“This scrimmage -- I really enjoyed it,” Xavier Hicks said. “There were good things that happened on both sides of the ball.”
“For us, the sky’s the limit,” Kenny Alfred said. “Everyone’s saying that around the country, but at the same time, it just feels really nice right now.”
Paul Wulff stopped short of saying anyone secured a starting job with their performance Saturday, but he was pleased with his team’s execution -- "darn pleased" as a matter of fact.
“It was pretty clean,” Wulff said. “Our defense forced some turnovers, which was good to see. On the flip side, our offense fumbled it...There were plays made at the run and passing game. At times, we got pressure on the quarterback.
“There were some missed tackles and things, but after eight practices, I was pretty darn pleased.”
WAZZU QUARTERBACKS Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael, battling for the starting quarterback job, worked with both the No. 1 and 2 offenses.
Lopina completed all six of his passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, and Lobbestael went 4 for 7 for 32 yards and was sacked three times. No interceptions were thrown.
Quarterbacks were off limits for tackling, of course. Everyone else was fair game, and running backs, wide receivers and tight ends -- where the competition for starting jobs also is heated -- were mixed and matched with various offensive units and in a variety of sets.
THIRD YEAR SOPHOMORE Logwone Mitz led everyone with six carries and 32 rushing yards, but he lost a fumble and had another fumble barely roll out of bounds.
Three-time team rushing leader Dwight Tardy (four carries for 17 yards) and California transfer James Montgomery (four carries for 20 yards) looked sharp in limited duty.
“All the quarterbacks -- all the running backs, also -- just work so hard, and it shows,” Alfred said. “The quarterbacks, mentally speaking, are just miles and miles above where they were. The running backs are just running so hard.”
THROUGH THE AIRWAVES, tight end Zach Tatman, a senior walk-on, was credited with a 22-yard catch for the only touchdown of the day. There were no officials, and some observers maintained that Tatman was stopped 1 yard short of the end zone.
Regardless, Tatman’s catch capped an impressive drive led by Lopina, who had no TD passes last season. One play before the TD, Lopina rolled out and nailed redshirt freshman tight end Skylar Stormo with a 31-yard pass.
THE COUGARS rarely pressured quarterbacks last season, but tackle Toby Turpin and end Kevin Kooyman "sacked" Lobbestael when the No. 1 defense faced the No. 1 offense on the opening possession.
Highly touted Travis Long, a true freshman end playing with the No. 2 defense, sacked Lopina on the second possession when Lopina was playing with a quasi-No. 2 offense that included several potential starters.
“We feel really good about the defense,” said Hicks, who has enjoyed a strong camp along with fellow safety Chima Nwachukwu. “All the coaches, they really like how we respond to adversity. We come together as a defense.”
Senior Jesse Feagin also had a sack against Lobbestael. When the No. 3 units were paired up, true freshman Justin Clayton and redshirt freshman Adam Coerper sacked walk-on quarterback Dan Wagner on consecutive plays.
Feagin, Clayton and Coerper are listed as reserve ends on the pre-fall camp depth chart, though Clayton's eventual home might be at d-tackle.
JUNIOR WALK-ON Casey Hamlett started opposite Kooyman at defensive end on the first unit defense. Hamlett -- who came to WSU after NCAA Division II Western Washington dropped football following the 2008 season -- drew praise for his play, something that occurred after his first WSU spring session as well.
“Casey’s doing a great job,” Wulff said. “He’s a tireless worker and he’s really committed. He’s an overachiever.”
“Casey’s a workhorse,” said Alfred, WSU’s talented center. “He’s a hard-working, great guy. Absolutely...He’s completely positive energy. He’s nice guy off the field, a mean guy on the field.”
TRUE FRESHMAN Esa Johnwell, a walk-on wide receiver playing with the third-string offense against the third-string defense, led all players with four catches and 38 receiving yards. Hot-shot freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel ran the No. 3 offense and went 5 for 6 for 75 yards and scrambled two times for 17 yards.
IN THE KICKING GAME, Nico Grasu made field goals of 31 and 45 yards, but missed from 52 and 49. The scrimmage ended on a high note -- literally and figuratively -- when Reid Forrest crushed a 56-yard punt.
AS IS CUSTOMARY in a fall camp, WSU was missing some of their key cogs. Jeshua Anderson, WSU’s top returning receiver, sat out with a pulled hamstring. Andy Mattingly, set to start at outside linebacker, rested with what Wulff described as a minor groin injury.
Others sidelined included quarterback J.T. Levenseller (ill), outside linebacker Myron Beck (back), offensive tackle Tyson Pencer (shoulder) and safety Tyree Toomer (shoulder).
THE COUGS DON'T plan on letting up much after the first official scrimmage. Morning and afternoon practices are scheduled Sunday to kick off the second week of fall camp.
“The attitude at practice is the best in a long time here,” Alfred said. “It’s like practices are going faster than they’ve ever gone.
“I’m going through every practice with a smile on my face, and I haven’t been able to say that consistently for a couple years.”
FORMER COUGAR FOOTBALL coach Jim Sweeney and former baseball coach Bobo Brayton were among an estimated 300 spectators who watched the scrimmage under sunny skies. The crowd also included former players on hand for the fifth annual Past Meets Present Preseason Football Reunion, which featured a number of social events.
Kevin Lopina - 6/6/94/1; Jeff Tuel - 5/6/75/0; Marshall Lobbestael - 4/7/32/0; David Gilbertson - 3/4/11/0
Logwone Mitz - 6/32; Arthur Burns - 5/15; Marcus Richmond - 5/13; James Montgomery - 4/20; Dwight Tardy - 4/17; Leon Brooks - 4/1; Jeff Tuel - 2/17
Esa Johnwell - 4/38; Jared Karstetter - 3/29; Gino Simone - 2/29; Marcus Richmond - 2/8; Aaron Gehring - 1/34; Skylar Stormo - 1/31; Zach Tatman - 1/22 (TD); Jeffrey Solomon - 1/15; Dwight Tardy - 1/7; Andrei Lintz