SCRIMMAGE 1: Offense rules the day

GARY ROGERS

PULLMAN—It was wall-to-wall sunshine but even the skies had a hard time on Friday matching the picture perfect performances of QBs Alex Brink and Gary Rogers in the Cougs' first spring scrimmage. There were solid hits and head-turning feats on defense but the offense ruled the day, scoring five touchdowns. Despite the shining stat line, Bill Doba is thankful the 2007 season is still a ways away.

The conventional wisdom of spring and fall camps is the defense is always ahead of the offense, as it takes a little while for the offensive group to find their rhythm. So when asked how he felt the spring's inaugural scrimmage went, Doba briefly looked to the ground before replying with brutal honesty.

"I think we have 35 more practices before we play Wisconsin. And thank God we do," said Doba.

Doba went on to say he wasn't entirely displeased given that it was the first spring scrimmage, but it was clear the Cougs are not clicking on all cylinders just yet.

"For the first scrimmage, I thought the tackling was crisp, defensively we played the run well and offensively I thought we threw the ball well," said Doba. "Defensively we gave up some scores but we played just base stuff. The things we gave up were the long pass, which was good for the offense. I thought we threw the ball well, Gary made a couple really nice passes."

And the quarterback play was certainly among the positives from the session. Brink and Rogers were a combined 16-of-21 passing for 200 yards and 3 TDs. All told, Cougar quarterbacks on the day completed over 62 percent of their passes on the day.

The offense got things started with a 24-yard Brink aerial to freshman WR Keith Rosenberg for the first score. The redshirt freshman from Bellevue bobbled the ball in the end zone, but managed to hold on against tight coverage by safety Christian Bass.

The scoring play was set up by a 15 yard scamper by RB Chris Ivory. The sophomore continued his torrid performance this spring, running for 60 yards on just 8 carries, with a number of notable big gainers.

The scrimmage then went in favor of the defense, with the Cougar stop corps shutting down on four straight possessions the Cole Morgan-led second string offense, and the Brink and Rogers captained first strings.

In one of Morgan's first attempts, the sophomore found Rosenberg along the sidelines for a short gain. Rosenberg, who had four catches for 68 yards, couldn't hold onto to this one though, fumbling the pigskin into the waiting hands of cornerback B.T. Walker for the first turnover of the day.

After several short-gainers and incomplete passes, DT Ropati Pitoitua broke through the line and met RB Dwight Tardy for a five yard loss.

Laying some bone-jarring knocks for the defense in the middle stretch were linebackers Andy Mattingly and Greg Trent. Mattingly, a sophomore, flattened WR Scott Selby following a 6-yard reception. The hit knocked Selby out-of-bounds and drew raucous praise from some of the members of the moderate crowd.

Senior WR Michael Bumpus was on the receiving end of the Trent hit, taking one in the chin following a short pass up the middle from Rogers. The hit, like Mattingly's, drew praise from the crowd and also the defense gathered along the sidelines. Bumpus, however, would have his revenge with some unlikely grabs plus a touchdown.

The offense finally pushed back, again turning to the deep ball to makes its point. Rogers found WR Charles Dillon up the left side for a 50-yard-plus reception. The play put the ball inside the ten, and the offense looked poised to turn in their second touchdown.

The defense wasn't having any of it, however. A Dillon fumble into the end zone saw Bass pick up the pigskin and returning it 68 yards before finally being downed by a hustling Rogers.

It took an intense on-field argument between offensive linemen Andy Roof and Bass to apparently ignite the fire in the offense once more. Immediately following the altercation, Ivory busted one up the middle and garnered 20-plus yards.

Although the particular possession ended in a punting situation, everything that following seemed to belong to the crimson-clad offense.

Starting at the 50-yard line, Rogers found Bumpus for yet another deep pass, this time gaining about 20 hash-marks. Bumpus finished the day with 6 receptions and 40 yards.

After a series of Dwight Tardy carries to get the ball to the 3-yard-line, the defense turned in back-to-back stops. It was Richmond who eventually crossed the line, however, and the offense had their second TD on the day.

The second string then took over on the 30-yard line, and on the very first play, RB Marcus Richmond took the money all the way to the bank behind solid blocking by the O-line. Richmond tallied 40 yards total on 12 carries in the scrimmage.

The offense then ran a series of possessions from 10 yards out, with Rogers hooking up with both Dillon and Bumpus for scores. It was Bumpus who made the hands-down catch of the day on the his score, one-handing the ball while getting nailed by corner Ryan Kensok.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • The first-string offensive line, a unit in which several players are expected to compete for playing time, was composed of freshman Micah Hannam in the right tackle spot, Roof at right guard, sophomore Kenny Alfred at center, senior Bobby Byrd and LG, and junior Derek Hunter at LT. Doba also pointed out that because the offensive line is far from set and still being adjusted, the defense was set in a base formation throughout the day, with standard coverage and little blitz pressure.

  • Further bad news for the unit: OL Dan Rowlands did not participate in the scrimmage, and Doba said the junior is suffering from a neck injury; "He strained his neck, and we think he may have a stress fracture, so I am not sure if he's going to be there (for the rest of the spring session).

  • The field goal battle between Loren Langley and Romeen Abdollmohammadi was narrowly won by Langley, who went 5-for-6 on the day, missing once from 32 yards out. Abdollmohammadi, meanwhile, went 4-for-6, missing from both 30 and 32 yards out.

  • The punting unit looked in fine form, as both Darryl Blunt and Reid Forrest sent a number of punts high and deep, with distance ranging up to 50-60 yards.

    More Doba Quotes on the Scrimmage:
    On Defense:
    "Defensively we gave up the scores, obviously, and the things we gave up were the long pass-but that's a good thing for the offense, so that's ok. But we said our biggest concern going into it was our corners, so we didn't do much to help them, we just kind of put them out there on an island to see what they can do. That's what practice is for."

    On Christian Bass:
    "He's doing well, he's doing much better. He's a senior, so this is his time to get going."

    On Players who stood out to the coach in the scrimmage:
    "I thought Gary (Rogers) had a couple really nice passes, I think Greg Trent played the pass a little better, he had a big hit, nice job there. I thought the tackling was pretty good on the run, I thought defensively we played the run pretty well, and offensively I thought we through the ball pretty well."

    On the offensive line:
    "With the second unit, they're all rookies on the offensive line, so we just played base. We held back, no stunting or blitzes. They're not ready for that."


    MICHAEL BUMPUS, MAKING THE DIFFICULT LOOK ORDINARY

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