FROM PROVO, UTAH — Players and coaches made their way out of the visiting locker room at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday night, bags of Chick-fil-A in tow, family members awaiting conversation.
Two younger fans wore Texas Tech jerseys. A reminder of days better than the 30-6 shellacking Mike Leach's Washington State team absorbed against BYU here tonight.
The first game of the Leach era came and went without much offensive gusto. And without a touchdown, for the first time in a WSU season opener since 1971.
“We definitely squandered too many plays,” Leach said after the clock had struck midnight in the Mountain time zone.
“We vascillated between playing frantic and overly conscientious where we’re trying to not make a mistake. At some point we’ve got to get the happy medium where each play’s separate and you’ve just got to do your job on each play.”
That was a common refrain from the Cougars after they allowed 294 first-half offensive yards, gained just 224 the entire game and fell victim to the same issues that plagued each of Paul Wulff's teams.
The tackling wasn't outstanding, though WSU's defense did hold BYU to just six points in the second half and made stops in the red zone. The special-teams, outside of Teondray Caldwell's 63-yard kickoff return, left much to be desired. There was a blocked punt, as well as some questionable decision-making on kickoffs into the end zone.
This game just didn't feel right, and Leach and players confirmed that afterward (though due to time and deadline constraints, we were only able to speak with Jeff Tuel and Wade Jacobson). Leach did say, however, that he never considered replacing Tuel with Connor Halliday.
“We all knew what to do. We’ve practiced it 100 times,” Jacobson said. “It just felt like everyone was doing their own thing out there … playing too passively. We weren’t playing tough football like we were supposed to.”
It didn't help, Leach said, that WSU's two biggest plays — a catch by Marquess Wilson in the end zone that was called back for a holding penalty, and a long pass down the sidelines that was also negated by a flag — were wiped out.
That was indicative of the entire night. Tuel would scramble, find an open receiver and pick up a first down. Then …
“We squandered too many plays,” Leach said. “We’d get a play or two going that was pretty good and then we’d squander two more and never really got into a rhtythm.”
“Inconsistent at times,” is how Tuel described his play, and that of the offense. “I can definitely play better. Just leave it at that.”
And when adversity struck — and struck, and struck — the Cougars didn't handle it very well.
“We’ve got to be a mentally tougher team,” Leach said. “When something happens we can’t have all these bassett-hound looking faces on the sidelines.”
There will be plenty in Pullman tonight.