99-yard drive, freshman Linebacker stand out in Washington State's second scrimmage

Apr. 21—PULLMAN — One quarterback tossed a 50-yard pass, another one navigated a 99-yard touchdown drive and a defense led by a freshman linebacker mostly dominated the rest of the way Saturday during Washington State's second football scrimmage at Gesa Field.

"This was a big scrimmage for us to see where we were at," senior linebacker Kyle Thornton said. "But there's always going to be a couple little details that even slip through this late, and this final week is really just cleaning those things up."

The Cougars wrap up the spring at 3 p.m. next Saturday with the Crimson and Gray game. Here's how the team's second scrimmage played out:

Eckhaus leads 99-yard TD drive

The first three drives were a nice snapshot of the Cougar scrimmage.

First, the defense forced a quick three-and-out.

Then, sophomore quarterback John Mateer hit wide receiver Tony Freeman for a 50-yard pass for the scrimmage's only explosive play of the day. The drive ended in a 47-yard field-goal by kicker Dean Janikowski.

And then the third drive was possibly the nicest display by the offense all of spring camp.

With his group pinned at the 1-yard line, senior quarterback Zevi Eckhaus piloted the offense down the field for a methodical 13-play, 99-yard drive capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Djouvensky Schlenbaker.

Eckhaus completed passes of 20 yards to running back Dylan Paine and 21 yards to wide receiver Kris Hutson to help set up the short TD run.

"Just flat awesome," WSU coach Jake Dickert said. "We talked about it this morning, but we only wanted to have a 10-play series there and these guys got all the way up to 13, 14 plays, and to cap off that drive (with a touchdown), I thought that was one of the pinnacle moments of the scrimmage."

Eckhaus, a transfer from Bryant University, completed 13-of-20 passes for 154 yards and the touchdown on the day.

Mateer went 8-of-15 passing for 120 yards and two scores. Neither of the top-two QBs threw an interception.

"The healthy competition has been fun," Mateer said. "He had a good first couple of drives. ... He's had a good spring, so it keeps motivating me to be better, to be focused, and it's been fun."

Eckhaus' touchdown pass came on a nice stretch where he went 4-for-4 for 40 yards with a 14-yard TD toss to tight end Trey Leckner (Snohomish, Wash.) across the middle of the end zone.

An unstoppable freshman linebacker

The Cougars have a potential future star in the making in freshman linebacker Frank Cusano of Granite Bay, Calif.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pounder made plays all over the field, including a sack, a pass defensed and two tackles for loss.

One of Cusano's big tackles came on a fourth-down stop that Dickert equated to the defense getting a turnover.

"He embodies physicality," Dickert said. "I think it's pretty evident to see on that fourth-down stop. He was banged up a little bit there, but comes right back in and makes plays, so really proud of where he's at."

Defense holds serve

The defense also had several stops in the red zone, including a goal-line stand in which the unit held the offense at bay for four straight plays from the 2-yard line. The highlight of that sequence was a pass deflection by cornerback Kenny Worthy, a freshman from Buckeye, Ariz.

In addition to Cusano, linebacker Buddah Al-Uqdah and nickel Jaylon Edmond earned tackles for loss.

QBs couldn't be tackled, but unofficial sacks also went to Al-Uqdah, Thornton, edge Nusi Malani and defensive tackle Khalil Laufau.

On the day, the defense "won" 12 of the 17 drives, including the final seven.

"I know that was one of our biggest aspects from the season is we wanted to see a little stouter defense in the red zone," Thornton said. "So we've really made an emphasis on that this spring. ... If we can eliminate touchdowns and hold teams to field goals only, we'll put ourselves in such better opportunities."

Other offensive standouts

Hutson had five catches for 46 yards

Freshman WR Brandon Hills had four catches for 62 yards

Junior WR Leon Neal Jr. had four catches for 45 yards

Schlenbaker carried the ball five times for 25 yards and one score

Tight ends Leckner and senior Billy Riviere each caught a touchdown pass

A couple wideouts sit out

The Cougar offense, which is still missing some offensive line pieces with minor injuries, was without two key wide receivers.

Top returner Kyle Williams has "gotta finish strong in school and we'll get him back out in practice," and Louisiana Tech transfer Kyle Maxwell "had a little PCL (knee) isolated deal (and) he'll be ready for summer training come May," Dickert said.

Their absence could have contributed to the lack of long passing plays Saturday.

Quote of note

"We talked about different levels of being a competitor this morning, and I think that's what's going to show. Who's just going to show up, who's going through the motions, and who's going to take these last three days as an opportunity to build skill and get better on what we need to improve on? Because we need to make huge improvements." — WSU coach Jake Dickert on the final week of spring camp.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, or on Twitter @StephanSports.