For the past two months, every Friday has been Crimson Friday for Cougar Nation.
Not this week.
Due to Washington State having a bye-week, things are a little different on the Palouse for Cougar football. The team enjoyed three days off before returning once again to the practice field.
Coach Mike Leach and his staff took advantage of their schedule by getting in some extra recruiting efforts early this past week. Their work to rebuild and revitalize the WSU program continues non-stop. All that seems to change is where they are applying resources.
“We had a pretty long stretch without an off week. One of the longest ones I’m familiar with,” stated Coach Leach as he met with media Thursday afternoon.
Leach bristled at a question surmising his team needed the break to reflect on their performance over the first 8-games of 2013. “I don’t want them to look back. I just want them to rest a little bit, but focus. Get better. Use our additional time to improve. It’s an opportunity to improve.”
A follow up question to the issue of how his team might benefit from a bye-week at this point, Leach boiled down what his players and coaches will focus on in basic terms.
“Be sharp and develop your skills at everything. In our case, what we lack the most of is overall experience. You try to manufacture that between watching film, meetings, practice and that type of thing. The more you draw out of those things, the more you’re going to make up for your lack of experience. That’s what we need to do as much as possible.”
Though he doesn’t have much experience with his teams playing on Thursday night, Leach is looking forward to next week when WSU will host Arizona State on Halloween night in front of a packed Martin Stadium and nation television audience at 7:30pm PST on ESPN.
Coach Leach sharply dismissed the suggestion WSU might be looking to avenge the drubbing handed his team by the Sun Devils last year in Tempe.
“That’s a ridiculous motivator. I think the motivation needs to be you play the very best that you can. Focus on your job. Be the best team you can be and play together. Win your individual battles because if for no other reason you owe it to the guy next to you.”
— WSU Coach Mike Leach
No question Leach respects the ASU ball club, especially their defense which will try to slow down the Washington State Air Raid attack. He points to the fact the Sun Devils will field a senior-laden unit that have matured, yet still just keep getting better every week.
“Besides their talent, the time they’ve played together has helped them.”
Leach drew a comparison between the reason ASU looks stronger this season and the progress of his offensive line. “The (OL) combination has gotten a little more used to each other. We’ve still got to get significantly better. I think everybody recognizes that. They’re steadily improving and they work hard at it.”
One beat writer attempted to get Coach Leach to grade the performance of his OL unit over the first 8-games eliciting, “Nice try. I don’t really do that.”
What does Leach and his staff look at in evaluating the performance of the offensive line?
“On an individual and unit level, are you improving each practice. I feel like we have. We’ve got to get better. There’s no question”
Never at a loss for words, Coach Leach went off for about 5-minutes on the topic of Halloween. Normally that’s where this writer would nod off and hope the presser would return to the topic of Pac-12 football. Yet a carefully tuned ear could pick up the consistent competitive drive of the Washington State head man.
Leach fondly recalled the best looking costume he wore as a kid to be one making him look like the grim reaper. There’s a lot of college defensive coordinators who have visualized Coach Leach with that identity in the past, present and likely many to come in the future.
“I had this whole sheet arrangement that would hang over the mask and the skull came out in such a way. Kind of a robe around, kind of tight and extremely creepy.” Always confident, he continued in a cautionary tone, “I’m glad I don’t have it on now because it’d scare the hell out of everybody in this room.”
Here’s where it got interesting.
“The one problem with that one was it was kind of binding. As you’re working around trying to get the candy volume…grim reapers don’t walk as fast as you might think, minus special powers. You don’t get around quite the way you’d like. As good as that one looked, it wasn’t exactly what I was after.”
Seems Leach began developing solid game plans well before he even participated in team sports. His goal was to snag as much candy in one Halloween evening as possible. Going out trick-or-treating as the grim reaper proved to stifle the accumulation of goodies.
Analyzing how to improve his Halloween take, Leach moved on to dressing like a hobo in a looser fitting costume which allowed him to, “…run like hell from door-to-door. Then you’d get a bunch of candy.”
Heck, he even used a version of advance scouting to determine the best neighborhoods for collecting booty were filled with 3-bedroom homes, “…where there’s a high volume of kids in those places (and) those people will be involved with Halloween. And you just want to blanket the place as fast as you can.”
Before adjourning his session with media representatives, Coach Leach reminded everyone of his role as a mentor.
“As you guys prepare for Halloween, if I can help further I’m right here.”
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- Coach Leach confirmed Alex Jackson has been suspended and will not suit up next week. There’s no time table for his return to the team and his name has been deleted from the WSU online team roster.
- If you’re wondering if Coach Leach has a plan to address the possibility of Connor Halliday developing tendonitis from throwing on virtually every offensive down, he does. “Just play another quarterback instead”