The Washington State defense took the field and immediately stopped in their positions — there was not going to be another play any time soon.
Initially, they just stood in place, but eventually the entire defensive roster huddled up as a group on the field near the coaches and watched the spectacle before them.
For the third time in 10 minutes coach Mike Leach was chewing out the offense for its sloppy play. They couldn’t catch passes, block defenders or pick up the signals, he noted among many other issues.
Leach then demanded 30 up-downs of all the red jerseys.
“We saw him chewing out the offense,” senior safety Tyree Toomer said. “We were just getting ready for the next play.”
The stoppage appeared to catch the defense by surprise. It shouldn’t have, as it was the third time Leach took a few moments to chew the offense.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Leach said. “The last 15 plays, we weren’t ready to play. Right now, we’re a team that loses our concentration when we get tired, so basically we’ve got to work through that.”
That wasn’t the only thing Leach took from practice.
“Overall, a decent practice, but all of the sudden your number is called and it’s time to rise up and respond. You better be there ready to do it, rather than a bunch of indecision,” Leach said. “We’re impressing the point on those guys that, ‘Be ready to tee it up.’ We’ve got to be ready when we are tired.”
As odd as it sounds, it became noteworthy in fall camp that no player had thrown up from the intense conditioning and heat, which are both cranked up this year compared to seasons past. It seems those issues manifested themselves in a less tangible way at Thursday’s practice.
“It’s a dramatic change — it’s like night and day,” Toomer said. “I’ve never used the cold tub so much before and after practice since I’ve been here. That just tells you the amount of running and how fast we are going — speed-wise and tempo-wise.”
A few plays prior to the up-downs that tempo was interrupted and Leach was forced to get on quarterback Jeff Tuel for having to ask about the meaning of the signals.
“That’s just concentration, too,” Leach said. “We deliberately leave him out there in that situation to put him on an island so he gets used to looking on the sideline, so we need to be good at that.”
After practice, Leach was asked how quarterback Connor Halliday was dealing with the same issues.
“Pretty good,” he said. “He’s making progress. We’re not a team that is going to stand back there and wet nurse them through plays. They’ve got to get it from the sidelines just like they do in games.”
Halliday appeared the more ready quarterback on the day, throwing two touchdowns passes during his live snaps.
The three Leach “teaching moments” didn’t occur until Tuel was under center. For the senior quarterback, the tongue-lashing was quite a change from the mostly-quiet treatment from the last coaching staff.
While a starter has yet to be named— and may not for some time — it appeared as though Tuel was the leader for the job throughout the spring and summer months. Halliday has been the sharper quarterback the last few days, however, and it appears the race may be tightening up.
While there was little positive to take away from Thursday’s practice session, Leach said afterward that he wasn’t surprised these issues sprouted up.
“I’ve never been a part of a camp — and I don’t know anybody that doesn’t work on and address effort at some point in time,” Leach said. “Today was our day.”
Washington State just hopes those days don’t continue into the season.
“All the fancy little plays in the world don’t mean anything unless you have great effort, so we’re going to get that fixed,” Leach said.
NOTES: Rumors have surfaced that offensive lineman Rico Forbes has torn his ACL and will be out several months. Leach addressed the issue after practice, “Well, as you’re aware, we don’t have any injuries here, so what you are describing is impossible.” Safe to say there won’t be any confirmation of those reports coming from the coaching staff anytime soon.