While only a few white clouds hung over an otherwise blue sky in Spokane, the conditions 75 miles south in Pullman were more erratic Saturday and prompted Washington State to call an audible as the Cougars prepared for the first live scrimmage of spring football camp.
The old bubble sitting some 200 yards from Martin Stadium may not have all the amenities of a true indoor practice facility, but it was furnished with new turf last fall and served a purpose Saturday as the Cougars sought shelter when the Palouse served up one of its classic mid-April snowstorms.
Spring workouts have been closed to the general public, but Saturday’s scrimmage, due to the less-than-spacious confines of the practice bubble – and lingering COVID-19 concerns – was also closed off to media members. It was up to players, coaches and a box score to paint a picture of what happened during a 63-play scrimmage that started at roughly 12:30 p.m. and ended just shy of 3 .
Some of the top plays?
“There was a gap scheme play that (Max) Borghi ran, that was run into a trap corner,” offensive coordinator Brian Smith said. “He did a great job of hitting the sideline and I think scored a touchdown. I thought that was a pretty big explosive run and the types of things we expect of him to do.”
“I think Cam (Cooper) did a very nice job on one play, giving Drake Owen a chance on a seam vertical and Drake made a heckuva catch,” quarterback Jarrett Guarantano said. “He had a great, great day and he was able to scoot for maybe 50 yards, 30 after the catch.”
“There was a couple good ones, but I would say Jaylen Watson off of a sideline play. He made a great play getting a pick and he’s a hard one to throw over now,” defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said. “He’s got amazing range. He snagged it right out of the air and I thought, just off the top of my head, thought that was a really good play.”
The most notable stat?
Guarantano, the graduate transfer quarterback who joined the Cougars this offseason after starting 32 games in the SEC, pointed out Cooper’s deep throw to Owens when asked to pick his favorite of the 63 plays the team logged on Saturday, but the former Tennessee Volunteer was easily the most efficient of the four QBs who took snaps.
Guarantano completed all eight of his passes for 115 yards, averaging 14.3 yards per attempt, and was the only QB who didn’t throw an interception. Cooper was 5 of 8 for 81 yards. Redshirt freshman walk-on Victor Gabalis was 5 of 11 for 50 yards and freshman Xavier Ward was 6 of 13 for 29 yards.
The team’s returning starter, Jayden de Laura, is still serving a suspension and missed his sixth spring practice Saturday.
Speaking about Guarantano and Cooper, the QBs most likely to push de Laura for the starting job, WSU head coach Nick Rolovich said, “I thought they were very good, both of them.
“I think they completed a lot of balls, good decisions, there’s a comfort level in the offense. ... I like the grasp in general of the room at quarterback.”
The surprise of the scrimmage was Owen, a walk-on receiver from Camas, Washington, who joined the team in January after spending the 2019 season at Central Washington.
Owen led the scrimmage in receptions (six) and receiving yards (139). De’Zhaun Stribling and Travell Harris had four catches apiece.
“I think Drake’s were explosive catches and not always the ball traveling the distance to qualify it as explosive,” Rolovich said. “I think he in some man coverage got open, had a missed tackle and he was off and running. Happy he’s here. He’s a good person, too, and I think what today showed him is he has the ability to play at this level. ... His opportunities came today and he made the most of them.”
WSU didn’t record tackling numbers, but cornerback Jaylen Watson and safeties Daniel Isom and Chad Davis Jr. all came down with interceptions. Justin Anderson, Amir Mujahid, Carter Carlson and Quinn Roff all had sacks. Coaches refrained from blowing the whistle on other plays that would’ve been sacks to get the most out of the scrimmage period.
The Cougars mostly focused on first-and-10 situations during the scrimmage, with a few third-down scenarios mixed in. The team plans to dive into more red-zone-oriented work Thursday.
“I know this, the first five days it’s a massive install, so you can see them even on Tuesday and Thursday, there was that bog down,” Dickert said. “I thought they pushed through today and I think they played pretty clean.”