WSU’s Leach in Spokane: Art of the scramble, film breakdown of Idaho win, James Bond and Cuba

SPOKANE -- Clip a microphone to Mike Leach and settle in: the conversation is going to cover a lot of ground. Monday’s Cougar Club Luncheon in Spokane saw Leach, naturally, talk about Washington State’s 56-6 drubbing of Idaho. But one of the more interesting parts was when Leach talked about what happens when a play breaks down - and the WSU quarterback has to scramble.

Leach broke down several video plays from the win over Idaho, and also shared his thoughts on the Cougars’ loss at Boise State. And because Leach is Leach, he also talked about his experience with the painting style of Jackson Pollock (“It turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.”) and his trip to Cuba.

One subject Leach did not broach was the hullabaloo surrounding recent player arrests by Pullman police, a story that has drawn national attention including an ESPN Outside The Lines segment featuring CF.C’s Skyler Cracraft.(Click here and scroll to about the 6:10 mark).

With his assistant coaches on the road recruiting Monday and Tuesday during the team’s bye week, Leach talked about how the Cougars put together a solid stretch, but not a complete game, against the Vandals in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams.

“I think we were there for about one-third of the game,” he said. “In my vast experience it’s very difficult to be there for an entire game. And when you’re there, it can very easily snowball on an opponent.”

Leach opened his highlight package with Robert Barber’s blocked field goal that Marcellus Pippins turned into a touchdown. The isolated film showed Barber outmuscling Idaho’s left guard to get into position to block the kick.

“If you look close you’ll see Hercules Mata’afa right behind Barber, pushing him,” Leach said. “Now, Barber doesn’t need A LOT of help.”

Leach took pleasure in breaking down a Luke Falk scramble that ended with a 50-yard completion to Kyle Sweet inside the Idaho 5-yard line.

Asked if the reactions by his receivers during a scrambling play are scripted, Leach launched into a detailed description of how Cougars receivers break off their pass routes when they recognize the QB scramble. They then run toward one of two landmarks: the post or the corner.

“I think most teams look at it the same way,” Leach said. “I’ll tell you how we do it – you can go ahead and tell the people I don’t like if you want to (there’s a long list). In my experience, even if they know what you’re doing, they still can’t cover it.”

Leach singled out a pair of plays by Cougar running backs. The start, Leach pointed to walk on Alijah Lee’s first career touchdown.

Lee was hit in the Washington State backfield, but kept his feet churning and turned the loss into a score.

“We talk a lot about ‘running your feet on contact,’” Leach explained. “Walter Payton used to say ‘If you’re going to die, die hard.’ In other words, never go down easy. This is an example of Alijah Lee not going down easy.

“This should have been a five-yard loss, but he wasn’t having any of that and he kept running his feet and turned it into a touchdown.”

The second RB play was the red zone run by James Williams where it took five different Vandal tacklers to bring him down.

Leach stopped the film and counted each would-be tackler.

“If it takes five guys to bring down Williams and if our other 10 guys can do a decent job on their other six guys, we’re going to do pretty well,” he said.

Leach also keyed on a sack by Cougar MIKE linebacker Peyton Pelluer.

“This is a blitz,” he said. “If we’re going to send you on a blitz, if we’re going to sacrifice you (in coverage) and send you on a blitz, you have to get there. This is a good job by Pelluer of getting there.”

Leach talked at length about player’s responsibilities on the field – quoting from the iconic Walt Kelly comic strip: Pogo. (“We have met the enemy – and he is us.”) and the Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot” (“Aim small; miss small.”)

Leach explained that each player has his own responsibility on each play. The big problem with the way the Cougars played at Boise State, he said, was too many players tried to take it upon themselves to handle the exceptions to those responsibilities.

“In my experience there is, maybe, one exception that happens in a game and you just accept that and concentrate on doing your job,” he said. “We had too many guys out there, running around thinking they had to play for the exception.”

Leach then took it a step further.

“How do you think guys like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice got to be so good?” he asked. “It’s not that they were exceptional. They just got very good at making routine plays. They got better at making those plays than everybody else.”

Leach ended his luncheon talk with a lengthy discourse on what it’s like to fly into Cuba.

“You end up in this big warehouse-like place that feels a lot like a James Bond movie,” he explained.

A James Bond movie?  His point was that the Cuban women who process you into the country wear government issued khakis with high heels and fishnet stockings.

“Fishnet stockings!” he repeated.

He concluded by speculating about what he would do if he became dictator of that small island country.

“You can’t drink the water,” Leach said. “Everyone in Cuba drinks bottled water. They say it’s because of the pipes – they’re corroded and out comes bad stuff into the water. If I were running that country, the first thing I’d do would be to replace those pipes because there’s water everywhere.”

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