FROM PULLMAN — Now that the season has started, it seems we're going to see shorter practices, as coach Mike Leach is want to do once games are played. So the Cougars practiced for about an hour and a half on Sunday, and we have plenty of notes to pass along from the session.
It was a standard practice in terms of what the Cougars worked on. There was a brief punt coverage drill, some passing skeleton work and some 11-on-11 action between the No. 1 offense and the scout-team defense, and vice versa on the other field. Connor Halliday took a few reps with the No. 1 offensive line, and looked fairly sharp throwing the ball downfield. He completed a long touchdown to Brett Bartolone, and hit Andrei Lintz for a long gain between two defenders later on.
Anthony Carpenter continued to work at cornerback for the second consecutive practice, spending time with the No. 1 defense. And there was some re-shuffling along the offensive line, as well. Wade Jacobson spent time at right tackle, with Dan Spitz sliding over to right guard and Jake Rodgers moving to left guard. There were some pass protection issues on the right side of the line against BYU, so perhaps the move was made to shore those up.
“We’re just trying to make sure we put out the best five guys in the best five spots for us that makes us the best,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “Right now we’re just trying to figure out what that is. I think we know who the best five are, we just need to figure out how to put them in the right spots to make them successful.”
Some positive news on the personnel front, as defensive lineman Xavier Cooper practiced without a boot and participated in drills. CB Damante Horton, however, has a soft wrap on his left arm and spent the day riding an exercise bike.
We also had a chance to speak with Mike Leach afterward. He touched on a number of things, mostly related to effort and expectations going forward. Here's a transcript of that conversation.
(Did you see anything differently on film from Thursday?) “Pretty similar. Bad tempo, bad body language. The biggest thing, if we played like we did on Monday we would have put our best foot forward. We can’t go through little periods of performance anxiety or anything like that. We do something over and over all camp and all practice, that’s what we need to go out and do in the game. That’s what we didn’t do. We played different than we did on Thursday. The thing is, it’s pointless unless it gets out there at game time. That’s what we have to do. We just have to do the same things we do in practice.”
(Did you face an adjustment period at Tech?) “There’s some growing pains. But it doesn’t make it any more excusable. There’s growing pains but grow through them fast, you know? If you can do it later on you can probably do it now. We just have to get what we get in practice out there every play. Any time you step on the football field, that’s an opportunity to improve, to make your play and develop your skills. You shouldn’t let the score impact you. You shouldn’t let the setting impact you. It’s an opportunity and we need to approach it that way.”
(How do you coach that?) “Part of it is the guy just needs to make a decision. They just need to duplicate what they can do on a daily basis. Whatever your best is, that’s always enough. That’s what you have. Just do that over and over.”
(You said the team is closer than it thinks it is) “I think that’s true, because clearly it’s a winnable game if we finish the first drive, there’s seven. If we don’t hold on two touchdowns, there’s 21, and then if we march the thing in on the kickoff return when we had the kickoff return, there’s 28, then there’s 6 in field goals, that’s 34, and if we’re rolling along like that, then they’re a different team and we have the ball more and then if we get some stops in there in between then it’s significantly more to less. But the credit goes to BYU. They came out ready to play and I’m sure what they did, did look like their practices, so that just needs to happen. There’s a few guys that haven’t played a college football game, but they can’t lean on that. Nobody’s got time for that. They need to lean on what they did in practice every day.”
(On Eastern Washington) “High-tempo team, bounce around, do a lot of good things. You can see that it’s a program with a lot of tradition, has won a lot of games, expects to win a lot more.”
(They look better than an average FCS team, then) “They never have been average.”
(So there's no concern about overlooking them?) “I can’t fathom how that should even be possible for our team. And I can’t fathom how it should even be possible anyway. If you step on a field, it doesn’t matter if you go against the scouts, if you go against some little high school, some junior high school, it doesn’t matter if you go against the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, none of that should matter. You step out there and you can do what you can do, your best is your best, you develop it as a habit and you do it over and over. One of the biggest times I was upset in my career, one time we were ahead of Baylor by about 30. The first drive of the second half we’ve got guys loafing around there. Well that’s crazy. That’s crazy. Just because we’re up, that doesn’t mean anything. You go out there and play hard. You only get so many college football plays in your entire life and you go out there and play and make the most of every one of them. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We’re up by 30 so all of a sudden we’re going to take plays off? That’s insane. If you’re behind it’s just as insane. No matter who your opponent, it’s insane. That shouldn’t change. The variables on that shouldn’t change at all.”
(On players adjusting to a new offense) “There’s still no excuse. You go out there and do the best you can and we didn’t do the best we could. We need to do the best we can this week.”
(Was Jeff Tuel too apprehensive?) “Yeah. I thought that at times was really good. He got out of some stuff I never thought he’d get out of. Threw some good balls. The good stuff, he just needs to do consistently. There’s nothing wrong witih him. He just needs to do what he does in practice.”
(Did the receivers play up to their potential?) “I don’t think any of us played up to our potential.”