Scrimmage 2: 'Foot' Friday on the Palouse

ROMEEN ABDOLLMOHAMMADI

PULLMAN — Forget the 42-yard touchdown run by Kevin McCall. No matter that Gary Rogers fired two TD passes. Or that the defense surrendered nearly 150 fewer yards than it did a week ago. For a crimson nation that's been closing its eyes on field goal attempts since Drew Dunning graduated, Washington State's second scrimmage of the spring season really made for a Good Friday. Make that Foot Friday.

Seniors Romeen Abdollmohammadi and Loren Langley combined to make nine of 10 field goals and 8-of-8 PATs. That's a truly Dunning-esque rate of accuracy. The only miss was Abdollmohammadi's first field goal attempt of the day, a 32-yarder that went left.

Granted, none of Friday's treys were of the Jason Hanson, long-distance variety. Most appeared to be in the 30-to-35-yard range, but one set was from 42 yards out.

Bottom line, though, is that the ball went through the uprights early and often.

"Whatever (the kickers) did during the off-season I like it," said head coach Bill Doba. "They're doing well, much better."

Last season Langley made just 7 of 13 field goal attempts before losing the job late in the season to Abdollmohammadi, who went 3 of 3. None of their makes was greater than 39 yards. The season before, Langley was better, but still significantly errant, hitting 14 of 22 field goal attempts, with three connections of 45 yards or greater.

The improved kicking served as a metaphor for the entire scrimmage. "Overall we are progressing," Doba said.

We got a little better today. We emphasized the run in this scrimmage and we ran the ball a little bit better. We threw the ball and gave Gary (Rogers) a lot of reps, so that was good," he said.

Under sunny skies and 65-degree temperatures, the scrimmage got off to a defensive start. Alex Brink started the proceedings with a short gain to Benny Ward, but then found linebacker Jason Stripling and Cory Evans all over him on the next two snaps.

Rogers and Cole Morgan were greeted with similar pressure when they took the reins of the offense. Senior defensive end Lance Broadus and redshirt freshman defensive end Preston Brooks each recorded sacks. The defense was so solid in the early going that it took about 15 minutes before the offense secured a first down -- on a bullet pass from Morgan to his old Ballard High teammate Tony Thompson.

Stepping up for the defense early on were safety Husain Abdullah and cornerback B.T. Walker, who double-teamed receiver Brandon Gibson following an incomplete pass, and sent the receiver to the turf. The hit, had it been in a real game, might even have drawn a flag, but the referees let it go and the ample crowd of about 100 spectators let the D know they appreciated it with considerable shouts of praise.

McCall finally got things rolling for the offense when he bolted up the left side, broke several tackles and took the swine to paydirt. The 42-yard run was the first touchdown of the scrimmage.

The play seemed to loosen up the offense a little bit, and Michael Bumpus, Ward, TE Jed Collins and Gibson all turned in nice grabs shortly thereafter. In all, passes were completed to 12 different players, with Collins leading the way with three catches and a TD. Brandon had two receptions and a TD, and freshman Anthony Houston had two catches, including a diving TD on a Morgan pass that concluded the scrimmage.

In addition to McCall, who finished the day with 98 yards on 16 carries, freshman Marcus Richmond looked good in the backfield, carrying the ball 13 times for 50 yards. On one series he guided the offense to a fourth-down-and-inches situation at the defense's 40-yard line. The O elected to go for the first down, but the defense would have none of it, as defensive end Kevin Kooyman busted through the line and hit Richmond for a 2-yard loss.

Following the punt, the first-string offense, led by Rogers, took over at the defense's 40-yard line, and proceeded to drive the distance. The TD was set up by several nice runs by McCall and Dwight Tardy, and receptions by Collins and Ben Woodard.

The touchdown belonged to Gibson, however, who took a slant pass from Rogers and busted up the left side, dodging several tackles and finding the end zone.

The team then ran the same drill again with the second-stringers, but this time it was the defense which stood tall.

The first play was a handoff to McCall, who was met immediately at the line by tackles Toby Turpin and Bryan Tarkington. The defense eventually forced the offense to settle for field goal attempts.

As the scrimmage wound down, the offense took over at the D's 20-yard line, and after some tooth-and-nail battles in the trenches that put the ball on about the 8-yard-line, Rogers found a wide-open Collins on a soft floater for the third touchdown of the day.

Doba said spring is a time to hone fundamentals, and found positives all over the field -- in the center-to-quarterback exchanges, the running game, and the kicking unit. The penetration on the defensive line was the biggest weakness, he said. Several missed tackles in the secondary also were disappointing.

Doba said the team as a whole looked tired, and said the fairly rigorous practice schedule this spring may be the culprit. "We looked a little bit tired, but this is the first time we've gone Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. We had a good tough work-out yesterday, and they looked a little bit leggy today. (But) when we step on the field in this stadium, we need to pick it up a little bit more."

NOTABLE NOTES:

* The defense gave up 228 yards of offense, a big improvement from the 370 surrendered a week ago in the first scrimmage.

* Doba said of his quarterbacks: "We through the ball (well), we gave Gary (Rogers) a lot of reps, that's what we wanted to do, and give him a lot of experience, so that part of it was good." In all, the three QBs competed 18 of 29 passes for 130 yards. Brink was 5-of-10 for 39 yards; Rogers 6-of-9 for 52; and Morgan 7-of-11 for 39. Kevin Lopina (hamstring) did not play.

* With a number of injuries this spring on the offensive line, Doba said workouts have featured more more kicking than usual in order to give the healthy OLs, most of them running with the first- and second-units, a breather. In Friday's scrimmage, many of the hosses worked with both units and switched positions regularly. Running with ones in the first series were junior walk on Nick Cantlon at LT, senior Bobby Byrd at LG, sophomore Kenny Alfred at center, junior Andy Roof at RG, and freshman Micah Hannam at RT. Also in the mix were walk ons Brian Danaher and Jeff Bowen.

* Punter Darryl Blunt continued to perform well, sending several punts at or over 50 yards on the day. Blunts counterpart, freshman Reid Forrest, didn't look quite as sharp, but still managed several nice kicks on the day.

* Doba said freshman OL Joe Eppele has missed practice due to a staph infection. Eppele is taking antibiotics, Doba said, and is not yet ruled out to participate in spring ball. CB Brian Williams, meanwhile, also did not participate in the scrimmage, as he is reportedly suffering from a tailbone injury.

* Spring workouts will conclude next Saturday with the final scrimmage. Kickoff is at 1:15.

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