Leach dissects WSU's fourth-down philosophy

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Mike Leach is known as one of the more aggressive coaches on fourth down in college football. Leach discussed his philosophy on that down and more during Tuesday morning's Pac-12 coaches teleconference.

During Saturday's 52-24 loss against Oregon State, Leach twice elected to go for it on fourth down, (three if you count the botched punt fake.) At the beginning of the second quarter, junior quarterback Connor Halliday found sophomore Dom Williams for a 21-yard completion on fourth-and-8 at the Beavers' 40-yard line. Four plays later, junior running back Marcus Mason scored on a 3-yard run to give the Cougars a 10-3 lead.

In the third quarter, Leach again went for it on fourth-and-2 at OSU's 4. Halliday found senior Vince Mayle in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

"A lot of it is how the game is going," Leach said. "What is your sense on what they're doing on defense?"

He said he also evaluates the game situation and how costly it would be for his team if the conversion is not successful.

"You don't want to be reckless," he said.

Leach was asked about the strategy of Kevin Kelly, who coaches at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark. Kelly has drawn national attention for his refusal to punt. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Kelly said that an opponent only has a 15 percent likelier chance of scoring from 10 yards outside of the end zone than from the 40.

"The material kind of supports what he does," said Leach, adding that he has met Kelly. "[But] I'm not willing to go that far."

WSU (4-3 overall, 2-2 conference) plays at 7 p.m. Saturday at No. 2 Oregon (TV: Fox Sports 1) and Leach was asked about the Cougars' strong play on the road, where they are 2-0 in the Pac-12.

"I think we're improving," he said. "We're just a group that needs to be a little more consistent. I think [our road success] definitely is a positive sign."

Leach was also asked about the USA Today Coaches Poll being counted as one-third toward a team's overall BCS score. That poll has received increased scrutiny in recent years as various media reports have revealed that some coaches have members of their athletic department fill them out. Some coaches reportedly also do not watch opponents outside of the ones their team plays against. Despite that, Leach said the coaches poll still has a place in formulating the playoff picture — for now.

"Yeah, I suppose," he said. "Until there's an extended playoff, it's as good as any."

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