Coach Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars were rudely reminded by No. 2 Oregon the road to rebuilding a football program can be a long, painful path.
The latest blowout, of which there have been three in the last four games, illustrated a tried and true adage as if it were right from the pages of a college football textbook. You can’t turn the ball over when playing a good team and expect to win. It just isn’t going to happen.
Then again, describing Oregon as a good team is akin to saying Mt. Rainier is a nice looking mountain. In terms of the Pacific Northwest, there’s nothing like it. In fact, it’s easy enough to expand that view to the broader picture. This Oregon Duck football team looks incomparable. As an aside, can hardly wait to see them play Alabama with a National Championship on the line.
Reflecting on what transpired over the course of 60-minutes on the field in Autzen Stadium, Coach Leach saw improvement in the overall play of the Cougs.
Let me offer this for consideration. Leach has long been a coach who not only expects much from players, he uses a variety of methods to put young men in positions where they do things never envisioned or imagined.
Talking about the play of his quarterback, Connor Halliday, Leach responded to a post game question curiously wondering why he went all the way with his starter when the game was out of reach midway through the second half. “Like everybody, Connor needs all the practice he can get. It was never really a consideration to take him out.”
By leaving Halliday in the game, teammates witnessed an unimagined performance.
Led by the junior from Spokane, the WSU offense reeled off a NCAA record 89 pass plays completing 58 for 557 yards. Halliday now has two 500+ yard games in his career.
“I knew going in … that we were going to throw it a lot,” Halliday said. “I mean, nobody ever thinks 89 (pass attempts) is going to be the number. Oregon is so athletic up front and so athletic at the linebacker position, they don’t give us many run looks and running the ball isn’t what we do best offensively, so we were just doing what we thought would be the most successful for us, which was to chuck it around.”
Credit the fans filling Autzen Stadium for the 93rd consecutive game with an assist. They were so loud, even if Halliday wanted to check to a running play after seeing the Oregon defense, he couldn’t guarantee his teammates could hear the audible call. Talk about home field advantage… Duck fans mirror the intensity of the team they worship and adore.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti took exception to the way Leach went about coaching the Cougs.
“That’s total (B.S.) that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did,” Aliotti ranted after the game. “And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too. I think it’s low class and it’s (B.S.) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.”
No doubt Mike Leach is concerned about whether or not he offended Alliotti much the way Washington State players were concerned by the lewd epithets rained down on them from zealous Duck fans.
Coach Leach expects his team to play a full 60-minutes of football when there is a game scheduled that week.
As if to counter the whining Duck DC, Leach had this to say about the performance of his team which resulted in a loss.
“We played hard. We played for 60-minutes. I was proud of them from that standpoint,” boasted Coach Leach. “We did a pretty good job of being composed. As we’d make mistakes we’d come bouncing back, play the next play and stay focused and played hard throughout the whole game. I was really proud of the focus and effort we had.”
Building a successful football program requires expectations within the culture to play hard on every play for the entire football game.
Perhaps someone might suggest Alliotti read up on the history of Oregon football. Prior to the hiring of Mike Bellotti as their head coach, the Ducks were an inconsistent program flexing from flying to floundering.
Like it or not, the game last night was not all about Oregon or Coach Alliotti’s defense.
“Playing with pink helmets, shoes and socks to raise money for breast cancer, Oregon looked different but played with its familiar characteristics that have made it a national brand.”
“In the end, Oregon’s resilient answer to WSU’s aerial attack was as conspicuous as the Ducks’ pink helmets. It was No. 2 Oregon 62, Washington State 38”
— Andrew Greif | [email protected] , The Oregonian
Plodding forward at a rate many WSU fans are somewhat frustrated by, Coach Mike Leach is setting out to prove Washington State will be relevant on the national college football scene in the near future.