Scrimmage 1: D rules, change at K, Hall down

PULLMAN -- The first scrimmage of fall saw the high-octane Cougar offense able to do little against an aggressive defense, although Alex Brink played little, and WSU took long looks at many of the younger players. Arkelon Hall had the pocket collapse around him one too many times, paying the price with a high ankle injury. Meanwhile, a new kicker has emerged as the front-runner to start.

Walk-on kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi, formerly a stand-out prep soccer play from Stanwood, Wash., turned in an impressive outing Saturday, sending all four field goal attempts through the uprights. Counterpart Loren Langley missed his first three attempts, all within 40 yards, before nailing a 42 yarder about half-way through the afternoon scrimmage at Martin Stadium.

The performance of both kickers shook-up the depth chart in the mind of head man Bill Doba, who after the scrimmage said; "Romeen, he's got the job, he's doing the best job right now." Doba then left the door slightly ajar, saying; "They'll keep competing."

Langley's performance Saturday echoed the break-down of last season, when the kicker was 14-22 in total field goal attempts, struggled outside the 40-yard line (4-of-10), and missed 7 of his last 11, including three in the Apple Cup, after opening the year strong.

WSU trainer Bill Drake said the initial diagnosis on Arkelon Hall was a high ankle sprain. Doba did not give any further specifics concerning the quarterback's injury, who was in a tight race with Cole Morgan for the third-string QB position, except to say that the freshman was in "a lot of pain."

Hall joined fellow QB Alex Brink on the sideline, as the starting quarterback only played in one set due to flu-like symptoms, said Doba.

Doba said OL Andy Roof will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb, with Dan Rowlands the frontrunner to replace him at guard. Senior Josh Duin is in the mix as well if he doesn't end up the starter at center, a position battle in which George Yarno has said the senior currently leads.

The loss of their starting field general and Roof could be one reason the offense failed to get the ball rolling in the scrimmage, as the defense bullied their counterparts for virtually the entire scrimmage, effectively stopping the run and shutting down for the most part the Cougs' fleet-footed receivers. Another was that this scrimmage wasn't the 1s going against the 1s all day -- many starters were substituted for liberally throughout, as Doba and staff wanted to take stock of some rookies and younger players.

Still, Doba expressed disappointment in the offense's ability to move the ball on the heels of a pair of good outings in full pads on Friday.

One of the few bright spots on offense belonged, once again, to senior wide receiver Jason Hill. The All-America candidate caught a Gary Rogers bomb under tough coverage from senior corner Don Turner for a 45-yard gain. The completion was far and away the biggest play for the O, which did manage to record two touchdowns -- a Rogers bullet to tight end Cody Boyd, and a Hall rope to Finas Rabb, who used his 6-foot-6 frame to go up and pull down the pigskin in the corner of the end zone.

Rogers connected on seven of his 13 passes for 93 yards, including the 17-yard touchdown strike to Boyd.

Other than that, it was all D, with defensive linemen Matt Mullennix, Mkristo Bruce, Adam Hineline, and Kevin Kooyman all recording sacks on the day, although WSU's official scrimmage stats Saturday evening lists only Mullennix and Hineline.

The secondary also had a good day, with a litany of pass break-ups and two interceptions, one courtesy of redshirt frosh Xavier Hicks off Rogers, and another by walk-on strong safety Jason Butler. The all-state athlete from Bellevue's Eastside Catholic made the pick after Kooyman deflected a Morgan pass.

Overall, the play of the defense pleased the Cougar coaches, as both Doba and defensive coordinator Robb Akey said the maturation of the unit is on pace.

"It's getting better" Akey said, "We're getting closer. We still obviously have work to do, but I like the progress we're making, I will say that."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Prep running back Marcus Richmond has arrived in Pullman and is practicing. However, similar to cornerback B.T. Walker, he cannot wear pads yet, only a helmet per NCAA rules that a player has to have a set number of practices before being allowed to go full pads. Richmond participated in last nights practice, but very lightly. Walker was also present Friday, although the junior transfer from College of the Canyons did not participate in today's scrimmage. He is expected to suit up fully for Monday's two sessions. DT Bryan Tarkington has not yet been given clearance to suit up, but is on the ground and has been present at every practice and scrimmage.

  • The running back unit failed to truly break-out against the defense with the D-line failing to give an inch, although RBs Dwight Tardy and Kevin McCall each managed to find holes a few times. The most impressive run on the day belonged to Tardy, who moved the chains and took the pigskin down just shy of the end zone. The play set up the Rogers-to-Boyd TD.

  • Illustrating the Cougs' goal to play more youth on Saturday, Derrell Hutsona took the place of Michael Bumpus and returned all punts -- and kick-offs as well -- displaying fine form in the back-field. Hutsona has shown a knack for returning kickoffs over his JC and prep careers. Bumpus, who has already placed his name in the punting categories in the WSU record book, is expected to continue as WSU's No. 1 punt returner when the Cougs open the season at Auburn on Sept. 2. Hutsona appeared to limp off the field right around scrimmage's end per CF.C's Kody Whiteaker, but it didn't appear serious and there was no immediate word on his condition. The next injury update release from WSU is expected sometime late Monday.

  • With the absence of corners Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring) and Markus Dawes (muscle strains, illness), joining Turner at the other corner spot for the first team defense was sophomore Ryan Kensok.

  • The punting unit looked very impressive on the day, as Darryl Blunt and Fritz Brayton each sent several rockets down the field. Adding to their outing was that the punts came under trying circumstances, as freshman Tony Thompson failed to find his rhythm as long-snapper Saturday, sending a number of snaps above the heads of Blunt and Brayton that they adeptly fielded. Thompson had had a good spring snapping punts, and has been a tireless worker at the craft this offseason. Doba said the long snapping would get a little work over the remainder of camp.

  • Fevaea'i Ahmu ran with the 1s for the second straight day in place of Aaron Johnson but Johnson and Ropati Pitoitua are expected to be the starters, with Ahmu to get significant turns in rotation after the true sophomore started 11 games last year after Pitoitua broke his leg in last year's fall camp.

  • Enjoying the scrimmage were many members of Cougar teams from the past, in town for the weekend as part of a Gray W Club event. Watching from the bleachers were such Cougar legends as Bobo Brayton, Don Ellingsen, and Jack Fanning.

    Scrimmage Stats:
    Scoring - Boyd 17 pass from Rogers, Rabb 3 pass from Hall
    Rushing - Woolridge 7/0, Tardy 3/16, McCall 4/14, Hutsona 5/11, Ivory 1/1, Hall 1/-2, Morgan 1/6
    Passing - Brink 1/8/0/0/11, Hall 2/6/1/0/11, Rogers 7/13/1/1/93, Morgan 4/6/0/1/58 Key: Att/Comp/TD/INT/Yds
    Receiving - Woolridge 1/11, Selby 1/13, Hutsona 1/-2, Thompson 2/27, Largent 1/8, Collins 2/16, Bumpus 1/4, Boyd 1/17, Gibson 1/8, Rabb 1/3, Hill 1/45, Dillon 1/23
    Interceptions - Butler, Hicks
    Sacks - Mullennix, Bruce, Hineline, Kooyman
    Punts - Blunt: 51-41-41-50-40, Brayton: 46-39-46-44
    Field Goals - Langley 1 of 4 (long 42), Abdollmohammadi 4 of 4 (long 42), Birrell 1 of 1 (long 36)
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