Leach: D scheme one-dimensional, poor tackles

PULLMAN—The Cougars’ minds are in the right place after the season opening loss, Connor Halliday said on Saturday. The fifth-year senior quarterback the real issues are the tangible things on the field that need improvement. Halliday and others also had a pointed message for some fans who felt the need to vent following the loss. Meanwhile, Mike Leach says the Cougar D needs a more dynamic scheme.

The physical mistakes were obvious on defense for the Cougs on Thursday night, starting with the plethora of missed tackles that allowed Rutgers to pile up the rushing yards. Leach, said the cornerbacks were also inconsistent and that the inexperience at safety showed itself at times.

He also said the defensive scheme wasn’t varied enough.

“I think we were one-dimensional scheme-wise, and I think we missed way too many tackles,” Leach said about the defense.

As far as the tackling went, Leach said that was a matter of poor technique and poor coaching. Linebacker Darryl Monroe had the same sentiment.

“It was pretty sloppy. That’s one of the things I feel like we need to come into and harp on in practice, and just work on our technique,” Monroe said. “It’s not that we can’t tackle. It’s just little things that guys are doing. Pad levels getting too high, hips are too high, dead feet, so we need to practice to work those things out.”

“At the point in time where we are as a team, it’s more physical. I think our mindset is pretty good,” Halliday said during Saturday’s press conference. “I think we’re a pretty positive group, we’re a pretty confident group, and I think everybody stays in the game pretty well.”

The players also aren’t worried about what other people might say, either before or after the game, said receiver Vince Mayle. The don’t feel like they need to prove anything to anyone other than themselves. “We play for ourselves,” Vince Mayle said. “The only thing we’re proving is to ourselves and how much we can get better each day.”

In fact, Halliday said it won’t bother him at all if people tweet at or about him negatively, especially if it’s “a frat boy who says he can’t play quarterback.”

Leach, who criticized the Cougs’ level of desire after the game on Saturday said the Cougars played with a lot of effort and showed some bright spots, taking into account that many players played in their first college football game on Thursday.

“There’s no question we’ve improved,” Leach said. “We’ve got a lot of youth we’ve got to break in, but we’re definitely better. We had a lot of guys play their first game, but they’re going to be good players. Most of them played pretty good for a first game.”

The other question mark heading into Thursday was the inexperienced offensive line, but that part of the team drew praise from both Leach and Halliday. The quarterback said he could not be happier with the O-line, and that center Riley Sorenson snapped the ball well all game. Leach said Sorenson also did well with his line calls, and that the line did a good job keeping the backfield clear for Halliday.

Despite the reliable pass protection from the offensive line, the running game never caught fire and WSU only handed it off to running backs nine times. And so the running game took a big backseat to the passing game as it usually has in the Air Raid over the past two-plus seasons.

Halliday said the lack of running plays wasn’t a result of the passing scheme though. Instead, he said it was because he felt the running game wasn’t successful, so he wasn’t going to go to a play that would not yield positive yardage.

The passing game did carry the team well, especially after a few drives to warm up.

“We were gelling. It was kind of like we were throwing it to ourselves with nobody on us,” Mayle said. “We’ve just got to learn from the mistakes that we had and move forward because the offense, we feel like we did pretty well.”

Even five touchdown passes, one of which went to Mayle, was not enough to match Rutgers’ onslaught against the sloppy WSU defense. Leach said the problem was that the offense gelled too late, and that the defense never gelled at all.

“I think we need to finish the game, and I think we need to be more aggressive and play together better on both offense and defense,” Leach said.

Now, the team shifts its focus to Nevada, and turning things around starts in practice, which will happen later tonight. Leach said the areas for improvement have been well illuminated by the first game.

“Coach Leach is a great coach and, with his will to win, he knows what it takes to win,” Mayle said. “We just need to match his effort on the field.”

Leach said the coaches have still not decided whether to redshirt wide receiver Gabe Marks, who did not make the trip to Seattle with the team.

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