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WSU defense thrives during Cougars' second fall scrimmage

The Cougar defense racked up eight sacks against Washington State quarterbacks on Saturday.

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James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

PULLMAN -- Despite the poor air quality that has the whole city of Pullman smelling like a bonfire, the Cougars held their second scrimmage of the fall Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.

After 45 minutes of drills and stretching, the special team units took the field to work on both punt and kick-off coverage. To no one's surprise, receivers Kyrin PriesterGabe Marks, and running back Gerard Wicks fielded kick-offs and punts. The highlight came when the kick-off unit stripped Wicks during one of the returns, which was recovered by linebacker Jeremiah Allison for a turnover.

Handling the punting duties were freshman Zach Charme and redshirt sophomore Erik Powell, who hit 45-50 yards with his punts during the session. Senior kicker Quentin Breshears worked as the kick-off specialist, and his lone kick fell short at the 11-yard line before rolling out of bounds.

The defensive front seven sacked Washington State quarterbacks eight times during the scrimmage in what ended up being a nice bounce-back performance by the Coug D. Darryl Paulo had two sacks while Kache PalacioHercules Mata'afaNnamdi Oguayo, and Ivan McLennan got to the quarterback once. However, one of the best performances on the day came from redshirt freshman Kingston Fernandez, who had two sacks himself. Fernandez was recruited to Pullman as a defensive lineman but was working with the O-line before the Cougars switched him back to his natural position.

Along with Fernandez, safeties Isaac Dotson and Shalom Luani made their play be known. Dotson bounced back and forth between safety and nickelback during the scrimmage and made several great wrap-up tackles preventing yards after catch. The biggest hit of the day belonged to Luani who leveled D.J. Thompson during a cross route and sent roars from defense standing on the sideline.

After starting slow, the Cougar offense ended practice on a good note with a touchdown pass from Luke Falk to Marks. Dom Williams and River Cracraft also found the end zone through the air. On the ground, Jamal Morrow rushed in a touchdown from 25 yards out and freshman James Williams tip-toed one in from the goal line.

Speaking of Williams, the Burbank, Calif. native was the most impressive player on the field for the offense. He broke out several runs that went for eight or nine yards each. Williams also took a 10-yard pass from Tyler Hilinski and hurdled (!) over cornerback Kameron Powell before being tackled, which stirred up chatter between both sidelines. Although it is likely he'll red-shirt this season with Morrow, Wicks, and Keith Harrington ahead of him on the depth chart, Williams' athleticism is insane for somebody who is eleven months removed from a torn ACL. No wonder coach Jim Maestro is so high on him.

Freshman kicker Brett Schafer handled the kicking duties during the scrimmage. He made all of his PAT attempts and converted a 26-yard field goal but fell short of making a 50-yarder.

There is still plenty of work to be done as the Cougars enter the final stretch of fall camp with practices are closed to the public next week. It is nice to see, however, the Cougars make strides toward improving their defense as a whole, such as improving their pass rush, as Jeff recently wrote.

Notes from practice

  • Harrington was sporting a yellow "no-contact" jersey and didn't partake in the scrimmage today.
  • Sophomore safety Sulaiman Hameed was in street clothes on the sidelines, leading more speculation that he may be red-shirted this season
  • Still no sign of Barry Ware or Treshon Broughton