Seven appears to be WSU's unluckiest number

THE NO. 7 GENERALLY is viewed in positive terms dating back to the Old Testament. But when Washington State coach Mike Leach discusses the number, the subject quickly turns negative. He discussed that, the state of the Cougars' winless opponent at 1 p.m. Saturday, Colorado (TV: FX), why he wouldn't welcome a Pac-12 injury report mandate and much more during his Monday afternoon teleconference.

Leach said the Cougars (2-1) generally feature seven negative plays on both sides of the ball, which he said have resulted in them playing in close games the last two weeks against Eastern Washington and UNLV. On the defensive side, Leach said WSU is allowing too many explosive plays. He said the seven biggest plays that other teams make account for one-half to two-thirds of their total yardage.

Offensively, he said the issue is "more subtle." He said they range from technique breakdowns to making an incorrect read. Leach said the result has been too many three-and-outs.

"We're explosive," said Leach, adding that he prides himself in leading the nation in first downs, which occurred during his 10-year stint at Texas Tech. "We're just not consistent."

Junior Marquess Wilson generally is regarded as the Cougars' best player and is considered by some as a potential NFL first-round pick. But he has not been immune to some of the offense's struggles, including a dropped pass from sophomore Connor Halliday that could have resulted in a touchdown during Saturday's 35-27 win at UNLV. Wilson has 218 yards and two touchdowns on 13 receptions.

"Marquess Wilson could be better," Leach said. "He needs to focus."

He praised the performance of true freshman Gabe Marks, who has 219 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions, and sophomore Isiah Myers. The latter leads WSU in receptions (16) and touchdowns (three).

"I think the most steady guy has been Myers," Leach said.

ONE PLAYER WHO seemed to vanish Saturday was sophomore Rickey Galvin, who did not have a reception and was not seen again shortly after kickoff. Leach did not specifically address why that occurred, but noted Galvin "certainly does some good things." He added that the Cougars have good depth at wide receiver.

Another player who was missing against the Rebels was offensive lineman Dan Spitz. Leach said Spitz has not practiced lately for "personal issues he's been tending to."

"I think he will practice this week," he said.

In Spitz's absence, junior John Fullington moved to left guard, while 6-foot-6, 285-pound freshman Gunnar Eklund started at left tackle. Leach said he felt Eklund's performance on the offensive line was second best behind junior center Elliott Bosch.

"He played really well," he said. "He didn't allow his mind to be cluttered..."He did a good job of just doing his job and focusing on his job."

Leach did not share similar sentiments about his defensive backs. After struggling for two weeks, UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry completed 33 of 49 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns against WSU.

"I think they're playing keep away," Leach said. "I think they need to be more confident and have a burning desire to seize the position. They're better than they give themselves credit for."

In a sense, Leach views Colorado in a similar fashion. The Buffaloes (0-3), who lost 69-14 Saturday at Fresno State, appear poised to become just the third team in the conference to go winless since the Carter Administration. The others were Oregon State (1980) and Washington (2008). But Leach defeated Colorado just once in four tries when he coached at Texas Tech.

"They've got all of these recruiting classes stacked up that everyone has talked about," he said, adding that the Buffaloes are young and adjusting to playing together. "I do think they will eventually emerge and explode."

PAC-12 COMMISSIONER Larry Scott suggested during halftime of the USC vs. Stanford game that the conference would consider an NFL-style injury report, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"We have an athletic director meeting coming up in October and I'm going to put this on the agenda," Scott told reporters. "At least to discuss as to whether we ought to leave it with each school or whether there ought to be some standards or some conference policy."

The issue stems from a Los Angeles Daily News writer over the legitimate reporting of a knee injury suffered by Trojans' kicker Andre Heidari.

USC coach Lane Kiffin "suspended" the reporter from practice for two weeks and announced that he would not be allowed in the press box for the next home game. Kiffin later apologized after USC athletic director Pat Haden rescinded the ban. But USC still has a policy of non-disclosure on injuries or mostly anything to do with practice reporting. UW followed suit last week with their own policy forbidding reporters from reporting injuries (plus anything to do with the practices that are open.)

Even if such a policy were put in place, Leach said he would not necessarily adhere to it.

"I would still be very elusive on it," he said. "It still would violate HIPAA law."

LEACH'S LONGSTANDING POLICY is not to discuss injuries and he enjoys having fun with reporters who ask about them. Quarterback Jeff Tuel (right knee) did not play against UNLV after leaving early in the fourth quarter of the 24-20 Sept. 8 win against EWU.

"He's ridiculously healthy," Leach said. "He eats cereal for breakfast. He's one of those guys Tony the Tiger would be proud of."

He also remained elusive on whether Halliday or Tuel will start Saturday.

"You're going to have to stay tuned," Leach said. "Everyone is waiting with anticipation."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • On Connor Halliday: "I thought he played well," Leach said. "I thought he was way ahead of schedule for a guy that only played a handful of games because he doesn't have many snaps under his belt. I think he's talented as far as going downfield. I thought we should have had any three-and-outs, which continues to be a problem," Leach said. "We were really good at going downfield but then there's intermediate stuff underneath when downfield's not perfect that we need to utilize."

  • Leach said he does not expect the Pac-12 to suspend junior safety Deone Bucannon for his second high hit in as many weeks. Unlike the hit that knocked out EWU wide receiver Greg Herd, Leach said Bucannon's blow in the UNLV game was not late. Bucannon was suspended by the conference for the first half of the UNLV game.

  • Sophomore wide receiver Bobby Ratliff has become Leach's de facto "tight end" in the Air Raid offense. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound Ratliff has 39 yards on three receptions this season, and Leach said he likes his blocking skills. "I see him having a bigger role as time moves on," he said.

  • "I think guys were running good routes," Leach said. "The offensive line played a heckuva game. I had a lot of time back there. I think I recognized some blitzes early and found kind of there soft spots to where people blitzed and there weren't many guys there."

    Adam Lewis contributed to this report

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