LEACH: Winston's best weren't the three TDs

SPOKANE – Mike Leach provided commentary on a bevy of offensive and defensive plays from the Cougs' 31-28 overtime Apple Cup win on Monday. But after showing game film to an appreciative Spokane Cougar Club luncheon crowd of Carl Winston's three touchdown runs, Leach said the scoring runs were not the best plays his running back turned in during Friday's victory.

"The best plays he had were in pass protection," said Mike Leach of Carl Winston. "We'd keep him in to help block and he would take on a defender and take him out."

After pointing out several plays by wide receiver Brett Bartolone, Leach added a measure of high praise after a questioner compared the freshman to New England receiver Wes Welker.

"He is Wes-like," Leach agreed. "He certainly exceeded our expectations this year, and the thing that impressed me most was his level of consistency."

Leach complimented quarterback Jeff Tuel, breaking down a play where the senior was flushed from the pocket and found receiver Isiah Myers for a 29-point gain despite being clubbed in the head by a Husky pass-rusher.

LEACH SAID THE NCAA's rules on granting a year of eligibility to players hampered by injury could have been written with Tuel in mind. "Under their rules, Tuel should get another year," he said. "We should hear something on that sometime in the next week."

Asked why it was that the Cougars defense seems to rise to the occasion to stop quality tight ends like Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Leach launched into an anecdote.

"We watched them warm up and they had four guys just like him," Leach quipped. "They have two more guys that look just like him and another guy who's just a little bit smaller.

"What did we do? I think we have done a good job against big tight ends before this season. We did a good job against Stanford and again against UCLA."

WHILE IT DOESN'T MAKE what came before it any easier to swallow in a 3-9 season, the Apple Cup win did certainly send WSU into the offseason with momentum.

"The Apple Cup is one of those games that I'd heard about long before I got here," said Leach. "I'd even watched it on TV a couple times. I think it's been the kind of game that people all over the country will tune in to, just to see what the weather is like for the Apple Cup."

The wear and tear of his first season on the Palouse showing on his face, Leach said he was pleased with the victory in the finale.

"It wasn't mistake-free by any means, but I do think our guys played hard," he said. "I think this was a preview of things to come."

The coach said this off-season should reveal a great deal about the returning players on the team. Dedication to all the off-season work needed to prepare for next season will tell a great deal, both about their dedication and their abilities as a leader.

"Especially with this team," he said. "We had 15 freshmen starters on this team."

WHILE HE CAN'T talk specifically about recruits, Leach did talk about his upcoming recruiting travel plans. He will be in Pullman this week, he said, but will fly out Sunday for two weeks on the recruiting trail.

"I'm not sure of the exact schedule, but I will be in Alabama, Texas, Southern California, Northern California and all over the state of Washington," he said. "Recruiting rules say that I can only meet with a player once, so I will be going into areas where I'm needed to close on a player or get us back in on a player – where I can make a difference."

The Cougs have one known commitment from Alabama in DL Gerald Sterling, and are battling many a school for DL Rod Crayton, who visited WSU back in October.

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