Dennis Erickson dishes on Cougs, Apple Cup

PULLMAN — Shortly after one of his old teams turned the proverbial corner on his newest, nomadic Dennis Erickson didn't feel much like talking Saturday. But the first-year Utah co-offensive coordinator warmed up long enough to share some insights about the Cougars, and offered a succinct answer to a vexing question: What will it take to sustain football success at Washington State?

"Keep the coach around and keep his assistants around," Erickson told in an exclusive interview inside the Bohler Complex when asked how WSU can break the peaks-and-valleys trend line.

"Make sure they take care of him and pay him and do the things they need to do to keep him. When you keep a staff together and you keep a head coach like that around, and with the new facilities that (Bill) Moos and them have built ... it's a total change," he said. "To me, the environment is totally different now and that's the key."

The Cougars' 49-37 win over Utah on Saturday elevates them to 6-5 and into bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2006. An actual bid would be the first for the program since 2003.

And you can't understate the importance of that achievement for a rebuilding program, said Erickson, who guided his second and last Cougar team to victory in the 1988 Aloha Bowl before he moved to Miami.

"It's huge for this program. It's awesome," he said. "Other than them beating us, I'm happy for the program. It gets you jumpstarted ya know? People see you on TV and they know you're winning and recruiting becomes a little easier. You've got the new facilities like I'm talking about so…pretty good."

Erickson said "Washington State is one of my favorite places" and he always enjoys coming back to the Palouse, but Saturday's proceedings won't get a page in the memory book.

"Leach has done a great job and they moved the ball up and down the field," Erickson said. "We had a chance. We dropped a couple, and a couple picks at the beginning of the game, but they are a good team and they deserve to go to a bowl game. I know it's going to be fun and one of their goals.

"He has done a wonderful job. He knows what he wants to do. He has done it. He did it at Texas Tech and he has a plan. He's going to stay with the plan regardless of what people may think at times and that's the only way to do it. He has hung in there and did it and done a great job…really done a great job."

Here's what else Erickson had to say:

CF.C: When you were preparing to play the Cougs, what particular individuals on defense stood out to you?

Erickson: Well (Deone) Bucannon is one of the best players in our league and (Toni) Pole at defensive tackle. We kind of felt like we knew what they were going to do. They probably blitzed us a little bit more than we anticipated. They did a good job on defense. We moved the ball a little…it was a good effort by them in all aspects of it. The kicking game included."

CF.C: How do the Cougs stack up against the other Pac-12 teams you have played?

Erickson: It's such a close conference. Shoot, Arizona beat the heck out of Oregon from what somebody told me. It's just even. Tell me who the best is, I don't even know. Washington State has won four games in the league and have a chance to win their fifth. They have a lot of young players it seems like. I think it all kind of depends on where we play, so I think for the most part we are all fairly equal.

CF.C: When you're not playing the Cougs, would you consider yourself a Coug fan?

Erickson: Oh yeah, always, other than when I am playing them. I've been playing them too much.

CF.C: Who ya got in the Apple Cup coach?
Erickson: I can't say it publicly, but you know, right?


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