WSU's Mike Leach likes RB's fighting for reps; Stanford injury concerns "likely" continue Saturday, says Shaw

STANFORD COACH David Shaw and Washington State's Mike Leach expressed mutual respect during the weekly Pac-12 coaches conference call Tuesday. Shaw went out of his way to compliment one aspect of Leach's ability to coach.

David Shaw began his media session by stating that cornerbacks Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks, and senior wide reciever Francis Owusu are "likely out" for Saturday's Pac-12 matchup down on The Farm in Palo Alto (ESPN, 7:30). All three are starters.

Shaw was then asked what the biggest difference in WSU offense this year?

“In particular taking the last game into account, running the ball with very good efficiency. Along with their passing attack, it’s very tough to stop. “

When asked, “How have your players rebounded from last Friday’s game (a loss to Washington)?” Shaw took a page out of Mike Leach's media playbook.

“Very well.”

What can your team take away from the Husky loss?

“If we want to win a very competitive Pac-12 game, we have to play better. We have to play better up front on both sides of the ball - offensive line, defensive line. We have to make more plays with the ball in our hands as runners and receivers. We’ve got to do a better job pressuring the quarterback and play better in coverage. It’s pretty much everything we didn’t do last week we have to do if we want a chance to win games.”

Looking at tape, where do you see improvement in Luke Falk's game?

“I think there’s just been an evolution. (Rather), it’s been kind of a growth process with he and Mike Leach in this offense where I think they both know each other extremely well. They’ve been able to tweak things, add things. I think Mike is as good as an in-game caller as we have as far as being able to adjust to you in-game. Tag different routes, change different concepts, his quarterbacks pick that up very quickly in his system that is very adjustable, not just week-to-week but within the game. They take advantage of the things you try to do to stop them. It’s very impressive.”

Would you attribute WSU’s success with their running attack the last two games to in-game adjustments?

“I think they’re just very smart football coaches. If you do everything you can to stop the passing game, which it’s hard not to fall into that trap, then they’ll hurt you with the run. If you just want to play with two high safeties and a very vanilla off coverage they will gash you with the run. They’ve got good running backs. You have to defend both the run and the pass. That just makes it very, very difficult - especially when they can be very good and very explosive in both.”

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Wazzu coach Leach started his time fielding questions by reponding to the way his running game has progressed and has that allowed him to add more stuff to his offense than they had last year?

“I wouldn’t say more as much as better at some things and a lot more depth. I think the most important thing is that it’s made the position more competitive. Those guys have to fight for reps and make the most out of each one they get.”

Do you expect Stanford to respect your running game more this year after coming off back-to-back 200-plus yard rushing performances?

“I don’t know. Stanford kind of tends to (play) their defense. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles. They’re not really fancy. They just go out and do what they do. I expect some element of that. I don’t think they’ll have a huge adjustment in their game plan.”

What do you want to build on from the last two wins?

“We have to stay focused and compete with ourselves and get better every day.  We don’t have any time to be complacent on anything. We have a lot of stuff we need to improve on to get better.”

How would you describe the progress of your defensive line this year?

“We’re a work in progress. We gotten a little better but we have to be quicker in anything we do.”

Erik Powell has been struggling a little bit. Has the competition for place kicker opened up?

“He’s been striking the ball good. He does a lot of good things. (The position) is definitely open, there’s no question the competition is open. With regard to the whole operation of the field goal, we’ve got to be consistent at it and we’ve got to start being successful with it.”

Is he still your best option at place kicker?

“He hits the ball best and he has hit all his extra points. He’s kicked off pretty good."

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