"I'm the only one talking to him during the game," Dave Yost told the group at Monday's Spokane Cougar Club luncheon. "Look, he makes the calls on the sideline, but he does ask me questions. Sometimes he asks me what we should run and I make my recommendation. And sometimes he actually takes my advice."
Yost arrived in Pullman in January after a dozen years as an assistant under Gary Pinkel at Missouri. He started as quarterbacks coach, and then took over as offensive coordinator in 2009 and added the assistant head coach title his last two seasons there. Under Leach, Yost works with the inside receivers during the week, but on game day he's in the press box with a bird's eye view of the field, relaying information.
"I've got coach (Jim) Mastro next to me and I relay what he tells me," Yost said. "It's an interesting place to be. I can tell you that Coach Leach will occasionally get a little distracted during the game. He's told more than a few stories between play calls."
YOST TALKED AT length about how the Cougar offense operates during the game. As longtime CF.C readers know, Leach gives his quarterbacks more freedom than others to change the play. But Yost delivered an eye popper in one comparison regarding Connor Halliday and Jeff Tuel.
"We don't really call plays from the sidelines," he explained. "We make recommendations. Our goal is to develop our quarterback to make decisions based on what he sees before the snap. If he likes that play against the defense he sees, he goes with it. If he doesn't, he can check to a different play.
"I can tell you that Connor is really sharp at doing that. Let me put it this way: In that first game last year at BYU, Jeff Tuel checked out of the play we called once the entire game. Against Oregon State, out of the 78 plays we ran, Connor checked to a different play 54 times."
THE FOURTH-QUARTER COLLAPSE against the Beavers, Yost explained, was a result of players trying to do too much after giving up a big play –the botched call on a fake punt at the end of the third quarter.
And Yost explained exactly what happened there.
"We were looking at fourth-and-four and we had a fake punt call that we were confident would get us six or seven yards if we got the defensive look we wanted," Yost said. "We didn't get the look we wanted – we saw their corners creeping in and looking in the backfield. We checked out of it, but our snapper didn't hear the call and snapped the ball short."
The Beavers took over on the Washington State 27-yard line, and a mere two plays later were in the end zone to take a 31-24 lead.
"You saw what happened after that," Yost said. "We needed our defense to step up and make some plays to pick us up after that and they couldn't do it – it's just the same as when the defense is struggling you expect the offense to step and help them out.
"On our next five plays, we threw the ball to (Oregon State) three times. Connor saw how they were playing Vince Mayle on the next play and led him a little too much and the ball hit the Oregon State corner in the chest and he made the interception."
After throwing three interceptions, which led directly to three Oregon State touchowns, the decision was made to pull Halliday, Yost said.
"The outcome was pretty much decided by then," said Yost. "We needed to get him off the field and start getting him ready mentally to play next week. Look, Connor Halladay is a high level player, and when he's playing well we can beat anyone.
"When the quarterback makes a mistake, everyone knows it. When the free safety makes a mistake, everyone knows it. When the right guard makes a mistake, you can sometimes get away with it."
YOST WAS ASKED about his inside receivers – especially Brett Bartolone who was so productive last year but who instead has been a virtual ghost in 2013.
"Brett is a very good receiver, but he's had some injury issues," he explained. "He hurt his left shoulder and was dealing with that, and then he injured his right shoulder.
"Brett is going to contribute to this team. But at the same time, I think we have more depth this year at his position than we had last year."
Yost said Vince Mayle's work ethic is impressive.
"We have a tennis ball machine that we use every day in practice," he said. "We crank that thing up to about 55 and our receivers line up and work on catching tennis balls fired at them. We have them use two hands to catch the tennis ball, which is much harder to do than to catch one one-handed."
Yost said depth remains an issue with this squad.
"We have a number of spots where we're still one-deep," he said. "You look at that defensive line, for example, you see the same three guys out there 95 percent of the time: Junior, Toni and Coop (Ioane Gauta, Toni Pole and Xavier Cooper). We still need to get deeper in some of these positions."
Yost did point to a redshirt freshman d-lineman as Exhibit A of the future depth on the line.
"You look at (Daniel Ekuale) and I swear he looks just like a younger version of (defensive line coach) Joe Salave'a. He's going to be very, very good."
Yost: Here's what happened on the punt
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