April 10, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. - "They have all improved and they played smart," Washington State football coach Mike Price commented Saturday after watching his Cougar quarterbacks completed 24 of 37 passes for 246 yards in the first full-scale scrimmage of spring football drills.
Junior-to-be Paul Mencke had the best outing statistically, completing eight of his 10 passes for one touchdown and 83 yards, while Steve Birnbaum, who will be a senior next fall, completed seven of 10 for 77 yards. Jason Gesser hit on five of nine throws and picked up 69 yards, while newcomer Kjell Nesen completed four of eight passes for 17 yards. None of the four signal callers threw an interception.
"I thought all the quarterbacks played well," Price said. "I think the quarterback position is very solid, we are good there." In addition to their success throwing the ball, Gesser scrambled for one 10-yard gain and Nesen, who enrolled in January and is known for his athletic ability, picked up 27 yards with five runs.
In a scrimmage that lasted just over 60 minutes, the Cougar offense put 24 points on the scoreboard. Alex Tinsley and Alvin Arzu each scored touchdowns on two and 26 yard runs, respectively, while Mencke hooked up with Markus Torian on a 13-yard scoring play. In addition Rian Lindell hit a 21 yard field goal and made all three extra points.
Lindell did, however, have one extra point kick partially blocked and one field goal knocked down at the line of scrimmage, prompting Price to point out, "We have to work on field goal protection."
In fact, Price's biggest concern seemed to be teamwork "We need to improve on teamwork. Ten guys do their job and one doesn't," he said.
On the first drive of the morning workout Birnbaum drove his team nearly 60 yards before the defense stiffened inside the 10 yard line, yielding a short field goal.
"I think we showed we can hit," Price offered. "There was some hitting going on, some ferocious hits. Wow! We are tough. Tinsley (Alex) had a bloody lip and got popped hard on two runs, but he stayed in there. So did some others."
Still, WSU's defense didn't show the consistency Price is looking for. "Our overall defense needs to improve," he said. "I can't tell you exactly what the problem is until I review the video, but we need to play better defensively." He did, however, single out several defensive players, including linebacker transfer Curtis Holden and defensive backs Virgil Williams and Fred Hagen.
Both Birnbaum and Gesser were injured during the scrimmage, although neither appeared to be season-ending. Birnbaum suffered a left knee sprain and was on the turn for several minutes before walking to the sidelines, while Gesser hurt his left (non-throwing) shoulder late in the scrimmage. Both injuries will be re-evaluated Monday.
Also hurt during the workout were Mike VanManen (collar bone), Curtis Holden (hyper-extended knee) and Mark Hedeen (ankle sprain). Price said receiver Adam Davis would have surgery next Friday for torn cartilage in his right hip. Three other players missed the scrimmage because of injuries, Anthony Matthews (back strain), Earl Riley (shoulder) and Jason White (hamstring).
Price also complimented several non-scholarship players. "I was really impressed with the walk-on kids, the way they played, like (defensive tackle)Tomasi Kongaika, Fred Hagan and (receiver) Markus Torian. Those kids played with great intensity and desire."
WSU's next full scrimmage will be April 17 (morning). The annual WSU Spring Game will be held at 3:00 p.m. April 24.
Rushing - Brown 5/18, Thielbahr 1/4, Tinsley 11/53, Arzu 8/47, Unknown 8/9, Mencke 2/-15, Gesser 1/10, Nesen 5/27.
Passing - Birnbaum 7/10/0/77/0/19, Mencke 8/10/0/83/1/26, Gesser 5/9/0/69/0/40, Nesen 4/8/0/17/0/9.
Receiving - Torian 3/40, Brown 1/6, Mizen 3/51, VanManen 3/19, Tinsley 2/9, Taylor 3/33, Bernd 1/14, DeCambra 3/8, Zubedi 1/6, Scott 1/7, Roquemore 1/40, Arzu 1/9, Unknown 1/4.
Scoring - Lindell 21 field goal, Tinsley 2 run (Lindell good), Torian 13 pass from Mencke (Lindell kick), Arzu 29 run (Lindell kick).
Sacks - Rob Meier, Joey Hollenbeck.
Interceptions - None.