"It's a great feeling," senior safety Deone Bucannon said about going to a bowl. "I just feel honored. I'm blessed to be in this opportunity with my team and having another chance to play with them is truly an honor and a blessing and I'm going to cherish every moment I get."
Those comment were echoed by fifth-year senior center Elliott Bosch.
"I'm proud to be a part of this senior class," he said. "It was a lot of work and it took a long time and honestly, coming in, I didn't think it would take this long to turn it around, but to leave a mark on this university and be a part of this, it's really exciting."
Bosch, a two-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick and one-time walk on, believes guys like Travis Long, who would have been a fifth-year senior this season if not pressed into service as a true freshman, deserve credit for helping get the Cougars to bowl eligibility.
"Way back when, we didn't have any leadership and it was guys like that stepping up and teaching guys how to be leaders that got this thing going. So, it's not just this senior class. There were guys that were here before that are a part of it too."
Long is now with the Philadelphia Eagles, on the team's practice squad.
Leach also attributes much of the program's recent success to previous players and coaches.
"I think it's a cumulative effort from a lot of guys, everybody playing together," Leach said. "The value of focusing on individual effort, individual plays, simultaneously together over an extended period and I think that's where we improved the most. We've got a long ways to go but I think steady improvement of that kind of suggests where you're headed if you do that."
Bosch says he hopes to be remembered as one of the guys who kicked off a long string of bowl success.
"We are starting a legacy of going to a bowl game, but we are starting a legacy of winning bowl games too," Bosch said. "We're not just going out and treating it like a vacation. We have to go down there and win a game."
Added Bucannon, "We've set the standard for future recruits. I feel like as a team we are all on the same page and we are all honored to even have the opportunity to play in this game and it's going to be a first for everyone here.
"It's kind of setting the standard for everyone else that takes a visit here or comes here to let them know what we are all about," the first-team All-Pac-12 selection added. "We are here to win, we are here to play football, and have fun."
Bosch said the extra practices that the bowl game is affording the team is "huge" for the younger players.
"It's X amountt more practices for the young guys to keep developing. It's basically like an extra spring practice and I didn't have that and I wish I did. I think it's big for this program to continue its success."
Athletic director Bill Moos has said in the past that going to bowl games creates self-reinforcing success. To illustrate his point, he notes that a fifth-year senior who has been on bowl teams his previous four seasons has effectively gone through an extra year's worth of development when all the bowl practices are added up.
ONE COMPLICATION TO THIS WEEK'S practices is that they come on top of final exams at WSU. "Well it's a real erratic schedule -- in the end you'd like to have a little more time off this week then we're able to have," Leach said." But the biggest thing, it hasn't been too bad, you just bounce the schedule around and it seems like every day we're practicing at a different time. That's to accommodate their academics which is important."
The Cougars started practice at 4:30 today, while tomorrow's will be at 9 p.m. They're off Thursday and then are back at 8 p.m. Friday, 2:15 on Saturday and 2:15 on Sunday.