Leach confident Cougs bounce back at Rutgers

DURING HIS WEEKLY radio show on Wednesday, Mike Leach sounded confident that his Cougars will bounce back in Week Two. WSU will head to Rutgers today for the Saturday showdown in New Jersey (12:30 p.m., ESPNU). And one thing you can expect from the Cougs, Leach said, is for the team to come out with passion and fight.

Flush it, move on to the next one.

It’s probably a phrase the WSU faithful are tired of hearing, but this has been the case for WSU as they prepare for Rutgers on Saturday.

Leach said he’s been impressed with the way his guys have shown up this week at Rodgers Field in Pullman.

“Practice has been good,” Leach said. “The most unfortunate thing is that (Portland State game) was the worst we’ve played in a year. We didn’t allow ourselves as a team to surface and it starts with me as a coach.

“We have to do better than that. We’ve had some good practices this week, though. We got off the field a few minutes ago (Wednesday night) and we had another good one.”

Leach did spend a good amount of time during his show to look back at some of the specifics that led his team to fall to PSU.

“I think we weren’t really mature,” Leach said. “We came out and played hard early, but we had around 43 plays (45) and we didn’t come away with any points. We had 10 points in that first half and the defense hardly every got out onto the field.

“We went to the locker room and we felt like things were going to go our way in the second half. Defensively, we got complacent because we didn’t play much in the first half. We went out flat and when they started moving, we began to panic. We tried to score 14 points on each play offensively and then our defense went for the big play on every play. Portland State patiently worked their way back into it and won.” br>
Portland State finished Saturday’s contest with 233 rushing yards and only threw the ball 12 times.

ONE POSITIVE LEACH took away from Saturday was the performance of running back Gerard Wicks, who finished with a career-high 63 yards on 14 carries.

“I thought Wicks did a good job,” Leach said. “He ran tough. I thought sometimes we overran holes, but there were some good things there. Early on, I thought we had some plays that could have gone further. We’d be physical at the point of attack, but as they crept down defensively, they moved their safeties and tightened their corners.”

Another player Leach was impressed with was wide receiver Gabe Marks, who saw his first action after redshirting the 2014 campaign. Marks recorded six receptions for 76 yards and one score.

“I thought he continued to get better as the game went on,” Leach said. “He wanted the ball at all times and he was playing hard. I thought Gabe did some inspiring things for us, certainly for at least three quarters.”

LOOKING AHEAD to Rutgers, Leach and his staff know what to expect from the Knights in Piscataway.

“I think they’ll do the same (as last year),” Leach said. “They’re conscience that we’re going to throw the ball, no question about it. Their philosophy is similar to ours from the standpoint that once they select what they want to do, they’re going to polish it as sharply as they can so that they can execute as sharply as they can.

“They’re going to do what they do and come out playing fundamental football. That’s what I respect most about them. I’d be surprised if they came out with new stuff.”

There are number of off-the-field issues surrounding the Scarlet Knights heading into this game. This includes head man Kyle Flood being investigated by the university, and five players recently being dismissed after being arrested. There were also five players suspended for the first half of the Norfolk State game for a violation of team rules. But Leach is focused on other areas.

“I don’t know the details on most of it and most of what I’ve heard is second hand,” Leach said. “If affects their lineup to a degree, but the thing is they have a lot of people back. It affects it subtly.

“Rutgers knew who was playing and who wasn’t playing long before that happened (arrests). In the first half, they played a bunch of guys and then played different ones in the second half. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of those guys who played in the second half.”

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