Cougar head man Mike Leach on placekicker Erik Powell? Just go out and kick

WHAT’S UP WITH Washington State junior Erik Powell? That’s the question many Cougar fans have had this season for the Cougs' usual reliable placekicker. He’s yet to make a field goal this season and badly missed a few. So, what message did Mike Leach have for Powell during his radio show on Thursday night?

Last season, Powell had a golden boot. He went 20-of-26, with a season-high of 47 yards. But fast forward to 2016. Powell has a goose egg on the board, going 0-5 in his attempts.  WSU is the only FBS team in the land yet to make a kick.

The Vancouver product is a perfect 31-for-31 on his PATs, but nothing yet with his FGs. During his radio show on Thursday night, Leach was asked by host Matt Chazanow how Powell can get out of this slump.

It’s an easy fix, Leach said.

“He just needs to go out and kick it like it’s an extra point,” Leach said, echoing what special teams coach Eric Mele told CF.C earlier this week. “If he just 'one-steps' the ball, it goes 50 yards and high. From that standpoint, until you get past 50 yards, there’s really nothing different. In his case, there’s no difference between a field goal and an extra point. He’s just got to go out there and focus.”

Powell has gone 0-for-5 in all five of WSU’s games this season. This included a 'not-close' miss in the tough 31-28 loss at Boise State on Sept. 10. Powell also missed a field goal in the Cougs' season opener against EWU, another 3-point loss.

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Despite Powell’s struggles, WSU is riding a three-game winning streak, with it’s most recent victory coming at then-No. 15 Stanford. The week prior, Oregon was the victim of the Air Raid offense putting up big numbers. But it’s been the D that has impressed the staff, Leach said.

“They’re both incredibly quality teams,” Leach said of the Ducks and Cardinal. “They’re the two teams that have won the conference championship the last seven years. I was really proud of our defense in both games. If Stanford didn’t score late, they (defense) really didn’t give up a touchdown.

“They scored 16 points, but one score came from a pick-six we threw and they had a field goal. Our defense almost didn’t give up a touchdown. I wish we would have hung onto that, but we were physical. I thought our d-line did some good things and were disruptive.”

Next up for the Cougs is a meeting in Pullman on Saturday night (7:30, ESPN) against UCLA for WSU’s homecoming. Bruins QB Josh Rosen is questionable for the contest due to an injury. If he can’t go, Mike Fafaul will get the nod.

“I don’t know if he’ll (Rosen) play, but I assume they’ll play someone back there,” Leach said in his usual fashion. “They try to do the same stuff. Rosen is a talented guy and Fafaul is good too.

“Their running backs are good and big. They have size at that position and it’s always challenging. They always have good running backs.”

Here are more notes from Thursday’s show:

• What kind of problems can UCLA’s defense provide WSU?

“They’re physical and fast,” Leach said. “I feel like Oregon is the fastest in the league and Stanford is the toughest. These guys are a combination of both. They are physical and the secondary can fly around. They were challenging last year and most of them are back.” 

• New outside receivers coach Dave Nichol has been Leach’s eyes in the booth, dissecting defenses during games. How has he done?

“He does a good job,” Leach said. “He’s clear cut and specific. Heck, I’ve had a new (eye in the sky) each year. Of course, I coached with him for a long time. The biggest thing in that position is you need someone who doesn’t panic. When all hell is breaking loose, you need someone who is calm. That’s 75 percent of it, I think.

“One thing that helps is he used to be the offensive coordinator at East Carolina. You want a guy who can see stuff and bounce around the script. You need a combo of attack mode and conservative mode. I’m typically in attack mode.”

Jamal Morrow has been in charge of WSU's coin toss duties. He's got the trust of the staff for good reason. Morrow was on the student PIR show back when he was in high school.

“He’s a lucky guy,” Leach said. “He was on the Price is Right and I think he was over by three bucks and another lady was over by 60. He went slightly over. He didn’t win a new car or anything. He was excited when they introduced him. He’s good at that sort of thing. He had glasses on and threw his hands up. It was theatrical. We showed it to the team and it was hilarious. I think they should have him back if you think about it. First, he came closest. Second, he knows the prices apparently. He must do a lot of shopping. And, he did a good job on stage. It was fun to watch.” 

• Leach had good things to say about freshmen WR Isaiah Johnson-Mack  and safety Jalen Thompson.

“He’s improved a lot,” Leach said of Johnson-Mack. “He’s a pretty physical guy, more than he knows. He’s just a true freshman, so he’s playing pretty well considering that. 

“Jalen is playing really well. He’s explosive and steadily getting better. He’s quiet, but intense in that he always plays really hard.”

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