Aug. 19, 2000
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PULLMAN, Wash. - Jason Gesser threw for 197 yards, including scoring passes of 56 and 49 yards, as the Washington State offense came alive with 571 yards in a two-hour scrimmage Saturday morning in Martin Stadium.
Gesser, the sophomore quarterback who is ticketed to start in two weeks against defending Pacific-10 Conference champion Stanford, completed 14 of his 25 passes, with both scoring strikes going to Milton Wynn.
"Jason was able to get in a lot of reps, even though he has a pulled hamstring," head coach Mike Price said. "He was able to play and get the ball to the good receivers."
"However, we were missing a couple of guys in the secondary we need in there, Chris Martin (hand) and Billy Newman (hamstring), who didn't play very much," said Price. "The offense took advantage of the missing players, so I would have been disappointed if our offense had not played well."
Freshman Tali Ena also had a pair of touchdown throws, 60 yards to Curtis Nettles and 55 yards to tight end Russell Mizin. Ena was 6 for 11 for 139 yards. Matt Kegel, a redshirt freshman listed number two behind Gesser, hit five of his eight passes for 37 yards before spraining his thumb on a defensive player's helmet. Post-practice reports from the WSU training room indicated a mild sprain.
While the Cougar passing game was generating 540 yards, the running game struggled against the defense, managing just 31 yards. Newcomer Dave Minnich, a junior college transfer, had 29 of those yards with seven carries, while John Tippins, also a jaycee transfer, ran for 32 yards. Minnich also had a 34-yard run called back by a penalty late in the practice. Sophomore Deon Burnett had just 11 yards on nine rushes.
"I thought Minnich played the best of the backs today, so that is good to have some competition," Price offered. "It does help to have three or four good running backs, but we also have good receivers so we have to pick and choose what we want to do."
Wynn was the top receiver with six receptions for 137 yards and the two touchdowns. Paul Mencke also hauled in six passes for 63 yards, while Nettles, freshman Anthony Buchanan and jaycee transfer Billy Chase each caught four passes. Nettles also opened the scoring early in the scrimmage by returning a kickoff 95 yards.
"Milton has had a good day every day this fall. He hasn't had a bad practice yet," Price commented. "We have better depth at the receiving corps than we have had, so it isn't as bad when a couple of players like Collin Henderson (hamstring) and Farwan Zubedi (knee) missed today's scrimmage. With Marcus Williams, Milton Wynn and Paul Mencke, all 6-5, we have a huge starting receiving corps."
Defensively, Champ Simmons and Cole Sheridan each picked off passes, with Sheridan, who played his prep ball for Pullman High, returning his 43 yards for a touchdown.
Kicker Anousith Wilaikul had all the action Saturday, with Nick Lambert nursing a pulled hip flexor. Wilaikul made five of his six field goal attempts, including a pair of 35-yarders, and also hit all five extra points.
"Anousith is a competitor," according to Price. "Lambert did well last Wednesday and Anousith did poorly in the first scrimmage, but he came back today and did well, so he is right back in the picture."
"Defensively we are right on track, but offensively I think we may be a little further along than I thought we would be right now," Price said. "We are able to do more things offensively, because our coaches have been able to push the players. I thought before fall camp we would have to go a little slower."
Price said all work would be focused around WSU's home opener with Stanford September 2 following Saturday's scrimmage. "From now on its all Stanford," he said.
The Cougars' next scrimmage will be Wednesday afternoon.
Rushing - Tippins 7/32, Minnich 7/29, Burnett 9/11, A. Hawkins 2/9, Thielbahr 5/5, B. Hawkins 2/-1, Mencke 1/-6, Ena 1/-8, Gesser 4/-17, Graffis 4/-23. Totals 42/31.
Passing - Gesser 14/25/0/197/2, Ena 6/11/1/139/2, Kegel 5/8/0/37/0, Graffis 10/14/1/115/0, Mencke 1/1/0/52/1, Totals 36/59/2/540/5.
Receiving - M. Williams 2/56, Wynn 6/137, Nettles 4/70, Douglas 1/9, Buchanan 4/40, Ahlberg 1/6, McElrath 2/9, Shavies 1/2, A. Davis 3/22, Mencke 6/63, Chase 4/61, Mizin 1/55.
Sacks - Tupai, Pickering, J. Williams, Acholonu, Coleman, Price/Boose.
Interceptions - Simmons 42 yards, Sheridan 43 yards (td).
Scoring - Nettles 95 kickoff return (Wilaikul kick), Wynn 56 pass from Gesser (Wilaikul kick), M. Williams 52 pass from Mencke (Wilaikul kick), Nettles 60 pass from Ena (Wilaikul kick), Wynn 49 pass from Gesser, (Wilaikul kick), Mizin 55 pass from Ena (Wilaikul kick), Sheridan 43 interception return (no kick).