Under sunny skies and hoodie-adjacent spring temperatures, your Washington State Cougars football team concluded its spring drills on Saturday, with the Cam Ward-led Crimson squad defeating the John Mateer and Co.-led Gray team, 42-14. It didn’t take long for this one to be mostly decided, as the Crimson side scored touchdowns on four straight first half possessions before many of the offensive starters gave way to the reserves.
The offense’s focus coming into the spring was to increase explosive, downfield plays, which is the key to success in college football. And after what we saw from the 2022 offense, WSU fans are definitely on board with that. Saturday seemed to be another step in the right direction, as the Cougs connected on double digit passes that went for 25 yards or more. Junior College transfer DT Sheffield stood out, catching passes three passes for 121 yards, two of which covered 63 and 51.
Quarterback Cam Ward seems to be taking just fine to new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle’s scheme, as he completed 12 of his 16 passes, averaging north of 16 YPA. Along the way, he’s developing some solid rapport with the new stable of receivers, particularly Sheffield and Fresno State receiver Josh Kelly, who caught three balls for 82 yards, with a long of 65.
All of these great signs for the offense headed into the fall leads to one glaring question: IS IT TIME TO PANIC ABOUT THE DEFENSE WHAT IS HAPPENING THIS MAY BE A CATASTROPHE!
Ok, almost certainly not. Most rules during intrasquad games, particularly in terms of tackling, are slanted toward the offense. Additionally, as Colton Clark reports, some of the guys upon which WSU will rely for 2023 played limited snaps, if at all.
WSU’s first-team Crimson offense went up against an inexperienced defense for a large part of the first half. Several defensive standouts played limited snaps. All-Pac-12 edge rushers Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr. were only on the field for the first series. Cornerback Chau Smith-Wade participated in two drives. Starting safeties Jaden Hicks and Sam Lockett III were done after the first quarter.
The Cougars rotated defenders frequently throughout the game as they evaluated position battles at nickel, linebacker, backup cornerback and backup safety.
Additionally, Clark noted that expected defensive contributors Quinn Roff, Lawrence Falatea and Rashad McKenzie also sat out. I was a tad concerned by this Dickert quote:
“We’re going to be a rotating door at linebacker,” Dickert said. “It’s probably the biggest position that we gotta shore up...”
As we’ve chronicled at length, both during last season and this offseason, the offensive line has been the most glaring shortcoming on WSU’s team, so to hear the head coach say that the linebackers - two of whom are Power Five transfers - may be the biggest area of need caught my attention.
In possibly related but hopefully not news, the transfer portal is open through April 30. For now, we’re headed toward the conclusion of the academic year, and summer workouts. I’m willing to bet that this summer’s session will have the highest attendance ever, with everybody buying in.
The next time we see the Cougs in Martin Stadium, it will be early September, and the Wisconsin Badgers will be on the opposite sideline. It will be the first time since WSU hosted a Power Five program on the Palouse since 1998, when the Illinois Fighting Illini came to Pullman, and left with a 20-13 defeat at the hands of Steve Birnbaum and the Cougs.
I was at that game, and I’ll be at the Wisconsin game, too. Hope to see everyone there.
Before then, let’s watch some highlights and interviews!
Cougs win again! The baseball team provided a good lead-in to the spring football game, defeating Santa Clara, 8-3. WSU goes for the sweep on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:05 p.m. You can tune in via the WSU live stream. Here are the highlights from Saturday:
This Week in Parenting
Another busy week filled with little league baseball, boy scouts, golf lessons, spring football meetings and the like. On the youth baseball front, the 12U Rockies are still in search of their first win. Thursday was a tough one, as they led 5-3 going into the last inning. Unfortunately, the starting pitcher hit his limit, and the reliever was less effective. Couple that with your typical youth baseball defensive lapses, and the Yankees pushed three late runs across to win, 6-5.
Well, I think the Yankees won 6-5. The scoreboard operator apparently spends their time staring at Instagram or Tik Tok, rather than paying attention to the game, because the score, count, inning, and outs displays are chronically incorrect. In their defense, little league baseball is extremely fast-paced, and moves along at nearly light speed.
The Rockies also added a couple free agents this week, because many teams in the league have had problems with no-shows, which completely baffles me. You sign your kid up to play spring baseball, pay the not-insignificant fee, then just blow the whole thing off? Why the hell did you sign him up in the first place?
On the high school front, we had a parents meeting for spring football in the gym, and there was some sort of deafening catastrophe with the PA system, which I hope isn’t a bad omen for the season. Spring drills start Monday, and run Monday thru Friday for four weeks. I had to do a triple take when I saw that schedule. College teams don’t even practice that much!
But the mighty Dolphins have a new coach this season, and he’s taking a lot of time to figure out who and what he’s got. Still, that’s a lot of practice! We’ve also had a logo refresh, and it looks a lot like the old (and much better) Miami Dolphins brand, which is a big upgrade. Coach also made us aware that the team will be one of fewer than a hundred schools to wear Jordan brand gear. Also cool! Toward the end of his talk, the new coach told us parents that he plans on this being his last job, so he’s definitely got the press conference down pat!
And for the second straight Saturday, I had to have the teenager at a Boy Scout event by 830 a.m. He doesn’t have a problem with it, but these early Saturday appointments don’t seem sustainable to this old guy.
Finally, on the back end of a late evening grocery store run to procure some coconut milk, Van Halen’s 5150 came on the car stereo. As I turned it up, the 11 year-old demanded that I skip to the next song. Wrong response. I then informed him that we don’t skip songs of the greatest band ever assembled. “They are not the greatest band ever,” was his comeback. So I challenged him to name a better one, and he had nothing. Case closed, dad wins.
I noticed this fun little bit of “LET’S ALL GET MAD ONLINE” drama this week, and since I’m an air travel junkie, it piqued my interest. The story brought to mind a nonstop flight I took from Abu Dhabi to Chicago a few years ago. I’ve never been inside thunderdome, but what I witnessed couldn’t have been far off. There were many, many folks from the Indian subcontinent on the flight, and they didn’t seem to have any regard for proper disposal of, well, anything. At one point late in the flight, I went to use the bathroom and came upon a toddler who was Donald Ducking his way through the proceedings. In case you aren’t aware, Donald Ducking is a situation where a person is wearing a shirt and nothing else. Nothing. Else. The scene of the floors as I exited that plane was striking, and I felt really, really sorry for the poor folks who had to try and make that cabin inhabitable again.
So anyway, if you bring a toddler on a plane, and you’re inconsiderate enough to give that toddler popcorn (knowing full well that much of it will end up on the floor), the onus is on you - not the flight attendants, not the aircraft cleaners, not anyone else - to pick up the mess. Either police up after your kids, bring better snacks, or take a goddamn car. Again, to quote George Costanza, we’re living in a society. We’re supposed to act in a civilized way.
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