Cougar Corner | WSU Spring Ends With Strong Defensive Showing
The final football team scrimmage for Coach Paul Wulff and the Washington State Cougars concluded early Saturday.
For the past three weeks Coach Wulff and his staff have been working hard with the current roster to move Cougar football forward.
How do things look for WSU football?
Based on the results from the scrimmage on Saturday, the progress of the Cougs on the field reflect the weather on the Palouse, a little cloudy.
Much of the disappointment that was Cougar football last season can be linked to an extraordinary number of injuries.
The offseason strength and conditioning program for Cougar football was ratcheted up to make WSU a much more physical team this coming year and beyond.
Players began spring practice bigger and stronger than last year. That sounds more like it, right?
Bulking up hasn't changed the plague of injuries attacking the Cougs.
The second team scrimmage last weekend was abbreviated by Coach Wulff because of the mounting injuries to players, especially to the linebacking corps.
When the defense turned in a nice performance today by holding the offense to just 231 yards, it comes as a bit of surprise when taking the rash of Cougs dinged up or not even able to strap it on.
Even more surprising is how they did it.
Throughout this spring, there seemed to be a stockpile of outstanding running backs itching to carry the rock. Coach Chris Balland Coach Jody Sears made the right calls putting the "D" in position to stuff the running game. No small feat given the way so many key players have been put on the injury shelf.
The running game collected just 69 yards on 22 carries. Nearly half of that total came from sophomore Logwone Mitz. Powerful Mitz racked up 34 yards on six carries highlighted by a 21 yard burst.
Fifth-year senior Kevin Lopina was efficient, putting up vanilla numbers by completing 11 of 17 attempts for 80 yards. Lopina wasn't able to get the ball to a receiver for a touchdown.
His understudy this spring, sophomore Dan Wagner, connected with redshirt freshman Andrei Lintz for a 38-yard score. That proved to be the only time the offense would score against a stingy, spirited Cougar defensive unit. Wagner finished the scrimmage passing for 82 yards by completing 6 of 12 throws.
One of the transfers who is making a strong bid to be an impact player this fall is Jeffrey Solomon, a redshirt junior wide receiver who came to WSU from Eastern Washington. Solomon worked hard for three catches, looking solid in the process.
Another redshirt junior trying to work his way up the depth chart is Anthony Houston. He had three receptions on the day. After three years in Pullman, Houston may have worked his way into the rotation.
Coach Harold Etheridge's offensive line not only had trouble opening up holes for the running game, they gave up a couple of sacks.
Big fifth-year senior Kevin Kooyman made one sack from his defensive end spot.
The other quarterback sack was registered by junior transfer defensive end Casey Hamlett. Hamlett played two years of good football at Western Washington before the school dropped the program after last season. He looks ready to continue playing good football for the Cougs this coming fall.
Now that spring practice is officially over, there are still questions about what the Cougs are going to look like this fall.
Will the high powered offense WSU has been known for in the past return to Martin Stadium?
There wasn't an answer to that question coming out of spring. It does look like Coach Wulff's no-huddle offense should last more than a couple of games. Just who will run that offense is up in the air.
Defensively, well, there are plenty of questions on that side of the ball too.
There's one question which has been answered about the WSU football program.
Can Coach Wulff turn things around for the Cougs?
Washington State is coming out of spring as a team. This time last year they were more like a collection of individuals who wanted to play some Pac-10 ball. Even fans looking at WSU through crimson and gray glasses weren't bold enough to refer to their beloved Cougs as a cohesive team.
The attitude of Cougar football is clearly changing.
Roles that were defined last year are becoming understood and taking hold.
Coach Wulff defined the next step succinctly by stating, "After Saturday it's up to the leaders to take this through the summer."
Back to the fundamental base of Coach Wulff's football program, strength and conditioning.
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