SCRIMMAGE: Defense rules, offense stalls

PULLMAN--Paul Wulff planned to name Washington State's new kicker after the final full scrimmage of fall camp on Friday. So much for best laid plans. Meanwhile, the defense stuffed the offensive ground attack and picked off three Gary Rogers passes. Rogers rebounded late in the session, completing all six of his passes on the final drive, with Brandon Gibson on the receiving end of the TD pass.

The day before in practice, the kickers hit their first eight straight including several from long range. But in Friday's scrimmage, after watching WSU's three kickers miss 10 of 15 field-goal attempts at the end of the scrimmage -- many of them quite badly, although none of the kicks came from more than 47 yards -- Wulff was emphatic when asked if he was ready to name his kicker for next Saturday's opener with Oklahoma State.

"No. God no," Wulff said, before tossing out a new candidate. "Me."

Sorry, coach, but you're out of eligibility. Wulff might run out of patience with his kickers pretty soon, but he stood solidly behind new starting quarterback Rogers despite the senior's three interceptions Friday afternoon at sun-soaked Martin Stadium.

"He was very sharp in that 2-minute drill that we used at the end, so that was good to see," Wulff said.

WHAT WAS NOT as good for Wulff and an estimated 200 spectators to see were the three picks Rogers threw the first three times he stepped on the field with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 2 defense, though a large number of projected starters sat out on both sides of the ball.

Rogers confirmed Wulff's contention that a receiver ran a bad route on the first interception. However, the rocket-armed Rogers had issues with with accuracy and touch Friday before going 6-for-6 on a 35-yard touchdown drive in the last series of the hour-long scrimmage.

"It's good to get it (interceptions) out early. I mean, I'd rather get a pick out here learning than get in against Oklahoma State and throw a pick," said Rogers.

"He'll be all right," Gibson said. "I'm not worried about him."

Rogers finished 11 for 17 for 140 yards, capped by a gorgeous 15-yard TD pass to Gibson on a fade route with Gibson practically wearing freshman cornerback Terrance Hayward.

DEFENSIVELY, THE COUGARS were stout.

Safety Easton Johnson picked off Rogers twice (the first came on a deflection).

Xavier Hicks, the projected starting safety who will sit out the first three games for disciplinary reasons, might have run back one of the interceptions for a touchdown if whistles had not blown.

Backup QB Kevin Lopina continued to show excellent mobility, but he was again the leading rusher for the Cougs in the second of as many scrimmages -- raising some concerns on the running back depth and the offensive line. Lopina went 7-for-13 for 75 yards, one TD and no picks against the No. 1 defense, which rested all three projected starting linebackers most of the way.

No rushing touchdowns were recorded on a day when the top three running backs sat out. The Cougars ran for a paltry 42 yards on 15 carries, with Lopina's 18 yards on three carries leading the team.

Sticky-fingered Ben Woodard, WSU's No. 2 tight end, made tough catches all day with starter Devin Frischknecht resting much of the afternoon.

Woodard led everyone with six catches for 74 yards. Gibson caught three balls for 40 yards.

Tony Thompson, WSU's No. 3 tight end, made a nice shoestring catch on a low pass from Lopina and dived into the end zone for an 8-yard TD.

WULFF SURPRISED NO one by announcing that wide receiver Jared Karstetter, a true freshman from Spokane, will play this season. In fact, Wulff said there's a "good chance" Karstetter will start next Saturday at Qwest Field.

"Jared has played extremely well," Wulff said. "I think if we were healthy in the receiver corps he would still play...He's really coming along. He's a hard worker. He's a competitor."

The Cougs have been without starters Jeshua Anderson and Daniel Blackledge much of camp, the former expected out until the third week of the season following hernia surgery, the latter seeing his first scrimmage action on Friday.

Karstetter added to his lengthy camp highlights list by making a beautiful diving grab of a 26-yard Rogers pass on third-and-17.

"He's a young guy," Rogers said. "He's going to have some mistakes here and there, but he's going to be a great player for us. We need to have him this year."

WULFF SAID TWO reserves, wide receiver Kevin Norrell and linebacker Mike Ledgerwood, are the two other true freshmen who will definitely play this season.

Wulff said some of the offense's problems may have stemmed from a deliberate attempt to slow down the normally hectic pace of the no-huddle offense that WSU will employ most of the time.

"We need to work on it so we can (adjust to a slower pace)," Wulff said.

After pushing the Cougars through length-of-the-field sprints after the scrimmage, Wulff announced that Saturday's practice was canceled.

Oklahoma State game prep will be introduced at practice Sunday, then the Cougars take Monday off (standard during the season) and start classes.

Asked to sum up the scrimmage, Wulff said, "Uh, OK. Some good, some bad. Seems like I've said that all camp.

"We've got a week to get ourselves better."

Cougfan.com Recommended Stories