WSU’s success can no longer be denied by even the harshest critics after the Cougs 35-31 victory over Oregon State on Saturday.
And forget the first half. It doesn’t always have to be pretty. Good teams find ways to win games. Period.
The OSU game was a team win, one that required extreme will power and intensity from every Coug to battle through adversity and stick it out to the very last whistle. As there is and always will be, there are areas on this team that need massive improvements. But when all is said and done, wins are the only thing that matters.
Without taking credit away from the boys who rocked those sleek icy white uni’s all so well Saturday night, I want to acknowledge one man who has reached unimaginable milestones as WSU’s head football coach.
Everyone knows Mike Leach for his high-scoring Air Raid offense, but what many don’t talk about are the amount of comeback victories that he’s managed to put together in a truly remarkable fashion.
After trailing Oregon State 21-0 early in the first half, Leach called a time out and addressed his team, as he has many times before in that exact situation.
Some may remember the Cougs 21-0 start at Utah during the 2014 season. Leach called a timeout, just as he did in Corvallis, to hold an entire team meeting right in the middle of the game. Add to that an additional half-time pep talk and the Cougs rallied together to pull off a second half 28-27 comeback road victory over the Utes.
Even back in ’04 during Leach’s Texas Tech tenure, the Red Raiders completed a 70-35 second half win over TCU that began with the Horned Frogs leading 21-0 with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.
And let’s not forget each of WSU’s comeback wins during the 2015 season.
Leach’s consistency is hard to argue with. And whether or not fans like the fact that Leach has a knack for completing comeback wins, they are still wins at the end of the day.
Washington State's comeback win over Oregon State Saturday night was another testament to Leach’s coaching style and the mindset that he has instilled in each of his players throughout the past five years.
Just listen to his players speak during their post game interviews. Every Wazzu player, other than Gabe Marks, will likely tell you that they were either ‘doing their job’ or they weren’t.
It’s so boring, and so simple – but that’s what makes it so powerful.
As a former WSU player, it took me a while to relate with Leach’s coaching slogans and I never quite understood their significance until the team started winning games. All of the sudden, everything that coach Leach had ever said clicked in at once. It all made perfect sense – and it was more than just doing your job.
The mindset of believing and buying in to a singular and universal philosophy is exactly what the Cougs have going for them right now. It's value goes unmatched when compared to any other strength that WSU has on the field.
“Most teams in the country wouldn’t have found a way to win a game like this on the road,” Leach said matter-of-factly during his post game media session following his team's 35-31 comeback victory over Oregon State.
He’s right. Most teams never find a way to win games after trailing by three scores at the half. It doesn’t happen a lot. But it happens quite often when Leach is running the show.
And not to say that the Cougs were incapable of winning games before, but Leach inherited a football program at Washington State that had been out recruited for years and had endured over a decade of losing seasons. Yes, it took some time for the train to get moving, but with the Cougs now bowl eligible for the third time in the last four years under Leach while sitting atop of the Pac-12 North standings with an undefeated conference record, let’s give the man credit where credit is due.
With all that said, there are four regular season games left to be played and winning is more important now than it has ever been this season. Each game matters, and it's make or break for WSU from here on out to complete a legendary year of Cougar football.
How will coach Leach prepare this team through the final stretch of the regular season? How far can they go? What kind of year will this be? What team will show up when it really matters?
Leave it to the pirate himself as he is the lone captain steering this ship of Cougs.