any indication. CF.C caught up with offensive line coach Clay McGuire to talk with him about the changes as WSU prepares to play at 1 p.m. Saturday at California.

Throughout the season, the Cougars have started sophomore Gunnar Eklund at left tackle and senior Rico Forbes at right tackle, sophomore Joe Dahl at left guard and senior John Fullington at right guard, and senior Elliott Bosch at center.

But the unit that took the east end zone before Thursday Night Football began was different. Senior Matt Goetz ran with the first-team at right guard with Fullington moving to right tackle. CF.C asked McGuire if lineup also will appear Saturday.

"Yeah, it's a good possibility," he said.

Rico Forbes had a difficult time keeping the Stanford defensive line away from Coug signal-callers last Saturday. He ran with the second-unit offensive line when they took the field in the short team session.

McGuire also was asked if it is too late to shuffle the lineup at this point of the season.

"No, it can happen any time," McGuire said. "Last year we were shuffling all the way until the last game. That's just the hands we were dealt, but it just depends. Jobs are open every day. Guys can come out and finally click for them six games into the season where they come out and compete and try to be a starter opposed to a backup."

In the short team session, Halliday completed all of his 20 passes against the scouts with the crowd noise howling from the public-address system in Martin Stadium. He looked calm, collected and hit his intended targets with precision. Halliday did not turn the ball over or throw any touchdowns.

As usual, the defense went about their work against the scouts. Coaches have harped on maintaining tempo throughout the week and it appears the message was received. Defenders were flying to the ball on each pass. CF.C asked defensive coordinator Mike Breske if he believed his defense improved since last week.

"I think we had to," Breske noted. "The hole we dug was our pass defense. Our rush defense had 130 yards given up in three quarters against a good running football team and that's good. We got to work on our pass defense and those are challenges we are going to see this week of not giving up the explosive pass play."

"We worked hard on that and we will see Saturday, but I feel good about it."

It's no secret that Cal likes to hurl the ball more than 50 times a game, but they do tend to turn the ball over. Golden Bears' quarterbacks have thrown five interceptions this season. Breske hopes to exploit that.

"We want to get takeaways," Breske said. "It's a freshman quarterback; he's not a senior quarterback. He's an explosive player, but he has made mistakes and we want to create some opportunities. Takeaways are one of our major goals on defense obviously."

WHEN THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL began, true freshman Tyler Bruggman started under center along with the same offensive starters who started things off last week. Bruggman's first and only drive was a complete one. He threw a beautiful ball to freshman WR Robert Lewis on the third play of TNF for a 50-yard gain. Eventually, Bruggman took his offensive unit all the way down to the 1-yard line and redshirt junior RB Theron West scored a touchdown on a run.

"I've been pretty impressed with him with these whole Thursday Night Football deals," McGuire said of Bruggman. "All the intangibles you hear about in kids and everything, he has them. He works extremely hard throughout the week and tries to get every possible rep he possibly can and if he is not getting the reps he is trying to get them mental.

"He comes out here and it shows. He goes out there and throws the ball well. Rarely, it is something that is his fault in the deal. It is usually some other thing happening, but I am excited to see what he can do as it continues to go."

Bruggman finished completing 6 of 7 passes for around 80 yards and no turnovers.

On the defensive side, redshirt sophomore LB Feddie Davey looked impressive. The 200-pounder from Miami, Fla., led the defense in tackles with five and earned the hit of the day crown.

Freshman QB Luke Falk dropped back to pass and threw a strike to the middle of the field intended for redshirt sophomore WR Drew Loftus. As soon as Loftus caught the ball, Davey lowered his shoulder pads and delivered a crushing hit on Loftus. His teammates were so excited that sophomore BUCK LB Kache Palacio ran from the sideline on to the field to give him a few high-fives.

"We had real good tempo on defense," Breske said about Thursday Night football. "Went up and down the field and had tempo against us from the offense, got their calls, got lined up, played fast and a very good polished Thursday workout for us on D."

Senior P Mike Bowlin continued to kick field goals at the beginning of practice alongside classmate Andrew Furney. Furney went 5 of 5 with his longest being from 45 yards out and right down the middle. Bowlin missed a FG that went left from 35 yards out and had one blocked from 50 yards out. He finished nailing 3 of 5.

The Cougars leave Friday for Berkley, Calif. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1.

Running with the 1s...

OFFENSE
QB—Connor Halliday
RB—Marcus Mason
X Receiver—Dominique Williams
H Receiver—Brett Bartolone
Y Receiver—River Cracraft
Z Receiver—Gabe Marks
LT—Gunnar Eklund
LG—Joe Dahl
C—Elliott Bosch
RG—Matt Goetz
RT—John Fullington

DEFENSE
DE—Toni Pole
NT—Ioane Gauta
DE—Xavier Cooper
BUCK—Destiny Vaeao
SAM—Cyrus Coen
MIKE—Darryl Monroe
WILL—Justin Sagote
CB—Nolan Washington
CB—Damante Horton
S—Deone Bucannon
S—Taylor Taliulu

OFFENSIVE STARTERS FOR TNF
QB—Tyler Bruggman
RB—Gerard Wicks
X Receiver—Daniel Lilienthal
H Receiver—Tyler Baker
Y Receiver—Robert Lewis
Z Receiver—Drew Loftus
LT—Eduardo Middleton
LG—Brent Anderson
C—Sam Flor
RG—Riley Sorenson
RT—Pierson Villarrubia

LIMITED PLAYERS
LB—Peyton Pelluer
OL—Jacob Seydel
LB—Eric Oertel
DL—Mortiz Christ

NOT IN ATTENDANCE
S—Darius Lemora
S—Bennett Bontemps
LS—Ryan Saparto
LB—Chester Su'a

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