Leach says Cougs don't practice how they play

PULLMAN— Consistency remains an elusive theme for the WSU Cougars football team. Mike Leach said on Monday that the Cougars haven't necessarily taken a step back from last year, but he did acknowledge the Cougars have not taken as big of a step forward as he would have liked through the first two games.

Part of the problem is that nobody on the team has won in college football, so the experience of success isn’t really there, he said. Another problem is that the team needs to focus more, and keep its collective eyes locked on internal matters rather than giving into external distractions.

“Right now, we’re a team that practices well, we lift well, we train well. We don’t play very well,” Leach said. “That’s been our biggest problem.”

The coaching staff has taken the blame for the first two losses, and when Leach was asked if that lets the players remain stagnant in their improvement. And Leach said that is a question coaches ask themselves often.

Leach said that nobody is let off the hook, though, and he said that the coaches coach about as well as the players play.

Leach said that there are no great players and bad coaches, or vice versa. Running back Jamal Morrow agreed with Leach’s sentiments.

“We’ve got to take full responsibility for ourselves, too,” Morrow said. “We go out there and play the game. The coaches aren’t really out there playing. When we go out there, we’ve got to take responsibility in doing our jobs.”

The product the players have shown on the practice field has been far better than the one that spectators see on game day, Leach said. He said there have been some strong individual performances, but for the most part, the inconsistency between practice and games have hurt tremendously. The Cougars have some youth on both sides of the ball, but Leach said that the excuses need to stop.

Offensive lineman Joe Dahl said that the youth on the offensive line should not be an excuse anymore, either. Following a disappointing game for them against Nevada, Dahl said the O-line stopped themselves with self-inflicted penalties, and that the offense’s inability to score in the red zone was in turn detrimental to the final drive.

Before the season began, Dahl said the Cougs discussed the fact that inexperience cannot justify poor performance. But in his mind, Riley Sorenson, Eduardo Middleton and Cole Madison have played way better than their inexperience might indicate. Dahl said those three players are a self-motivated group.

Team leadership certainly is in play as well. That’s because, Leach said, the leadership is not yet fully existent.

“We’re still developing team leadership,” Leach said. “We have some guys that are older than others, but I think we’re still developing team leadership. We don’t have one guy or anything like that.”

Veteran linebacker Jeremiah Allison said that players still need to buy in to what the coaches are telling the team. He said he couldn’t speak for everybody when asked who wasn’t buying in, or why that has taken so long to occur.

Allison did say Leach has done a great job of instilling focus in the players, and the linebacker emphasized the same thing that Leach did -- not allowing the positivity from outsiders to effect how the team approaches their preparation. Leach said that the Cougars are at a point where they cannot accept pick-me-ups after tough losses.

Nevertheless, those tough losses remain learning experiences, according to Allison.

“There’s always a storm that you learn from. You can’t have a testimony without a test, so those are just tests to us as a team, and we want to respond to them in a positive way,” Allison said of the 0-2 start to the season.

Allison said the Cougar defense being unable to force any turnovers against Nevada was because they did not will those turnovers to happen. He also said that defensive line coach Joe Salave’a addressed the team after the Nevada game and took some of the blame, too. According to Allison, Salave’a said the team needs to create a mindset and atmosphere focused on success and a tenacious will to win.

In a light-hearted moment, Leach described his experience of making the commercial about organic tomato gel-spheres. He said he didn’t get his line perfect on the first try, and that he had to focus himself on putting his arm and his eyes in the correct place at the right time.

Practice makes perfect in everything, apparently. Cougar fans hope it’s just a matter of time for it to happen on the football field this season.

  • Leach said that the team will try to redshirt wide receiver Gabe Marks if possible. The Cougars have seniors Kristoff Williams and Isiah Myers playing at the Z receiver spot this season, and so the redshirt works better for both Marks and WSU, Leach said.

  • Wide receiver Brett Bartolone is also in a similar situation as Marks, Leach said, in that the staff would also like to redshirt him. Bartolone has been snakebitten by the injury bug since a breakout true freshman campaign in 2012.

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