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Mike Leach thinks even with longer games this season, games should go even longer

WASHINGTON STATE'S MIKE LEACH TALKED ABOUT Shalom Luani's importance to his team and the fact he was as surprised as anyone by Luke Falk's performance versus Arizona. Also during the Pac-12 coaches teleconference Tuesday, Cal coach Sonny Dykes offered a preview of his team traveling to Pullman this week. And other than Pac-12 Network's Yogi Roth, CF.C was the only media outlet interested in talking to Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.

With analysis showing that college games are the longest this season in the history of the game, Mike Leach was asked to weigh in on whether or not that's a good thing.

“Probably there’s more commercials. More teams are spreading the ball out and throwing it. That’s a great situation to have because everybody loves football. We televise more of it now than we ever have. Everybody is getting their money’s worth and I couldn’t be happier for the public. Will certainly continue to do my part to see that they get the longest show they possibly can and get the highest level of enjoyment.”

Asked to comment on Luke Falk completing 22 passes in a row against Arizona last Saturday, Leach responded as only Mike Leach could.

“It’s funny. I didn’t notice it at the time. I knew he was completing most of his balls. I figured he’d have kind of a high completion percentage. Over 90 (percent) was higher than I guess I would have thought if you’d have asked me then. We were just kind of moving efficiently. I thought one of the biggest things was that our offensive line played more consistently. I felt like it was the most consistent game our offensive line played. Luke, if he’s got time, is a pretty dangerous guy. We played together well offensively and that was kind of a byproduct of it. We’ve got to see if we can’t continue that.”

Shalom Luani had to sit out the first game of the season. Once Luani got back on the field WSU has played much better defensively. In that Eastern Washington game Wazzu gave up a lot of passing yardage. Is it an oversimplification to say that shows how much he means to your defense?

“I think it’s definitely an oversimplification. I think he’s an important part of our defense, but we played pitiful and soft (against EWU). That game provided a wakeup call and they improved from there.”

Leach then went on to talk about Luani’s progress as a player.

“He improved pretty quickly. In practice he was a very physical, imposing guy. Then in his first two games (last year) he played tentatively and kind of afraid to make a mistake. He had a big hit in the middle of the third game (against Wyoming), then he took off as a player. He elevated from there and as he relaxed he steadily improved.”

Does the WSU head man think Luani will be playing on Sundays next year?

“He’s just got to work hard and be lucky enough to make it there. He’s got a chance, but the biggest thing is you play as hard as you possibly can. If you get a chance to go to that level you play as hard as you can to make the team. I think he’s got a chance. I think he’s talented and has a potential future there.”

Because there are some tickets still available for Saturday night's game with Cal, CF.C asked Leach how much a full house might impact the play of his team. Heck, he even offered justification for fans looking forward to another late start.

“It’s a great atmosphere. I’m sure it will probably end up sold out. The night games have perhaps an even better atmosphere. Part of it is because the tailgate section is fantastic and (fans) enjoy that for longer.”

Cal coach Sonny Dykes described the difference in the Bear offense this season under new OC Jake Spavital?

“It’s not that big of a difference. The biggest difference is maybe a little variation in personnel groupings now than we did in the past. We play with a fullback a little bit more and played some with a tight end a little bit more. The way the offense is communicated is a little different, it goes through our quarterback now. In the past, it went more through the coaches. From an outsiders perspective, I don’t know you’d notice that big a difference. We’re running the ball better. Our offensive line is a little bit better than it was. It’s just older and more physically developed and more mature than it was.”

When CF.C asked Dykes about what he sees as key match-ups with Washington State, he was pretty clear.

“We’ve got to get some stops defensively. We’ve been struggling a little bit. Their offense is executing about as well as you can execute. They’re completing 75 percent of their passes which is really pretty remarkable. (Luke) Falk is playing great and he’s got a great group of receivers. The (running) backs are playing well. The (offensive line) is playing well. We’ve got to figure out a way to disrupt them a little bit and get some stops. Then we’ve got to do a better job executing on offense than we did last week against Washington.”

Arguably two of the best quarterbacks in the country will take the field at Martin Stadium this weekend. Dykes pointed out the similarities between Cal's Davis Webb and Wazzu's Luke Falk.

“I think they’re actually pretty similar. They both have all the good stuff you want a quarterback to have. Both can make all the throws. Both have a strong arm. Both of them can make the touch throws. Both of them are accurate. Both move pretty well in the pocket. Both seem to make good decisions. Luke’s accuracy, timing and ball placement, all those that things that are pretty critical for a quarterback are about as good as you can see. If you’re completing 75 percent of your passes, that’s pretty remarkable. That just doesn’t happen. That’s something that’s very, very, very unusual. He’s making great decisions with the ball. The receivers are running great routes. They’re catching it when he’s throwing it to them and just executing very well. I think (fans) are going to see two of the better quarterbacks in college football and two guys that certainly understand their offense and can execute.”

When most think of Cal football, they think about offense. The Bears have one of the top tacklers in the Pac-12 which is a source of pride for Dykes. He concisely described the importance senior safety Khari Vanderbilt to the Cal defense.

“Khari is the one guy back there at safety that’s been consistent. We’ve had just a rash of injuries, at safety in particular. We’ve lost seven of eight guys. He’s the one (player) on the back end we’ve been able to count on the back end for sure.”

Before the Pac-12 coaches teleconference wrapped for another week, CF.C stepped in to ask 'Zona coach Rich Rodriguez to compare the WSU squad that defeated his 'Cats 69-7 last weekend to Cougs his team faced last season.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re extremely experienced offensively at the skilled positions. They don’t make any mistakes. (WSU’s) quarterback is spot on in everything he’s doing. They’re very active on defense. I thought they were a good football team last year, but this year they’re even better in all three phases. We played awful and it was embarrassing, but they had something to do with that.”

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