Monday Night Football

VIRGIL WILLIAMS (Getty Images)

PULLMAN -– The weather may have cooled down for the 7:30 practice the Cougars held Monday night — the second of two for the day — but the competition on the field was fiery hot.

Cornerback Karl Paymah continued the aggressive nature, sparring with receivers Scott Lunde and Sammy Moore on consecutive plays. Paymah would back it up with his play on the field.

 

Quarterback Matt Kegel put on an aerial show, but as beautiful as it was, both Paymah and Jason David put on their best defensive show.

"If our corners keep progressing they can be as good as anyone in the country," secondary coach Ken Greene said.

The action got started with a big ooh and ahh from those who saw Hamza Abdullah's KO of running back Jermaine Green early on in practice. Green apparently was not expecting to get hit that hard as he got up, pleasantly shocked and said "I didn't know he was going to hit me that hard." Green was not hurt on the play.

Yes, it seems any holding back Coach Bill Doba had hoped for was not going to happen Monday night. Great hits and jaw-dropping plays were the only features being shown.

Offensive line coach George Yarno continued to perfect his offensive line brutes. Yarno has been working with the group to make them faster and more aggressive. Center Mike Shelford has been one to watch this season, he's not the most beastly specimen but coaches say he works hard and is smart. This is what has earned him a starting position (thus far) ahead of scholarship players like Nick Milhauser and Keola Loo.

"I'm just happy to be in my position," Shelford said. "Even if a scholarship never came this year I'd still be happy."

Despite the fact that Yarno barks at players like a German shepherd, Shelford, along with the rest of the offensive line, continues to respond positively to him.

"Everybody loves him," Shelford said with a big smile. "He'll pick you up when you're doing bad and he'll get you motivated if you're feeling lazy."

Yarno's work only gets tougher having to go against one of the Pac-10's top defenses.

"Tai Tupai is a big guy," said Shelford of the 6-5, 320 pound right tackle. "You just hope to keep him on the line. You don't plan to push him back very much. We've got a great defense though, we should have a great offense as well but it will make it even more fun when teams are only scoring 14 points a game on us."

It was that defense that promulgated the intense battle between the offense and defense. Kegel seemed to rebound nicely from any blitzes the defense threw at him. After having a pass blocked by Will Derting, Kegel hit Mr. Reliable, tight end Troy Bienemann, for some short yardage. The
big target pulled in a handful of receptions.

 

On another play Kegel was bull-rushed by Odell Howard, but he dropped a pass off to Cody Boyd. The defensive line clogged up running backs Jonathan Smith and Kevin McCall, while safety Virgil Williams put a big-time licking on receiver Jevon Miller.

Another sure-hands man has been Scott Lunde. Lunde reeled in at least four passes, and ran for about 15 yards on a reverse. Chris Hurd and Kegel both had swift passes to Moore, who was back in full pads after recovering from a hamstring injury.

But stealing the show from the offense and even their own defensive line was the new dynamic duo of Paymah and David. The duo gave quarterback Kegel and wide receivers Moore and Devard Darling fits all day long. Several times Kegel threw perfect passes that were broken up or intercepted by Paymah or David.

On one play, receiver Marty Martin tried his luck with Paymah only to run into a concrete wall. Paymah just stepped right in front of Martin as the pass sailed right over their heads. Another time, David and Darling were going at it, but David's defense forced a small error by Kegel to look big, as he overthrew a pass while trying to avoid the defense. Paymah had his way with Darling as well, locking him up on a perfect lob pass from Kegel. Point: Kegel and any other quarterbacks facing the duo had little room for error.

"J.D. put on about 20 pounds this off-season," Greene said. "I think it's given him a lot more confidence. He's out there playing like he's 6-2, 200 pounds."

Many skeptics have wondered how the Cougars will respond to the loss of Marcus Trufant, well Greene had an answer for that and it started with a Karl and ended with a Paymah.

"He is absolutely the whole package," Greene said. "He's got all the same characteristics of Trufant, he just needs to polish his game up and he should go a long way with it."

As for skepticism about the unit's depth, Greene has been pleased with both Alex Teems and Don Turner. Greene said he has liked the improvement of Turner after a broken arm in the spring and that he expects Teems to be a "viable factor this year." With the consistency of Turner and Teems, Greene has had few chances to gauge the ability of Omowale "Wally" Dada.

"We are really pleased with the four guys we have in that rotation so it's hard for him to break in there," Greene said. "But Wally is a physical kid with good speed. It's hard to evaluate him since it is so early but so far we've been pleased."

 

EXTRA POINTS

• Seen limping his way out of practice was wide receiver Chris Jordan. Jordan came out of the team's scrimmage early Monday limping a bit. At night he still was limping. The injury did not look serious. He was stretched out by a trainer and walked off the field by himself.

• Practice begins at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

• Lewiston High senior offensive lineman Brent Russum was in attendance for the Monday night practice. Russum has received attention from most of the Northwest Pac-10 schools and been offered by Oregon State. The Bengals finished second at state last season.

• Receiver Lunde did not take his little spar with Paymah to heart. After practice he shook secondary coach Greene's hand and quipped, "Looks like (the secondary) is finally starting to get a little intense."

• Running back Chris Bruhn had a couple of nice runs and redshirt freshman, DB Eric Frampton picked off a Kegel pass.

• Greene made sure to note that he has been extremely pleased with the work of his safeties Erik Coleman and Virgil Williams. "Coleman is back 100 percent, he hasn't lost anything," Greene said. "Virgil has looked real tough out there. Other teams will have their hands full (trying to play against us)."

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