Wazzu d-line coach has Spokane Cougs ready to strap on a helmet themselves

SPOKANE -- WSU assistant coach Joe Salave’a told Monday’s Spokane Cougar Club luncheon he’s keeping things simple this week on the defensive line. But Salave’a arrived armed with a package of highlights from the Cougars’ win Saturday over Arizona, and his breakdown was anything but simplistic.

“That was a good win,” Salave'a said. “We showed some resilience, and I think that’s all you can ask for from a team.”
He broke down the clip of Gabe Marks scoring on a screen pass, demonstrating just how good the downfield blocking by the Cougars’ offensive line was this past Saturday.
And of course he showed a package featuring the team’s d-line’s solid effort against the Wildcats, with Darryl Paulo, Destiny VaeaoDaniel Ekuale and Hercules Mata'afa all having their moments. That led into a discussion on the Polynesian pipeline the Cougars have built between WSU and American Samoa, Salave’a’s birthplace, and the surrounding islands during Mike Leach's tenure in Pullman.
Salave’a makes at least one trip home every year when the recruiting calendar allows to talk face-to-face with potential recruits and their families.
The Pac-12 Network put up a graphic earlier this year showing WSU has 15 players of Polynesian ancestry, second in the conference -- a big part of his recruiting success there, Salave’a said, comes from the fact that he never over-promises.  The competition level and facilities are far behind the ‘States, and WSU only offers scholarships to recruits whom Leach and the staff are very confident can come to Pullman and be successful at the Pac-12 level.
And he also gets some help from his better half.
“The players, they don’t always come to talk to me when they have problems,” he joked,  “but they do come over to the house and my wife makes some BIG dinners. The problem is that now EVERYONE wants to come over!”
The Cougar d-line faces a major test against a Stanford offense that has ground down Pac-12 defenses, and then pummeled them late in the game. The Cardinal was averaging a whopping 48.5 points per game until Washington slowed them Saturday where the outcome was still never in doubt, 31-14.
“I know David Shaw pretty well,” said the WSU assistant with a Super Bowl ring from his days playing in Washington. “I played against him. This is going to be an old-fashioned NFC East game. You’ve just got to line your guys up and just get after it.”
It’s a heady time for a Washington State football team enjoying its first three-game Pac-12 winning streak since 2003. Salave’a said the Cougs are staying grounded.
“The word this week is opportunity,” he said. “The opportunity to go out and compete with the program that Shaw has (had success with) and (Jim) Harbaugh before him. And the beauty of it all is that we have some evidence of us having some success against them.”
Last year Washington State was within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter before Stanford scored the last 10 points to win 34-17.
“Games like this?” Salave’a asked rhetorically. “This is why you came here. This is why you want to play here.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock inside a cave with no Wi-Fi, Stanford is coming to Martin on Saturday with ESPN and its national television audience on hand for the 7:30 p.m. tilt on Halloween night.
Meanwhile, Salave’a knows more than a little about what it’s like to play a big, in-season game in Martin – and it took just one question into the Q&A session for him to be reminded from the Spokane crowd.
“I was watching an old game on the Pac-12 Network and it was Arizona and Washington State,” a Cougar Club regular said. “There was this big Samoan guy limping off the field in that game. Do you know who that was?”
Salave’a smiled.
“Yeah, coming to Pullman for a November game was never one of our favorite things,” he said. “We’re trying to get our guys to play the way some of those Washington State defensive lines played. Those were some very aggressive guys.
“We’re getting there. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”
Salave’a was asked about the Cougars recent second half letdown tendencies when playing with a lead, something Mike Leach has expressed his displeasure with the past two weeks.
“We just have to maintain our focus,” Salave’a said. “We have guys forgetting the play and boom, there’s a guy wide-open in the end zone. You can’t do that in the Pac-12.”

It’s a plus that Leach’s tone never changes, Salave’a said.
“We’ve been telling them that starting way back in the spring,” he said. “They hear that every day from me, every day from our staff – that they can be great. We went into places like Rutgers not even second-guessing ourselves.”
Salave’a was asked to relay a message from Spokane Cougar football fans – that the fan base believes in the team and fully believes it is capable of beating Stanford Saturday. The coach was grateful for the words of encouragement, but said that message is being delivered every day.
“Belief comes when you have some success. It comes through repetition. And success comes from staying true to your motto, to what you believe in,” said Salave’a.

Cougfan Top Stories