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Crimson team rallies for 22-21 win over Gray team in WSU's spring football game

Apr. 27—PULLMAN — John Mateer had no idea what Ben Arbuckle had in mind.

Washington State's quarterback had practiced the trick play with his offensive coordinator the day prior, knowing it might come in handy at some point, but he had no clue when.

"It was a great way to start it," Mateer said.

Turns out, Arbuckle drew up the trick play to open WSU's Crimson and Gray spring game, and it went like this: Mateer, quarterbacking the Gray team, took a shotgun snap and handed it off to running back Djouvensky Schlenbaker, who tossed it to receiver Josh Meredith, who shuffled it back to Mateer, who launched it downfield to tight end Billy Rivere, who took it into the end zone, a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage.

In the end, the Crimson team rallied to win 22-21 on a walk-off field goal from Dean Janikoswki, bringing an end to the Cougars' monthlong spring schedule. It was part of Crimson's 13-0 sprint to end the game, including a fourth-quarter touchdown from freshman running back Wayshawn Parker.

The tone was set early on, though, by the trick play to get things started. For the game, Mateer completed 11 of 24 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, the other score going to receiver Josh Meredith on a rollout pass in the second quarter. His competition for the starting QB job, Bryant transfer Zevi Eckhaus, completed 19 of 30 passes for 196 yards and two scores, tossing touchdowns to Parker and receiver Carlos Hernandez.

WSU didn't play strictly first-teamers against second-teamers, though. First-teamers like Mateer, Meredith, receiver Kyle Williams, and offensive linemen Christian Hilborn and Esa Pole played for Gray. Others like defensive backs Jackson Lataimua and Kapena Gushiken, linebacker Kyle Thornton and Hernandez played for Crimson.

"I told those guys going in, this would be a big day," WSU coach Jake Dickert said. "I do wanna go back and watch the film. Obviously, the O-lines are mixed. The receivers are mixed. It's hard to really get a flow, and I think that's what you saw a little bit today on offense. Until we got really toward the end, we didn't have much of a flow going. So today's a hard eval."

Hard or not, the Cougs recorded a few highlights in an otherwise flat environment, including a 42-yard touchdown scamper from Parker, an early enrollee from California.

On his touchdown pass, which came from Eckhaus, he had to improvise. First, he broke one tackle, evaded another, eluded another, then dove into the end zone for a touchdown.

"This whole day, I was like, 'I have to score,' in my mind," said Parker, in the mix for WSU's starting running back role next season. "Halftime, I didn't have a touchdown yet, so I came out, did a little wheel (route), and I was like, 'Yeah, that's it.' "

Parker is one of three running backs vying to become the Cougars' starting running back in the fall. The team lost one candidate, rising sophomore Leo Pulalasi, early in the game. He went down in the first quarter with a leg/foot injury, which was placed in a boot before he was carted off, his hands covering his face on the way off the field.

Pulalasi will undergo surgery and miss 6-8 weeks, Dickert said after the game. If that holds up, Pulalasi should be ready for the beginning of fall camp, a positive development for one of the most promising young players on WSU's roster.

Two other players went down with injuries in the first quarter, edge rusher Michael Hughes and offensive lineman Zack Miller, the latter of whom was also carted off. Dickert didn't have as specific an update on the status of those two players.

"There's always some cost-benefit to having these things," Dickert said, "but I think these guys needed to (play in) this type of environment."