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Observations and notes from day 12 of Washington State camp: Defense takes command late to emerge victorious in 11-on-11 period

August 17, 2018

The Washington State football team held its 12th fall practice under sunny and hazy skies Thursday at Rogers Field/Martin Staidum. Here are the daily notes and observations.

Notes and observations

– For the third consecutive day, grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew got to pilot the first and third drives during the 11-on-11 period while one of his challengers – today Anthony Gordon – took command of the second.

– Mike Leach said all three quarterbacks – Minshew, Gordon and Trey Tinsley –would get reps during Saturday’s scrimmage. “I don’t know if they’ll all get the same amount,” Leach said, “but they’ll all three get reps. A full evaluation of Minshew and Tinsley’s day below.

– The offense sliced up the defense during the skeleton period, but the defense finished with a slight edge in the team period. Points are awarded for each play and the score was within three on the final snap. Minshew’s pass attempt to Kyle Sweet was long and defensive players erupted as it fell to the turf, concluding a good-natured, competitive practice between the two sides.

– I omitted a Lamonte McDougle note from yesterday’s practice. During the offensive line vs. defensive line segement, the redshirt freshman nose tackle bowled over not one, but two offensive linemen before swiping the “towel” that acts as the target for defensive players in the drill. McDougle was a Freshman All-American at West Virginia last season and he’s sitting out this season because of transfer rules. We’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll be one of the best scout team players the Cougars have had in some time…

– During today’s O-line/D-line period, the nose tackle who could start for the Cougars this season, Taylor Comfort, laid Seth Yost on his back, drawing a round of applause from Comfort’s defensive cohorts standing nearby.

– Redshirt sophomore Jack Crane and redshirt freshman Blake Mazza continue to be the placekickers of choice for the time being. During a brief field goal period during the beginning of practice, each kicker had one shot at the uprights. Crane made a 42-yarder and Mazza was good from 30 yards.

– During the second special teams period, both punters, Oscar Draguicevich and Oliver Graybar, each got four tries to pin the return team from the opposite 40-yard line, with Jamire Calvin standing deep to field all eight. Draguicevich had a better success rate during the exercise, dropping his first punt inside the 5-yard line. The second was caught by Calvin at the 8-yard line, the third was received at the 10 and the fourth rolled into the end zone. Graybar stuck his first inside the 10-yard line, but his second was caught at the 22, his third at the 15 and his fourth at the 21.

– The Cougars were in full pads Thursday. They’ll hold a shortened walkthrough Friday before Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. scrimmage at Martin Stadium.

Highlights

– Sean Harper Jr. continues to have one of the best preseason camps of the defensive back unit. The senior corner bit on a pass thrown by Gordon, intended for Dezmon Patmon, and came up with a pick in the middle of the field during the skeleton period.

– Harper’s backup, George Hicks III, had a pick of his own on the first passing attempt of the team period. The true sophomore identified Keith Harrington’s wheel pattern and cut in front of Minshew’s pass right before it reached the running back.

– That, by the way, came after four consecutive run plays called by the offense – truly a rarity in Leach’s Air Raid offense.

– Minshew’s fourth straight incompletion during the first 11-on-11 drive was a result of inside linebacker Dominick Silvels stuffing the ball right as it was released.

– Minshew closed his first series with two touchdowns in three plays – a short dumpoff to James Williams for a 6-yard score, followed by a 5-yard slant to Travell Harris.

– On the fifth play of Gordon’s series, the QB pitched back to Jamire Calvin on a jet sweep but junior defensive lineman Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei sniffed the play out and tagged the receiver in the backfield for a 3-yard loss.

– The Max Borghi preseason camp highlight reel added another clip on Thursday. The true freshman running back caught a short pass from Gordon in the flat, stiff-armed the first defender he saw, Damion Lee, before shedding Silvels, the next tackler, to the ground. The play went for about 15-20 yards and certainly amped up the offensive sideline.

– Tay Martin, who turned in the top play of fall camp on Sunday, made another superb grab on Thursday. With the offense about 6 yards shy of the goal line, Gordon floated a pass to the sophomore receiver, who used his left hand to pull the ball into his body for a touchdown.

– Linebacker Cole Dubots escaped into the backfield for a sack on Minshew on the sixth play of the final 11-on-11 drive.

– On the next play, Minshew’s offensive line bought the QB some time, allowing him to wait for Harris’ route to develop. The receiver snuck away from his defender and stood wide open in the end zone as Minshew lasered in a 30-yard touchdown strike.

– Williams scored his second touchdown of the day on a 22-yard rush that saw him sidestep freshman defensive back Tyrese Ross before chugging into the end zone.

– Minshew’s long run on the day was a 15-yard scramble that took the QB into the end zone on the fifth to final play of the 11-on-11 period. After he crossed the goal line, Minshew dramatically punted the ball into the bleachers – though it was more of a mishit than anything and only went about 10 rows up.

Keeping up with the QBs

Gardner Minshew: On the day, Minshew finished just 5-of-15 passing and had an interception, but his offense still got into the end zone five times. The grad transfer was streaky, throwing incomplete on his first four passes on the first drive before connecting on three of the last four, including two touchdowns. Minshew’s second drive was similar: he completed three of the first four throws before missing his last four.

Anthony Gordon: The redshirt junior was back into the rotation and fared much better than he did his last time out (Tuesday) and during Friday’s scrimmage. Gordon finished 5-of-9 with one touchdown pass to Martin and was decisive with his feet when he needed to be, scrambling for a 15-yard gain midway through his series.

Quotable

“I was actually trying to go out of the stadium with that one. Little bit short, little tired after running all over our defense. Nah, we had a really competitive practice today and it’s fun to get out there and really go at it with those guys.” – Quarterback Gardner Minshew on his punt into the bleachers after scrambling for a touchdown during team period.

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