Scrimmage 2: D dominates but Rogers sharp

D SWARMS TE TONY THOMPSON

PULLMAN -- The last play of the scrimmage said it all. Amidst the snow, rain and cooler conditions Saturday on the Palouse, the final ball thrown by Alex Brink sailed just over the outstretched arms of Jason Hill and into the hands of a diving Michael Willis. The interception was one of many fine plays from the defensive unit, as the second week of spring practices came to a close.

As the Cougars mark the halfway point in the spring season, improvements seemed to be revealing themselves. The red zone defense looked solid in the first full scrimmage as they allowed only one touchdown during the morning session.

Although the offense worked the field well for most of the scrimmage, the defense had the upper hand in the red zone, coming up big on several occasions and when it mattered most.

Coach Bill Doba said he liked what he saw from both sides of the ball.

"The offense just couldn't put it in the end zone, but the defense was really coming after them," Doba said. "There was quite a bit of blitzing and that is what we need defensively to be competitive."

ONE OF THE reasons the defensive corps had a successful morning -- staunch pressure on an already weakened offensive line. The o-line unit is missing, among others, Dan Rowlands (shoulder), Kenny Alfred (fractured hand) and Colin Donovan (fractured hand).

Junior defensive end Matt Mullennix and senior DE Mkristo Bruce combined for three sacks and were strong off the edge all morning long, breaching the protection on other occasions to force the QBs out of the pocket. Other standout defensive efforts included DT Aaron Johnson, who batted away a pair of pass attempts, Husain Abdullah who had two nifty pass breakups plus a sack that went for a big yardage loss, and the aforementioned Michael Willis.

OFFENSIVELY, RUNNING BACK Dwight Tardy put together some nice gainers, and DeMaundray Woolridge also broke free to roam for extra hashes. Alex Brink, while not putting together his best passing day, looked light on his feet, scrambling exceptionally well under strong defensive pressure.

While Brink was unable to make completions with the majority of the receiving corps, he and veteran wide receiver Jason Hill seemed to be on the same page. The duo connected on several occasions, including one deep pass for a 20 yard-plus gain that saw the senior receiver making an impressive catch under tight coverage at the two yard line.

DOBA WAS ALSO especially pleased with the play of QB Gary Rogers, who was 8-of-16 for 83 yards on the day. Rogers continually marched the second unit up and down the field varying passing and running plays with good success.

"Gary Rogers had a great scrimmage, so did Brink, but I thought Gary did a really nice job," Doba said.

Brink completed 4 of 12 passes, Cole Morgan 5 of 9 for 32 yards and Arkelon Hall 2 of 2 for 30 yards.

Arkelon Hall, who threw the day's lone touchdown pass to tight end Jed Collins, also put together an edge of your seat scramble, avoiding what looked to be a sure sack and turning it into positive yardage. Hall has noticeably slimmed down over the offseason, although his listed height/weight on the official roster (6-1, 224) looks to be taken from last year.

ON BALANCE, DOBA said he was excited about what he saw in the scrimmage Saturday and with the amount of injuries suffered this spring, the session is mostly about improving fundamentals and technique, and giving the young guys experience and repetitions, plus the chance to step up.

"You know, we've got quite a few injuries and thank god they're not serious, we'll get them back for next fall, but we've got 12 to 14 kids that will be playing a lot that aren't even dressed today, so spring is a good opportunity to create depth," Doba said.

NOTES:
Freshman walk on kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi was perfect on the session, splitting the uprights on all three attempts from 37, 39 and 37 yards. Starter Loren Langley had an off day, hitting a 37 yarder and missing from 37 and 39 yards.

Cornerback Tyron Brackenridge continues to nurse a hamstring injured in the offseason. DE Mike Graise (arm) sat out the scrimmage as did receiver Finas Rabb, out sick for the last three days.

The Cougar offense accounted for 311 total yards, 212 through the passing game and 99 on the ground. In addition to Hill, Benny Ward and Kipp Curtis each had three receptions, Ward totaling 31 yards and 30 for Curtis. Scott Selby, Andy Largent, Jed Collins, Reid McEllrath, Bryan Baird, Anthony Thompson and DeMaundray Woolridge also caught balls during the scrimmage.

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