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Kongaika and Defense Shine in Cougar Preseason Scrimmage
Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 08/17/1999
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Aug. 16, 1999

PULLMAN, Wash. - Chris Martin took the opening kickoff and proceeded to run 97 yards for a touchdown on what was supposed to be the day of the quarterbacks.

The defense stepped up, sacking the quarterbacks six times and had three other tackles for loss during the first scrimmage of the season for the Cougs.

"I was pleased with the intensity of the defense," said head coach Mike Price. "I was pleased with the tackling. There wasn't too many missed tackles."

Leading the charge for the defense is redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tomasi Kongaika. Kongaika, who has dropped nearly 50 pounds since his arrival in Pullman, collected two quarterback sacks. He sacked Jason Gesser for a seven yard loss and also teamed with Ing Aleaga and Jesse Ratcliffe on two other sacks.

"Tomasi Kongaika is a player," Price said. "God he's quick. He is really, really quick."

The play of the defense didn't help the three-way fight for the quarterback position. Steve Birnbaum, Paul Mencke and Gesser all failed to execute touchdown producing drives, but Price felt Birnbaum had the best day of the three completing five of seven passes for 30 yards.

"I thought Birnbaum played well," Price said. "...I thought he played better than the other quarterbacks."

Mencke also had a solid scrimmage completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 51 yards. Gesser, who was slowed by a hamstring pull, failed to connect on his five attempts.

Matt Kegel (Havre, Mont ) won the battle of the freshman quarterbacks completing three of five passes for 67 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown to Farwan Zubedi for the offense's only touchdown.

The running game also had its troubles against the stingy defense. With Jeremy Thielbahr still out of action with a pulled hamstring, true freshman Deon Burnett (Upland, Calif.) led the way with 31 yards on nine carries. Former linebacker Brad Philley looked sharp, gaining 20 yards on five carries.

"I thought Philley ran pretty good," Price said. "I thought Philley has been running pretty well the whole camp. Probably Philley ran the best out of anybody."

The special teams appears to be a strong link for the Cougars with many threats returning kicks. In addition to Martin's 97-yard kickoff return, Leaford Hackett also had punt returns of 80 and 50 yards, with the 80-yarder going the distance.

"The Cougars won that game because of our special teams," Price said. "The specialists returned some great punts and kickoffs. We looked really good at that this early in the year."

True freshman Collin Henderson (Puyallup, Wash.) also returned two punts for 34 yards.

WSU will hold another scrimmage on Thursday at 3:45 p.m. Price is going to wait until after Thursday's scrimmage to re-assess the quarterback situation.

Injury report - Gesser injured his left hamstring during the Monday morning practice. He also had a sore left ankle after a teammate stepped on it. Running backs Alex Tinsley, Philley and Theilbahr are all nursing shore hamstrings. The injuries are listed as day-to-day. Offensive lineman Ryan and Reed Raymond are also out of duty. Reed is suffering from a pulled abdominal muscle, while Ryan is is suffering from a pulled hamstring. Reserve linebacker Joe Gecas has a high ankle sprain, a la Gary Holmes. Gecas was injured when a player rolled into his ankle attempting to make a tackle.

Scoring summary - Martin 97 kickoff return (Lindell kick), Lindell 25 field goal, Lindell 35 field goal, Lindell 30 field goal, Lindell 38 field goal, Lindell 45 field goal, Lindell 40 field goal, Lindell 27 field goal, Lindell 37 field goal, Zubedi 45 pass from Kegel. Rushing - Burnett 9/31, Philley 5/20, Pringle 3/9, Hawkins 3/8, Kegel 1/7, Tinsley 3/6, Nesen ?, Mencke 1/3, Arzu 1/(-1), Gesser 2/(-9), Birnbaum 4/(-24).

Passing - Kegel 5/3/0/67/1/45, Mencke 10/7/0/51/0/12, Birnbaum 7/5/0/30/0/9, Nesen 6/1/0/27/0/27, Gesser 5/0/0/0/0/0.

Receiving - Zubedi 2/67, Long 1/27, Wynn 3/22, Taylor 2/13, M. Williams 1/10, Hackett 1/9, Sheridan 1/7, Moen 1/7, C. Henderson 1/5, Torian 1/5, J. Shavies 1/3.

Sacks - Kongaika 2, Hedeen 1, Emmerson 1, Aleaga, Ratcliffe, F. Shavies, Genatone. Tackles for loss - Kongaika 2, Hedeen 1, Emmerson 1, Riley 1, R. Pickering 1, Gleason 1, Aleaga , Ratcliffe , F. Shavies , Genatone

Washington State Cougars Football