WSU win at SC has instant recruiting dividend

SPOKANE -- The sparkle that Washington State's win over USC in the L.A. Coliseum adds to Mike Leach's recruiting efforts was evident before the Cougs even left the field on Saturday, says a WSU assistant coach. USC had more than two dozen prospects in the stands for the game -- and those kids were making sure the WSU coaching staff knew they were there at game's end.

"They had something like 30 recruits in the stands to watch that game," WSU outside linebackers coach Paul Volero told a jubilant gathering at Monday's Cougar Club luncheon in Spokane. "... You know we're not supposed to have contact with kids right now, but we're running off the field and they're waving at us, yelling ‘Hey, coach!' and we're trying not to notice.

"But you can bet there will be some follow-up contact with some of those kids. This was huge for our recruiting efforts in the Southern California area. We can talk all we want about the changes we're making here and the new facilities that we're building, but to go down there and show it on the field was a very big deal. Just like winning the Apple Cup last year was a big deal for recruiting in-state."

Since the day he was hired, Leach has put maximum effort into recruiting the Los Angeles Basin. Three of the Cougars' starting receivers are from the area: sophomores Gabe Marks and Brett Bartolone and freshman River Cracraft. So is sophomore running back Teondray Caldwell and cornerback Daquawn Brown. The list goes on.

Volero said the Cougars' victory was truly a team effort.

"This win was about personal responsibility," he explained. "Football is about one-on-one match-ups. There wasn't a player who didn't believe that when they stepped out on that field they were going to beat the other guy." Valero showed a highlight reel featuring seven key fourth-quarter plays that helped cement the 10-7 win, starting with a third-down stop by Brown, a true freshman who led all tacklers on the night with 11 stops.

"There are guys who want to play football and there are guys who NEED to play football," Valero said. "This is a guy who NEEDS to play football. He's from L.A. and this game meant a lot to him."

Valero showed the third-and-9 Connor Halliday-to-Dominique Williams screen pass that netted 50 yards and set up Andrew Furney's game-winning 41-yard field goal. He pointed to how well the entire offensive line got downfield to break Williams into the open field.

And he showed the field goal itself.

"Look at the pad level," Valero said. "Watch how all of their guys pop up. That's their guys saying ‘we're better than you' and our guys saying ‘no, you aren't'."

Valero was adamant: this was a total team effort. If one guy goes out there and doesn't do his job, it all falls apart, he said.

He pointed out how well Leach and his staff managed both field position and the game.

"I have to tell you, Mike Leach is the most stubborn human being I've ever been around, and I mean that in a good way," he said. "He's stubborn about doing things the right way. He sticks to his guns."

VOLERO WASN'T THE ONLY one to speak to the Spokane throng. With Washington State primed for its home opener Saturday at Martin Stadium, athletic director Bill Moos was prepared to cheerlead.

"By the time you get there Saturday, the structure of the new Football Operations Building will all be in place," he explained. "You'll be able to see just how massive it is. And you can see the crane – we have the biggest crane that's been on campus. We used it on the south end of the stadium and we're using it now. Watch for it – it swings out over the field."

Perhaps the crane will distract an opposing linebacker, he mused.

"Our guys are used to it," he joked.

The win at USC, however, was no joke.

The Cougars held USC to its worst offensive performance since a 1998 loss to Florida State, radio play-by-play announcer Bud Nameck, the luncheon's master of ceremonies, said.

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