It was blistering hot around the Northwest on Saturday and Pullman was no exception. The mercury topped out at 97 degrees but it was much hotter on the field, and that may have had something to do with it.
Still, the Cougar players will need to ignore the elements and surrounding background noise over the course of the season if they are to meet Wulff's expectations for '08.
Overall, the defense fared better than the offense but positionally, the tight ends group made their voices heard the loudest. They combined for nearly half of the receptions on the day for the first- second- and third team-offenses. TE Devin Frischknecht joined Brandon Gibson with the identical stat line in the box score -- 3 receptions for 33 yards.
| MORE FROM THE COUGS' FIRST SCRIMMAGE|
· Chima Nwachukwu said the Cougs have been eager adopters of new co-defensive coordinator Coach Ball's intensity and defensive mentality. The safety also mentioned the need to continue to practice in the heat to prepare for the Baylor road game. "We need to clean up some stuff, (but) I thought we did come out crisp to start," said Nwachukwu.|
· Gibson said the two freshman taking reps with the No. 1 offense on Saturday -- Norrell and Karstetter -- have impressed him. He said Karstetter is a physical specimen who plays hard on every play while Norrell is uber-athletic. He said the offense needs to continue to play with competitiveness and heart in order to compete this year. Gibson also mentioned that Pellum and the secondary have gotten better on the fundamentals. He also said physical corner Tyrone Justin (who was injured during the scrimmage) has shown solid improvement.
· Pellum was in with the 1's on defense. He said a strong pass rush by the d-line was big in helping the DB's prevent any long gainers. Pellum also had plenty of praise for secondary-mates Myron Beck, Nwachukwu and Alfonso Jackson, who is expected to start at corner when he returns to action.
· Many Cougar players from seasons past were spotted in attendance, including WSU legend Jack Thompson, whose son Tony is a rising tight end, and Bud Norris, the Mayor of Mt. Vernon, Washington. The group were to join the team for dinner after the scrimmage.
· How hot was it? About 300 of the faithful gathered in Martin Stadium to watch the first scrimmage of WSU's fall camp and the most popular seats were in the upper decks -- beneath the shade of the press box.
· The Cougs' next formal scrimmage is scheduled for Friday.
Ten different players caught passes during the short scrimmage, with WSU quarterbacks a combined 18-of-27 for 206 yards with no interceptions. Gary Rogers said the offense did reasonably well moving the ball, but need to get touchdowns instead of FG attempts. Rogers was efficient on Saturday at 9-for-13 for 80 yards, and looked to go through his progressions well.
ON DEFENSE, THE Cougs failed to come up with a turnover, though they did a decent job of limiting the offense to short gains -- the longest play allowed was an 18 yard pass completion from Lopina. There were several big hits delivered on the day, and the stop corps controlled the line of scrimmage with tackles for loss plus three sacks.
The offensive line had a rough day, and Cougar running backs did not have much open daylight to work with -- Marcus Richmond was held to 12 hashes on seven carries, with a long of nine yards.
DURING THE SPECIAL teams portion of the scrimmage, Romeo Pellum converted a kickoff return for a touchdown.
THE FIRST TEAM offense went three and out to start, the key defensive play when Greg Trent knifed through and "sacked" Rogers for a six yard loss. Rogers found better success on the second drive, marching the Cougs downfield with Brandon Gibson his target of choice.
Kevin Norrell had a nice catch and run, making a few defenders miss and gaining a key first down. Norrell and Jared Karstetter, both true frosh, were with first team at the receiver spots opposite Gibson. The WR position has been beset by injuries, though had this been an actual game, some of the sidelined Cougars would have surely lined up wide.
The defense made the offense work for it -- a sack from redshirt freshman Hallston Higgins, playing in place of a bump and bruised Cory Evans, and a pass breakup from Trent were among the defensive highlights.
In one instance, Rogers rolled away from the pressure on third down, scanned his options and was on the money to Gibson to move the chains -- the defense struggled at times to get the offense off the field Saturday on third down.
The O stalled in the red zone on Saturday, Pellum on one occasion broke up a third down pass intended for Karstetter. Both kickers, Nico Grasu and Wade Penner, came on and converted a 22 yard try.
The second team also came out flat, a fumbled snap leading to a Cory Mackay sack and loss of 17 yards. Overall, the second team had a couple of decent drives, led by the quick feet of QB Kevin Lopina. But Lopina was also the Cougs' leading rusher with 29 yards on three carries. The Cougs' top two running backs, Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory, were dinged up and sat out the scrimmage for precautionary reasons.
Each of the second team's scoring drives were the result of field goals. Both kickers were given the same attempts, but each could only manage two of three from shorter distances. Grasu's miss came from 31 yards out, Penner's from 25. Both connected on their one extra point attempt.
The only touchdown on the day came from the third unit, a Marshall Lobbestael 20-yard strike to tight end Skylar Stormo. Lobbestael only threw two passes, completing both. The third team was paced on their scoring drive by RB Joe Campbell, who had three carries for 19 yards.
SEVERAL COUGARS THIS offseason have said the voluntary offseason workouts were the most intense since their arrival out on the Palouse but Wulff said following the scrimmage the Cougs need to be better conditioned, though he acknowledged the role the heat played on the day.
Wulff also noted the offensive skill positions have suffered the most injuries. Corner has also seen bumps and bruises, leading to some true freshmen seeing reps on Saturday. Wulff stressed that a close review of the scrimmage tape was necessary in order to better assess the play from each position.