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WSU Football: Mike Leach Likes Evolution of Cougar Football Heading Into Apple Cup 2013


Sep 28, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach during the 2nd half against the Stanford Cardinal at CenturyLink Field. Stanford defeated Washington State 55-17. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

There were a number of topics touched on by Washington State football head coach Mike Leach on Monday afternoon. Though many are looking at the Apple Cup game coming up this Friday pitting cross-state rivals WSU against UW, Leach resisted being restricted to offering insights on the most important game of the year for Cougar fans.

The savvy Leach, who’s been a head coach long enough and conducted more media conferences than he’d prefer, knows less is more when talking about an opponent. The best way to avoid saying something which becomes bulletin board fodder is to minimize commentary.

True to form and philosophy, Coach Leach had this to say about Apple Cup 2013 being played this coming Friday afternoon at 12:30pm PST at newly rennovated Husky Stadium:

"“All games are important and this one’s an important one. We need to go out and play well. Play the best we can and worry about being the best team we can be.”"

The only emotion generated by that reply to the significance of this Apple Cup is frustration on the part of media folks craving quotes which will make their task easier.

Nov 23, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Washington Huskies running back Bishop Sankey (25) heads up field against Oregon State Beavers in the first half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Leach did have a few things to say about arguably the best running back in the Pac-12 this season, junior Bishop Sankey. “I think Sankey is really good. Sankey is faster than (Arizona RB Ka’Deem) Carey. Yeah, I like Sankey a lot.”

Not much insight into his thoughts on the impact Sankey might have on the outcome of the game.

Then there is the matter of who the Cougs should prepare for as the starting quarterback for Washington. Keith Price injured his shoulder two weeks ago and sat out the UW domination of Oregon State last Saturday. Redshirt freshman Cyler Miles took over the duty of running Coach Steve Sarkisian’s offense with surprising efficiency. Does it matter who starts Apple Cup for the Dawgs?

Nov 23, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles (10) fakes a hand off running back Bishop Sankey (25) against Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t think so. They run similar stuff. They’re both quality guys.” Leach went on to say he did look at Miles as a potential prospect.He was one of the top Colorado high school recruits in 2012 along with Austin Apodaca.

Apodoca already held an offer to attend WSU from former coach Paul Wulff. Not only did Leach like what he saw in Apodoca, he saw no reason to pull the offer away from a young man who committed to play his college football for Washington State.

In the hope of getting some sort of word bite out of Leach, he was asked what he will say before the game to inspire seniors heading into their final regular season game. “Play the next play.” Another lesson offered by Coach Leach…this time to media members who either haven’t been paying attention or are inadequately prepared.

When shifting to a question that truly offered an opportunity for an interesting response, Leach shared insight on the impact of the Apple Cup victory a year ago to the development of his team.

"“I think it accelerated our off season. It started to reveal some of the potential our team had. That’s the thing we’ve got to continue to do…to unfold what our potential is. The first thing is realizing what you can do. I don’t think we’ve reached that point where we fully realize what our potential is and what we can do. We’ve done some good things and we’ve had some good moments where we we’ve done some good things but I think we can be more complete at all those things.”"

So what were some of the keys to the steady improvement by Washington State thus far? One key has to be the team spending a relatively isolated 10-days in Lewiston during fall camp.

Here’s a brief analysis on what that time away from Pullman did for the Cougar football program.

"“The thing is, we had a lot of awfully young players and people that didn’t know one another. Then naturally in the course of practice there’s positions that don’t see much of one another. Your offensive lineman doesn’t see that much of the starting corner for example. Whoever your starting receiver is doesn’t see that much of maybe a defensive tackle. That type of thing. Since we had a high percentage that wasn’t that well acquainted, we wanted to get them well acquainted and also reinforce that everybody’s role is important. That as far as being a team, there are a lot of moving parts…not just your specific position or who you hang out with or who you have the most in common with. I thought it helped with that.”"

Near the end of the session, Leach had fun with a beat writer’s inquiry about his knowledge of whether any WSU players have received all-star invitations or NFL interest.

"“I couldn’t give one earthly ounce of attention to any of that. On the list of priorities, including what my next snack is going to be, that would rank way, way, way down the list. It’s not a real high priority. I’m doing what I tell them to do and I could care less about that. If they do a good job focusing on the next play some of them will be lucky enough to be invited to things like that. If they don’t do a very good job of focusing on the next play they won’t be. It’s about as simple as that.”"

And of course, a media session during Thanksgiving week wouldn’t be complete without some idea of what Mike Leach is thankful for.

"“They asked me that at the Tangerine Bowl, getting ready to play Clemson. So it’s me and Tommy Bowden. Actually they asked me what I wanted for Christmas. They’re waiting for you to be greedier than hell and go, “I want to win the bowl game.” So they’re waiting for that. The pitfall of that occurred to me. So then I thought, what would Miss America do in this situation? I wished for world peace. So my thanksgiving wish is for world peace.”"

All kidding aside, Coach Leach clearly had his game face on and is willing to tell anyone who will listen just how important it is to win the Apple Cup. “It’s always 100% priority. You just focus on winning one game a week and this is the only game we get to play this week. We don’t play any other games this week. We get to play this game.”

And for an excitable Cougar Nation, that’s really what it all about…win the day for crimson and gray.