Mastro critiques Coug running game, young RBs

PULLMAN -- Mike Leach and Jim Mastro want the Washington State running backs to lead the conference in all-purpose yards. With three regular season games left to play this season, they're a very long ways from that goal. So how do the Cougs get there? Mastro, as always, gave a direct answer.

"More touches," Jim Mastro said. "But I'm really happy with where we are from a year ago. We have got a lot of production in the red zone out of those guys…I mean (Jeremiah) Laufasa has got what, seven touchdowns this year? So, we are getting a lot better. It just comes down to touching the ball a lot more."

According to Mastro, the Cougs never go in with a set plan on which running back will receive the most touches per game -- it's not dictated by the opponent nor what plays the Cougs are running. Ultimately, the decision lies with Leach on who will be get those touches during the game, said Mastro.

"It depends on the flow of the game," Mastro said. "It's Leach's call all the way, but it depends on the flow of the game. We don't like to sub backs for certain plays. So, whoever is in, is going to stay in. We are not going to sub a guy in and out. It's kind of luck of the draw sometimes who happens to be in at that particular time."

AS MENTIONED IN Thursday night's practice report, running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow opened Thursday Night Football with three running plays for a combined 13 yards.

"I'm glad we got to redshirt them this year. We have them for four more years and that's a plus for us," Mastro said of Wicks and Morrow.

Why, specifically?

"What I love about them (Wicks and Morrow) is how physical they are as freshman in the weight room," Mastro said. "That was part of building this program was bringing in players that are more physically capable and those two guys…you can tell (they) are physical specimens that are athletic. I mean they are probably the two best athletes we have back there besides (Teondray) Caldwell."

IN WSU'S LAST three games, Cougar running backs have combined for a total of 169 rushing yards, (31 carries). That's an ugly stat and has a lot of armchair coaches wondering why the Cougs aren't trying to run more. On the other hand, Mastro is happy with his unit's ability to block.

"(They are) the best I have been around in a long time," Mastro said of the blocking. "The thing is, we are at five or six yards a carry with each guy, (actually 4.3, 5.2, 4.7 for Marcus Mason, Laufasa and Caldwell, respectively) but whatever we are asked to do in this offense -- whether it be protect the passer, catch the ball or run the ball…we have to be good at that.

"That's one thing about this offense, it's a skillset. You have to be good at all your skills. Right now, protecting the passer, picking up the blitz and recognizing what's coming at us…they've been really good."

OVERALL, HOW PLEASED is Mastro with his running backs on a scale from 1 to 10 through nine games this season? He says an eight.

Still, he offered what would need to be done in order for him to be get to a 10.

"We need more explosives out of them," Mastro said. "We have had some drops this year. We have had two or three (games) this year I don't like, but you're never going to be perfect. I like their mental approach to the game. I like how they play hard in every game. They've ran physical in every game.

"We just need to get better at those things. This program moves forward and we establish a culture of toughness…it has to be all the time, just not part of the time."

NOTABLE NOTE:
Mason leads the WSU running backs in all-purpose yards and is third on the Cougs in all-purpose yards with 522 hashes. (Rickey Galvin leads with 735 yards, Gabe Marks is second with 721 (all of which are receiving yards)

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