Leach cocks an eyebrow at Wicks' run

PULLMAN— Special teams coach Eric Russell's dismissal wasn't the only topic of interest and import coming out of Mike Leach's press conference on Monday. Without commenting directly on officiating, (which could lead to a fine) Leach said he thought running back Gerard Wicks clearly crossed the goal line on WSU's last drive.

Leach simply said if a player crosses the line, he should be awarded a touchdown. Replays appeared to indicate the nose of the football had crossed the goal line a split-second before Wicks' knee touched the ground but the officials ruled he was stopped short. The play was never reviewed.

Meanwhile, anyone who contends Connor Halliday's season being a product of the "system" at Washington State is pretty much daft, Leach said in a lengthy dissertation.

“One, I don’t understand what a system quarterback is," Leach said. "Two, anybody that’s not a system quarterback, I don’t know why they need a coach. If it’s just about some quarterback that’s just taking snaps and doing whatever he wants, what’s the coach there for? You don’t need a coach. Three, I can’t think of any quarterback in the entire world, on the high school, college, or even the NFL level, that doesn’t need a coach or some kind of scheme to follow so they get everybody on the same page.”

Leach again declared Halliday the best quarterback in the Pac-12 conference, and he has steadily improved to attain that lofty credential. Leach said the Cougar defense, however, needs a week of improvement after giving up 60 points to California, and that he expects the offense to play well against a Stanford defense that gives up a paltry 107.4 passing yards per game.

Although the offense was fluid under Halliday and wide receiver Vince Mayle against Cal, the special teams unit clearly struggled. Before announcing the dismissal of Russell, Leach said he possibly could become more involved on special teams -- and defense -- in the coming weeks, although he noted he is somewhat involved in them already.

Leach reiterated that he was impressed with what Halliday did on Saturday. Mayle said it felt like a video game on Saturday night, and he was excited just to be a part of it. Mayle added that he had never passed for 734 yards in a video game.

However, Leach said his quarterback can still perform even better.

“I thought he read the field good, but it wasn’t perfect. I thought he threw the ball accurately but not perfect. I thought he really did a good job with the huddle, getting the most out of those guys, but just everything overall. There’s no sense in him being settled or satisfied,” Leach said. “This is all a pursuit of improvement so he needs to continue that.”

After the Cal loss, nose tackle Toni Pole said the defensive coaches stressed the need to play together on all three sides of the ball.

“The message is to do your job, play together, don’t feel like you’re alone on the field because when you feel like you’re alone, you’re letting your other 10 brothers down on the field,” Pole said. “You’re never alone because there are 10 other people out there trying to do their job.”

Offensive lineman Joe Dahl hit upon the same theme, saying the Cougars should have made a few more plays in all three phases of the game, and that would have been enough to earn the win. Now, as they say every week, the game Friday night at Stanford is a must-win.

Pole said the defense was hungry against Cal, but the problem was that they panicked when they came out at halftime. The Cougars led 24-13, but gave up two quick scores. Each team scored 28 points in the third quarter alone.

The defense played on its heels rather than on its toes, Pole said, and now must regroup. He also said more is learned from a loss than a win.

The Cougars have a short week to learn, and Stanford is a physical team that moves the ball well on the ground, averaging 141.8 rushing yards per game. But overplaying the run can be dangerous -- Stanford has run the ball 174 times compared to 150 pass attempts. Pole said facing the Cardinal offensive line is a new challenge. But he said the Cougs are plenty capable of stopping the Cardinal and getting a badly needed victory.


Cougfan Top Stories