Utah win tickles Mike Leach's funny bone

PULLMAN— There's nothing like a win to brighten a coach's mood. Mike Leach delivered a comedy routine along with his usual answers about football at Monday’s press conference. Beyond the win against Utah and the upcoming matchup vs. California, Leach said River Cracraft has succeeded because he hasn’t allowed distractions in. He added a prediction about what technology will lead to in the future.

And that would be human extinction.

According to Leach, Cracraft hasn’t been sidetracked by some of the things that can distract college students, like wondering where he will get his hair cut, struggling to wake up for English class without his mom there, and hoping the hot girl in that English class doesn’t hate him.

The Cougar head coach said he doesn’t do well with technology, and he leaves that up to the younger people in the world.

Leach delivered another comedic monologue after being asked if he could impersonate John Cusack, who Leach said that people have said he resembles, in “Say Anything” when Cusack holds up the boombox outside a woman’s window. He hypothesized that conversations would cease to exist in the future, and instead, a guy would have to ask a girl out on a date via text, but it wouldn’t matter where that date is because the two will be staring into the technological box in their hands.

"In the end, it's going to tough to perpetuate the species. There's no question about that. So we're all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That's how it ends," said Leach.

But back to football. Gunnar Eklund said the comeback against Utah was the first time in his playing career at WSU that the team truly believed in themselves enough to win after falling behind by so many points. The Cougar players at the press conference emphasized that the scoreboard during the game is irrelevant to them, and also the importance of going from one play to the next. Falling behind 21-0 wasn’t enough to shake the Cougars’ focus on making one play at a time, especially after Leach called the timeout in the first quarter to gather everyone together and stop the bleeding.

Jeremiah Allison said that everyone had their minds narrowed on the next play until the clock hit zero. When time did expire and the scoreboard showed the Cougars were on top, it was then that Allison was able to reflect on the accomplishment. Eklund said the Utah game was a good example of focusing on one play and then the next, but it wasn’t the best example of it, either.

“Nothing’s ever going to be perfect. There’s times, I’m sure, people were a little bit down on the pick six or the punt return or the long run for 21-0, but it was a pretty good example,” Eklund said. “Perfect? I don’t know. We fought back, and it felt really good, honestly, it felt really good, but it’s over and now we have a game this week to look forward to.”

After the game, Allison said the team’s strength and conditioning coach told them that the Oregon game was a step forward but the Utah game molded the players into men.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking after the game. We grew up as men, we took that step, we gelled, and we grew up as men that night,” Allison said.

Despite two consecutive strong performances, Eklund said the team cannot rest on its laurels. The team cannot be satisfied with a few good games, he said, but the team is also steadily improving like it should.

The goal this week is the same as last week, Eklund said. The Cougars were 1-0 against Utah, and now they want to be 1-0 this week against California, he said.

Leach said practice needs to see steady improvement as well, and he is perplexed by the fact that he gets questions often about whether the team will practice harder for an opponent with an impressive stats sheet or record. Leach said that there is no “extra hard” level of practicing -- if the players are doing their job and giving their best in practice. They are already practicing to their fullest, he said.

“Basically we’re taking it one week at a time, one practice at a time, and it all starts in practice,” Allison said. “Practice should be the hardest, and when the game comes, it should be fluent.”

As for the younger players on the team who have less experience, they are following the trajectory of improving, Leach said. In the case of Sulaiman Hameed and Allison, that steady improvement has led to starting roles.

“We’ve had some musical chairs just because guys have emerged and they’re younger, but we haven’t been able to see and evaluate what they can do because they haven’t been on the field yet, and this is their first time,” Leach said. “Some of them have stage fright but most of them are coming out of that. As a result, they improve.”

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