Derek Harrison/The Daily EvergreenThe "Crimson Air Raid" was on display on Saturday, and it took only three plays for the first-team offense to put points on the board in the annual spring Crimson and Gray football game at the Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane.
The Cougars played in front of a crowd of 10,713 people, which was more than twice the amount that attended last year's spring football game.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel completed his first 15 passes on the afternoon, as he finished an astounding 19 of 21 for 285 yards and two touchdown passes.
After having a scrimmage to forget last week, Tuel came out aggressive and was making nearly any throw he wanted. After the game he said the team seemed more focused during the spring game.
“It’s easy to come into a scrimmage and not be 100 percent focused. Today we really treated it like a game, so guys came real focused and were real sharp with their routes and my reads,” Tuel said.
After a sack from defensive lineman Matthew Bock, the offense was faced with 3rd and 17. Tuel dropped back and found wide receiver Marquess Wilson down the left sideline. Cornerback Damante Horton could only watch as Wilson ran 84 yards to the endzone.
Wilson finished the day with four catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Tuel said he has been waiting for a performance like this.
“I’ve been waiting for him to do it the whole spring,” Tuel said. “The guy tries to act like he’s not that fast during practice, you come out here on the game field and I’ll throw it as far as I want and he’ll run under it. It’s good to see.”
Wilson wasn’t finished after the long touchdown strike however, as he nabbed a 41-yard pass on 3rd and long during the fourth possession.
On the offense’s second possession, Tuel showed off his versatility and strong arm as he scrambled out of the pocket and found tight end Andrei Lintz over the middle for a gain of 28.
After a Leon Brooks' reception made it first and goal from the one, Tuel sealed the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Carl Winston.
Tuel said the offense started the game strong and seemed to never looked back.
“I thought the offense executed pretty well,” Tuel said. “Out of the gate we got a good start and it was important just to get going. Loved the crowd that came here, it was a blast to have some noise and stuff when you made a good play, it was a good time.”
Besides Tuel and Wilson, redshirt freshman Dominique Williams caught Head Coach Mike Leach’s attention with his play on Saturday as well.
Williams finished the game with five catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. Williams, who saw reps with both the first and second team, made some clutch plays throughout the game.
During the second half of play, Williams found himself open deep down field and hauled in a pass from David Gilbertson for a gain of 42 yards.
He later sealed the drive with a six-yard touchdown over the middle from Gilbertson.
Leach said after the scrimmage that both Williams and Wilson were impressive, but they need to maintain that same level of play during practice if they want to be great.
“I think the two of them need to be guys that can consistently do that in practice. If they want to be good players that periodically make good catches that’s where they’re at right now. If they want to be great receivers they need to practice and play with that sense of urgency every snap of practice,” Leach said.
The defense may have gotten burned for some big gains down field, but still had themselves an impressive spring game of their own.
The Cougars were surely attacking the offensive line, led by Logan Mayes who came up with 4.5 sacks, which in the case of this game means they need only to touch the quarterback or be in a position to hit them.
Mayes said he was impressed by the defense, but said they are still working on fixing certain aspects, mainly the big plays.
“I felt like we had a good day, we were pretty aggressive," Mayes said."We had a couple big busts, but those are just scheme things that will get corrected as we go on, it’s spring ball — everyone is still learning the defense.”
The Cougars were without center Matt Goetz and lineman Wade Jacobsen due to injury, but the defense was pretty banged up as well.
Nevertheless, WSU got to the quarterback at will. Besides Mayes, Toni Pole got a sack and a half and Xavier Cooper, Bock and Dylan Rabinowitz all came up with a sack.
Mayes, who will be a sophomore this fall and backs up Buck linebacker Travis Long, said the defense has some serious skill.
“I was pretty happy with our play,” Mayes said. “Especially the D-line, I felt like we’ve been getting after it all spring and we really proved it here. Guys like Xavier Cooper, Travis (Long), (Anthony) Laurenzi, all of us, we’re all great pass rushers. People are thinking of us as offensive team right now, but we got some good defensive players out there.”
Leach was impressed with the defense as a whole, but highlighted Mayes for his solid performance.
“I thought we ran to the ball good on defense,” Leach said. “And then you have Mayes who turned out to be a sack specialist — Mayes didn’t hesitate.”
The defense did more than just collect sacks as well, as both Deone Bucannon and Matthew Simmons collected interceptions.
The Cougs will conduct their final spring workout Tuesday at 3 p.m. on Rogers Field.