WSU coach not offering any rivalry fodder

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Mike Leach did not veer from his general talking points during rivalry week. Leach did not provide the Huskies with any motivational material during his Monday afternoon teleconference as his team prepares for their regular-season finale at 12:30 p.m. Friday. He also gave his thoughts on UW, playing at the renovated Husky Stadium and much more.

The Huskies (7-4 overall, 4-4 Pac-12) are coming off a 69-27 win Saturday at Oregon State, but Leach said they do not look much different than the team WSU defeated 31-28 in overtime last year.

"I think they're similar," Leach said. "I thought they were a really good team a year ago."

The Cougars (6-5, 4-4) and UW enter the Apple Cup with winning records for the first time since 2002. In addition to in-state bragging rights, both teams also are trying to improve their bowl prospects. Leach declined to discuss any postseason implications the game could have, though.

"We don't get to play any other games this week," he said. "We get to play this game."

No one seems quite sure which quarterback WSU will play against. After senior Keith Price sustained a shoulder injury Nov. 15 at UCLA, redshirt freshman Cyler Miles started against the Beavers. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Leach said not knowing which signal-caller will start won't affect his team's preparation.

"They run similar stuff," he said. "They're both quality guys."

The larger concern for the Cougars could be containing junior running back Bishop Sankey, who rushed for 179 yards at OSU. Sankey has 1,575 yards and 17 touchdowns on 272 carries this season. Leach thinks that could be a more difficult task than the one his team faced Nov. 16 at Arizona when Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

"He's a quicker guy [than Carey] and then Washington's got a few more players than Arizona," Leach said. "I like Sankey a lot."

While Sankey might be the Huskies' best player, Leach has they feature plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.

"They're steady in all phases," he said. "There's not one thing that jumps out at you. The biggest thing you see with Washington is there are no real weaknesses."

THE OTHER CHALLENGE comes with playing at Husky Stadium, where UW is 5-1 this year.

"I'm sure it's going to be a great environment," said Leach, whose team has a 3-1 record in conference road games. "They built a great stadium there."

Leach reiterated that his team will need to remain disciplined and focused to be successful. He said they have done a better job in that regard recently.

"We're a young team and I think we've gotten better," Leach said. "We're bound to improve. We've got a bunch of young guys out there."

That is similar to last year when the Cougars overcame an 18-point deficit for the largest come-from-behind win in series history.

"I think it accelerated our offseason," Leach said. "I think it started to reveal the potential our team had."

But he believes WSU still can improve in that regard.

"I don't think we've fully realized that point," Leach said. "There's more we can do with those things."

• Leach was mum on whether senior Mike Bowlin or junior Wes Concepcion will punt at UW. Bowlin was replaced by Concepcion during Saturday's 49-37 win against Utah after he averaged just 31.5 yards on two punts. Concepcion's lone punt traveled 42 yards.

"You go out and compete for your position every day," Leach said. "Guys will have their ups and downs."

• Sophomore Gabe Marks has caught just two passes during the last two games, but Leach said he does not see a noticeable difference in his play from earlier this season. Leach said junior Isiah Myers, who caught seven passes for 83 yards against the Utes, has "played really well."

• Leach and UW coach Steve Sarkisian both graduated from Brigham Young, albeit more than a decade apart. He called Sarkisian, who graduated from BYU in 1997, one of the program's most underrated quarterbacks.

"He was a really good player," Leach said. "I don't have him as fast, but he has really good feet. Sarkisian threw it pretty well on the move."

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