The Cougars inched closer to the spring finish line on Saturday afternoon in Spokane.
After the spring game concluded in front of an announced attendance of 8,340 -- inconsequentially, the Gray team beat the Crimson squad, 22-21 -- Washington State players and coaches admitted to the obvious: It was a good thing this wasn't October.
Despite the blustery conditions that could have passed for late fall conditions, the Cougars have many months between now and real games. If anything, the game highlighted areas that need attention. Especially the slow start that Washington State endured, one that carried throughout much of the first half.
"If we're going to be the team we want to be next year, we got to fight through those lulls we kind of had in the middle of the scrimmage," quarterback Connor Halliday said. "I think that's kind of the biggest thing we're fighting right now. We did get through that in the second half and moved the ball a little bit, so that was good."
"I struggled at the beginning, just some nerves," fellow quarterback Austin Apodaca added. "Just thinking too much. I think towards the end, once I kind of figured myself out a little bit and stopped thinking, played a little bit of football."
The sluggish first half prompted head coach Mike Leach to decide to play a full second half, which wasn't initially the plan. The second-year head coach said he saw improvement after halftime.
The makeup of the game made it a bit difficult to accurately simulate what will take place on the field come fall. With the two squads mixed with first- and second-teamers, the players were playing side-to-side with unfamiliar teammates. One result of that was that the defense stuck to simplistic packages and didn't blitz.
"At the end, we had to move some guys around so we could finish the scrimmage, but I was real happy through about the first 120 plays," defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "Then we let down a little bit, gave up some things that we shouldn't be doing. But that's good. We got to be able to keep our focus and when you're on the field, keep working hard."
The quarterbacks were able to take advantage at times and both of Saturday's starters, who are engaged in a battle for the starting spot come fall, put up good numbers.
Halliday threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns, but did get picked off twice. He also missed a wide open Ricky Galvin for what would have been a sure touchdown. Apodaca, a redshirt freshman, tossed for 279 yards and one touchdown, while running for another score.
"We'll get them to camp and they'll fight it out," said Leach of who will be the starter. "That's going to be based here, how they make use of the summer, the offseason, between now and camp."
The Cougars return to work on Monday for a final practice before they part ways for the summer until fall camp begins in August.