For Cougs, time is now -- and they know it

PULLMAN -- For seniors Jeff Tuel and Travis Long, the silver linings no longer carry any warrant. The urgency to win, and win now, is always at the back of their minds. And it's not just the upperclassmen. Freshman Darryl Monroe feels the pressure to produce and put some W's on the board.

They're sick of it.

The players, the coaches, the fans… progress without the wins that come along with it will no longer suffice.

"Personally, that's what's been going on since I got here," said Travis Long of the silver linings. "It's at the point where it has to turn up on the wins-loss column."

For years, the Cougs have had to settle for small victories. That endless silver-lining has kept fans engaged, clinging to the edge of their seats, patiently waiting for the presumptive corner to be turned.

That is something these players are looking to erase.

"We're kind of beyond the moral aspect of it," Jeff Tuel said. "Coach always says a win is a win and that's the only victory he knows."

A winning mentality is something head coach Mike Leach has been trying to instill in his young team since he got to Pullman. With four games remaining, there are no more tomorrows – not if this senior class hopes to see a bowl game. The Cougs at 2-6 need to win out. Although a very tall task, Tuel and Co. believe it is very possible.

"We need to play with urgency," Tuel said. "It will be a letdown, a disappointment if we don't make that bowl game."

Second-year freshman linebacker Darryl Monroe, a guy with many years to grow into the Cougar D, agrees. This team has the talent and attitude to win now, he says, they just need to continue to come together.

"We're taking steps," Monroe said. "We need to take bigger steps… better steps. It's all about leaps and bounds now."

Tuel said the Cougs are close. A few plays here, a few blocks there, and WSU shocks the 19th ranked Cardinal.

"If we can keep taking teams down to the wire like that, a couple of those will go our way," Tuel said.

Although notching a 10-point win that doesn't come down to the wire would work just fine, too. For Monroe, losing is as unnatural to him as it would be not breathing.

"I'm a competitor, and I hate to lose no matter what it is," Monroe said. "Rock, paper, scissors… tic-tac-toe… a football game, a loss is a loss. Any loss, it just kills me."

Monroe and the defense are one of the primary reasons it looks like the Cougs are close to putting together a full game on both sides of the ball.

"Coach (Jeff) Choate said ‘this is how a great defense looks on the regular," Monroe said. "Our defense is absolutely better. If you watch the film, you can apply that yourself."

Long, a senior leader, catalyst and arguably the most consistent player on defense for the Cougs, said the team has been slowly digesting the new scheme of a new staff and that there's no longer a question of if there are great things in the near future.

"(The staff) has won before so we're trying to buy in," Long said. "(Production) needs to happen faster."

The Cougs will get their chance to get the first of four needed wins in a row against the Utes this Saturday in Salt Lake City (TV: Pac-12 Networks, 12 p.m.)

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