Cougar fans were treated to something Saturday night has been lacking along the northern sidelines of Martin Stadium.
Mike Leach knows that anchoring a football team is akin to anchoring a blackjack table: if you know an ace is your draw, even if you’re sitting at twenty, you have to hit. Leach cemented loyalty from the Wazzu faithful, but his actions proved shibboleth, proving he was a Coach they could follow. A captain must throw himself upon the sword if he expects that of his crew.
Indeed, Mike Leach came to the support of Eric Oertel’s late hit penalty in the waning minutes of rival Idaho’s attempt to blemish the WSU defensive effort. Oertel’s (unwarranted) penalty cost the Cougs 5 yards (half the distance), and Oertel’s champion stepped in. Leach’s words were not broadcast, but the meaning came home to his defense “fine, give them another prayer, f*$! it, take another two and a half yards, they’ll still stop them.”
Leach had the ace, he had counted his cards carefully Saturday night, and it payed off.
Leach’s stalwart belief in his team continued, a struggle against the periodic rivals down the Chipman trail was important to this carpetbagger from the Big XII, where just days earlier he had implemented a version of his own mercy rule. Mike has imbibed in the Pullman Kool-Aid, and realized that reveling in Pullman makes Parrot Heads look like a meeting of the Red Hat Society.
Leach received the brand that hits you somewhere around the left ventricle after about thirteen months in Pullman or five home games, whichever comes first.
Idaho Coach Paul Petrino’s actions and attitude following his teams’ loss were as bitter as the limes Leach gave up to move to Apple Country. Petrino’s frustration was patent, and why not, but frankly, as any six year old boy who donned shoulder pads knows, that frustration needs to be confined to a locker room. Petrino’s final words to Leach were obscured from the camera by his cap, Leach’s reaction was not.
Petrino was upset, misdirected anger from the silver and gold toward the crimson and gray. Vandal players did not appear nearly as upset as Paul (a failing on his part, hopefully he will put two and two together). Paul muttered a two second sentence at Mike, who took nearly as long to process it, and offered in retort the same two word response we all find at our lips when befuddled.
Friends, Cougs, and countrymen, consider your thoughts twenty-two months ago. We saw a coach blacklisted (a lone concerting exception will be revealed shortly), panned by ESPN, who had been chastised for player abuse. The optimism was great (“hell, Price created a passing game in the snow, Leach can do this.”)
Then Wilson last year. Accusations of verbal, emotional and physical abuse emerged from the darling of the department. It was a difficult time, and some of our original concerns began to erupt.
Mike Price succeeded as a “player’s coach”. Definitions of that term are as varied as anyone who tries to define it. Leach is a coach that will keep smiles on his players faces, if they buy in, they will succeed, if they do not buy in, they will not succeed, and they will not call Leach a “player’s coach”.
Evaluate the notable players that have chastised Leach; frankly, one an entitled child of a “Pony Express” alumni, another a receiver in THIS OFFENSE, who felt he was being unjustly lumped in with the team.
Leach has bought into the Palouse. He refused jobs (believe me, if you think Pullman is lacking in some of the creature comforts, spend some time in Lubbock), that were seemingly promotion, happy with where he was. Leach will adopt the Palouse as his home, possibly starting a Margaritaville franchise out on the River ((Cougar Gold) Cheeseburger in Paradise?)). We’re good, Wazzu gave him our heart, he’ll stay true.
Mike had been rumored to go to Auburn, USC, Ole Miss, Penn State, well, he did not have to step out of coaching following the 2009 accusations. He just did not see the right fit. More importantly to those of us rooting for the Eastern half of Washington State FBS fooball, Leach removed himself from the Washington job. Leach refused to wear the purple, the most vile of colors, to join the haughtiest of fan. Leach, like many of us, could have been a Husky but chose to be a Coug.
Leach found his inner pirate Saturday. Four weeks ago he made Pullman look like La Mancha, but the windmills of football success in the Palouse have now been proven, no longer the tilt that Doba and Wulff showed.
So I implore the Wazzu Faithful, cheer heartily, attempt to drink Pioneer Square and the Sodo out of rum, tailgate, let your Coug flag fly. But I ask, beg, plead with you students, alumni, fans, do not boo Stanford when they come to stand against us, we are better than that. More importantly, Children of the Palouse, WHEN the children of the tree stand at the mercy of the Cougs, stand proud, cheer, pat Cardinal backs in jest. Please, for the love of our pride, do not chant “Overrated”. Stand proud that you are better than the boys from Palo Alto. If they are overrated, your victory stands falling a tree with a weaker trunk then you fell. Would you taunt the oak you fell? Treat your divisional rival with respect (unless it is Oregon, of course, in which case (F!@# them).