Defensive success extends beyond secondary

BEHIND THE AIR RAID offense, many thought Washington State could lead the Pac-12 in passing. And, sure enough, the Cougars lead the conference in passing. The only distinction is that the ranking comes through passing defense -- not offense. Coach Mike Leach discussed his defense and more during Tuesday morning's Pac-12 coaches teleconference.

Through two games, WSU has allowed 76.5 passing yards per game. Arizona State is second with an average of 116 yards surrendered per contest.

But Leach was not only pleased with his secondary during Saturday's 10-7 upset win at No. 25 USC. He also praised the work of his starting defensive line, which consisted of sophomore Xavier Cooper, senior Ioane Gauta and junior Toni Pole.

"I was really happy with how our defensive line played," Leach said. "Both teams struggled with the others defensive line."

He said he does not recall another game where his team failed to score an offense touchdown. WSU's scores came on a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior cornerback Damante Horton late in the first half and Andrew Furney's 41-yard field goal with 3:03 minutes left in the game.

"I don't recall," Leach said. "I've had some low scoring ones."

Leach said one of those came against Texas A&M when both teams had highly ranked offenses and poor defensive statistics. He likely was referring to Texas Tech's 12-0 win against the Aggies in 2001. And WSU was actually held without a touchdown in last year's opener at BYU, 30-6.

THE COUGARS OPENED with a cross-country trip at Auburn, where they lost 31-24 on Aug. 31 and Leach was asked about the challenge that comes with long-distance road games.

"I think the trip across the country is kind of challenging," Leach said. "East to West isn't as bad because you get more time. The clock works in your favor."

He said fans often like to discuss the differences between the major conferences, but he thinks those are overblown. For example, he said several schools could land talented quarterbacks and give their conference a reputation as a stronghold of signal-callers.

"If you're in one of the major conferences … the conferences I think are a lot more similar than different," Leach said. "They all have 300-pounders and guys who can run."

As Ohio State plays Saturday at California, Leach said the biggest difference might not be the players on the field, but the spectators.

"I think the fans may be different," he said. "I imagine those guys at Cal wear those tie-dye shirts and Ohio State fans might have more of an ‘Office Space' look."

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