LEWISTON, Idaho – Lightning streaked through dark skies in the distance as Mike Leach spoke with reporters Sunday afternoon, the Washington State coach answering questions about the Cougars’ first scrimmage of preseason camp.
The clouds were ominous. But this time, WSU’s performance was not.
Five quarterbacks combined to complete 68 percent of their passes for four TDs among them. There were no turnovers. There was room for running backs to run more often than there wasn’t.
In other words: Leach’s Air Raid, Pullman edition, is starting to look the way it’s supposed to. It didn’t for much of last season, when WSU’s pass efficiency was bad and its rushing offense was worse.
“There’s a couple plays I’d like to have over but I thought it was crisp execution (for) this time of year,” Leach said after WSU ran about 70 plays. “Defense threw a lot of stuff out there, so overall pretty good because we had two units on the offensive line play pretty well.”
Junior quarterback Connor Halliday took every snap with the No. 1 offense and was 13-for-20 for 117 yards and two touchdowns, including an impressive 34-yard scoring toss to freshman River Cracraft on a scramble to his right.
It was no broken play. The Cougars practice scramble drills on a regular basis, with receivers running to designated spots on the field when they see the quarterback flushed from the pocket. Halliday pointed to a spot near the right pylon, and Cracraft beat his defender there and hauled in the throw.
“Everybody has a certain spot where they need to be on the field when I do roll right or roll left,” Halliday said, “so we’ve taken huge steps in that.”
Coaches and players also say they’ve taken huge steps in the running game, though it wasn’t much on display Sunday as running backs accounted for only 10 of WSU’s 17 rushes, and quarterback scrambles and sacks made up the rest.
Leach said that he “would have liked to have gotten more (runs) in.”
Sunday marked the end of WSU’s stay in Lewiston. The Cougars returned to Pullman afterward, and will have meetings on Monday but won’t practice.
They’ll return to Rogers Field and Martin Stadium on Tuesday.