Although the correct call may have been to kneel on the football for the last two minutes, the right play for this team would have been to stay aggressive. They threw three straight passes prior to trying to run the football because Mike Leach wanted first downs. They should have kept passing the ball because that is what this team is good at. The screen and quick passing game in the Air Raid is an extension of running the ball anyway.
Throwing in that situation clearly defies convention, but that is the definition of Mike Leach. And I would have much rather seen Washington State lose that game by staying true to what they are, on offense and defense, instead of clamming up and playing it safe.
CF.C'S MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK WITH WINNIPEG IN 2011.
WSU literally let Garrett Grayson play catch for 72 yards all the way to the end zone. As aggressive as the unit had been up to that point, they all of a sudden became incredibly passive. The secondary simply dropped to spots in zone coverage but never actually covered anyone, while the front four got no pressure on Grayson. The Cougar defense was at its best during the year when they were attacking. They do not have good enough athletes to simply line up and play base fronts and coverage.
By getting conservative, defensive coordinator Mike Breske let the foot off the gas and allowed Colorado State back in the game.
This same mentality came back to haunt the Cougar offense as well. After scoring 35 points in the first half, Connor Halliday and Co. went cold for much of the third and fourth quarter. Then at the end of the game, with everything on the line, Mike Leach decided to play it safe.
JUST TO BE clear, I believe the right call would have been to run as much time off the clock as possible pre-snap and then kneel on the ball. That's about as conservative as it gets. The problem is that is not Washington State's way under Leach. The Cougs were caught somewhere in between its normally aggressive nature and the correct call of taking a knee.
Leach still wanted first downs, but he didn't want to throw the ball. This is why Halliday had the freedom to pull it on a zone-read or snap the ball without running any time off. The offense was still operating like they would in any other situation, but with more conservative play calls.
I LOVE THE mindset that Leach and the Air Raid offense bring to Washington State. It will be the reason that the Cougars will be competitive in the Pac-12. Just like at Texas Tech, the Air Raid allows a school like WSU, one that hasn't historically recruited as many top level athletes as the USCs and UCLAs of the world, to play with and beat better teams.
However, you are also going to always have the same problems when it comes to short yardage or end of game situations because running the ball is not a strength. This is the trade-off you make with Mike Leach and the Air Raid.