FROM PULLMAN — It was another cold one on the Palouse, with the WSU football team practicing for about an hour before playing a little dodgeball to finish things off. But Mike Leach did address the school's investigation into Marquess Wilson's statement, so read on.
Predictably, Leach said he's “not concerned” about president Elson Floyd's announcement this morning that the athletic department and Pac-12, independently, will review Wilson's abuse claims.
“Not concerned. I’m not concerned at all,” Leach said. “We’re not worried about Marquess. We’re worried about the guys that are here and we’re going to leave it at that.”
He continued: “I’m not concerned about it either way. I’m just going to eliminate it as a distraction. Again, the most important thing I have is the guys that are here, so I need to focus on them.”
So there you go.
As for practice, WSU worked out for about an hour. Jeff Tuel, who left Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury, went through practice without any limitiations. Leach said he didn't know if Tuel would be WSU's starter at quarterback this week.
Defensive lineman Destiny Vaeao had his right arm in a sling and rode the exercise bike during practice. So did cornerback Anthony Carpenter, whose injury was not apparent. Isiah Myers still isn't participating fully.
When it was over, the Cougars broke into four teams and played dodgeball again, the same way they did during their bye week. The defense seemed to fare better than the offense.
Afterward, we spoke with special teams coordinator Eric Russell about Saturday's first-half struggles. Here's what he had to say:
(What happened on the blocked field goals?) “Fundamentally poor technique. UCLA didn’t do anything we hadn’t seen or practiced. Maybe they did it a little bit quicker but the first one, our right guard just falls down, they slant, we knew they were going to slant the A-gap player, talked all week about balance because they were going to try to slant and try to swim and he fell and they got 2 on 1 on the tackle. Then on the second one they decided to go to the other side and same thing. It was the tackle that fell down that time and it’s unfortunate, it’s embarrassing but it just shows you can’t ever take your fundamentals for granted, and studying and knowing your opponent, because … these guys are a little more athletic, slanting, moving, swimming, moving targets. But we watched it all week and tried to prepare for it the best we can and just understanding things.”
(And the punts?) “I didn’t notice it until after the game because all I was doing the first half was looking up at the scoreboard seeing how many points we could attribute to special teams disasters and I didn’t realize they didn’t score after any of the punt disasters, but yeah, they rushed one guy. It’s a 6-man box. We’ve got eight to block six. Again, fundamentals, poor eye control, poor pad level, a guy just gave him a little head fake and there we go. We were a little slow on the operation. The second one just a pure bad snap, first one of the year, which you would think with our guys being here and growing up in this area, that UCLA’s specialists would have had the issues in the cold but it was obvious that we did. Bad snap and we didn’t field it cleanly and bad deal. Bad night.”
(Has Mike Bowlin reestablished himself at punter?) “Mike had, based on the week he had at Utah, they competed that week, they had equal amount of reps, split time with the ones and the twos and Mike won it, and then came out and had a good week against Utah and actually punted the ball like a punter. It’s a shame, the punts we did get off we covered well. But you can’t overcome those disasters. I’ve never been through anything like it. It’s a reflection of me as a coach and I’ll share as much if not more blame than these guys and we’ve got to get it fixed this week. Arizona State, they’re going to be aggressive on the punt rush and obviously we’ve been exposed a little bit and they need to bounce back like they did going into the week at Utah, where we really challenged them, because I think Utah’s a very good special teams unit, especially the punt rush unit. And they responded. It was a pretty quiet room in there. I think some guys were embarrassed, along with myself. So we’ll see. It was sad when both the other sides of the ball did some things to give us chances and this was really the first time it was a total meltdown for a half on special teams.”
(What did you tell them at halftime?) “… I just pulled up the team and I apologized to them. I told them I have obviously somehow failed through this week to get them to play. That’s all it was. It wasn’t a yell and scream session. It was, 'all right guys, I’m going to take the brunt of this because obviously all those issues, it’s going to come on my shoulders ultimately.' But personal accountability, we talked about adversity this morning and we dug a hole and we just can’t afford to give them anymore. Just pointed out to them what that score might be if we’d handled our business and they were attentive. There wasn’t a whole lot said because none of it was schematic or stuff we hadn’t seen or exotic stuff. It was just breakdowns in fundamentals.”