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No rain check: Washington State battles brutal showers during ninth spring practice

Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon unleashes a pass as Abraham Lucas blocks during a practice Saturday in Pullman. (Rod Commons/Washington State Athletics)
Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon unleashes a pass as Abraham Lucas blocks during a practice Saturday in Pullman. (Rod Commons/Washington State Athletics)

PULLMAN – Trey Tinsley says he never threw a pass in the rain growing up in sun-drenched Southern California. Fred Mauigoa played in wet conditions all the time, but the showers he experienced as a youth football player in American Samoa were more of the tropical variety – not remotely as chilly or windy as the ones he and his Washington State teammates have battled through this spring on the Palouse.

Temperatures dipped back down into the 40’s and violent winds caused heavy rainfall to drift left to right and then right to left as the Cougars held their ninth spring practice at Martin Stadium.

They’ll practice six more times over the next few weeks, but the Cougars surely won’t endure conditions like the ones they encountered Tuesday afternoon and evening. While nonstop showers flooded various parts of Pullman, temporarily closing down Grand Avenue because of excessive water buildup, WSU players went through a normal practice, going though the traditional position drills, skeleton passing sessions and live team periods.

“It’s good experience for sure,” said Tinsley, a redshirt senior quarterback from Lake Forest, California. “I remember my first-ever rain practice, coming from Southern California I never played a rain game in high school. I’m just kind of laughing like, wow I’ve never done this. But four years now in the system I feel comfortable with whatever conditions are thrown at us.”

Elements considered, the offense stayed relatively consistent throughout the scrimmage-like period the Cougars close their practices with. Tinsley, Anthony Gordon and Cammon Cooper were each given an offensive series, collectively throwing four touchdown passes.

Cooper appeared to run in a touchdown toward the end of his drive, diving into the end zone and sliding another four or five feet on his stomach through the wet turf, but defensive players indicated the quarterback had been touch-sacked behind the line of scrimmage.

Either way, the soggy conditions made for a more lively practice, with defensive players embracing every chance they had to throw an offensive teammate into the closest puddle.

After hauling in a touchdown from Gordon in the back right corner of the end zone, receiver Easop Winston let his momentum carry him through to the brick barrier between the field and the stands, stepping into a puddle that was ankle-deep.

“It was more gritty today, more rainy,” cornerback George Hicks III said. “More like backyard football, you want to tackle in puddles and everything. But it was more gritty today, it was a good practice for both sides of the ball.”

And a pretty good simulation, too.

WSU typically plays one or two games every year in inclement weather. Tuesday’s conditions were reminiscent of the ones the Cougars faced in 2017 against Colorado, a game they won 28-0. One year prior, brutal rains storms whipped through Pullman as WSU hosted UCLA. The Cougars won a soggy, sloppy game 27-21.

“I think that a lot of teams, especially in spring ball, you hear it from other coaches that if it rains or it’s cold, you just cancel practice,” Tinsley said. “You get 15 and however long you get, they’ll just pick a different sunny day. And I think that us practicing in conditions like this helps us. I think we become mentally tougher and I think in the fall we’re not shocked by it.”

The counterpoint might be that the Cougars have also lost a handful of Apple Cup games playing in bad weather. The Huskies won in a Pullman snow blizzard last year, and in 2017, UW thumped WSU under scattered Seattle rain showers.

Which is to say, the Cougars could still use the practice.

“Some things aren’t as sharp,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “Obviously we need to get an indoor (facility), but no I thought we had good work and then there’s a certain amount of it you want to be out in the elements anyway.”

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