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Mondays with Mike Leach, part 1

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Mike Leach met with reporters for about 20 minutes today, covering topics ranging from the Colorado game to Oregon to Matthew McConaughey. Read on for a transcript of the first half of his press conference.


 

(On sideline shots of disinterested players, as mentioned Saturday) “We got some and we kind of emphasized the positive. We showed positive body language and enthusiasm. The thing is, when it’s tighter and you face adversity, that’s when you need it the most. We’re pretty good at doing it when things are going our way. We need to be good at doing it throughout. Just the enthusiasm and the excitement of making a play and going out there and performing to the best of your ability needs to be enough to create a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. It can’t be selective just when things are going your way. That’s too easy. Anybody can do that and that’s what we’re battling. We need to be a team that embraces the competition of tight, tough situations and we’re making progress that way. We’re not there yet but we’re making progress and so I’ve been happy with our guys. A lot of it is, we’ve got a lot of young fellas there and as they get to the surface and get used to playing and get used to being in major roles out there, I think a lot of that’s going to surface. We’ve got to accelerate that but that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

(What were you thinking when up by 17?) “I was thinking it was very important to finish the game. Regardless of whether we’re way ahead or way behind. Go out and make plays because we want it to be a habit. We want it to be a habit that we consistently string things together for 60 minutes. That’s important to do no matter what. That’s important to have the ability to do in all situations. But you know, we’ve been close to this every week where we play hard selectively. We play together selectively. Well that’s crazy. You go out there and you practice all day and things like that, and as a football player your skills are going to develop and you’re going to have a more fulfilling experience if you continue to make plays. I mean, you only get a few, we talked about this too. Joe Salave’a who played, I always lose track, it’s either nine or 13 years in the NFL (it's nine), he’s played more football snaps than anybody in the room and maybe than anybody in that room ever will, and he’d like to have more. So the notion that we can squander some based on setting, that’s crazy. You only get a few. You only get a few. We’re a third of the way through the season. It’s flown by. And then any reps that you get have got to be embraced and the other thing we need to do things together. We’re kind of individualistic. It needs to be more synchronized, everybody together.”

(How do you teach that?) “You keep plugging away and keep working, and some of it’s the familiarity of working with the guys beside you. We’ve got a lot of people that haven’t played next to each other last year. We’ve got a lot of people that, last year I played next to this guy, or last year I was in high school. We’ve got to accelerate that. We’ve got to just have the ability to accelerate the focus. The more you play, your focus naturally develops but we’ve got to develop it quicker.”

(On running the clock out) “The clock’s pretty easy if you move the sticks. If you get them off the ball and move the sticks the  clock’s pretty easy. That just comes down to the individual plays and winning individual battles. Prime example, the first half offensively there were some mishaps but we played pretty well, we played real well offensively the first half, second half I didn’t think as good. We had some explosions and we finished some dtives based on some kind of explosive action and stuff like that. I thought the first half was better, our first  quarter was pretty good defensively. If you can do it for that period of time, do it longer. We just have ot have the ability to do the things we do well for a longer period of time.

(Did you anticipate these struggles?) “Every year there’s struggles like this, every year they reveal themselves different. I knew we were going to have a certain amount of youth but I also knew … we’ll work through it. You keep pounding away and then part of it is becoming familiar with guys that will rise up in these situations and each week we get to know these guys and who’s ready to play and who’s not a little better.”

(How important is it for leadership to step up?) “I think it’s really important, the thing is is because player accountability and it meaning a great deal to you, and Travis (Long) I think personifies that, Connor (Halliday) does in a quieter sort of way. I think it means a great deal to them to be successful. I think losing to them is very painful. And I think we’ve got to reach certain members of our team where it’s not terribly painful. There’s guys that it’s very painful to lose or to fall short that take a lot of pride in their play and then there’s those that have this whole “that’s how the cookie crumbles mentality.” That’s crazy. There’s too much invested in this for that to be the mentality.”

(Were you trying to lead by example by throwing so much?) “There  was some of that. I thought we got a little too, there was stuff underneath and we should have been a little more patient, should have worked it down the field. I think I should have done a better job communicating with Connor. I think Connor, as we started having some mishaps, tried to make a little too much happen and I think I should have recognized that and kind of reined him in a little bit, but yeah, if it works the first half it  should work the second half. Thing is, if you look at the first half on offense and our best quarter was the third quarter on defense, there you see 11 people synchronized. You turn on the film and it looks like gears in a machine moving around and then at other times it just looks like bodies flying around.”

(On the Seattle Game) “We’re excited to play anywhere no matter what. We’re excited to play anywhere. Martin Stadium’s my favorite, of course, but we’re excited to play anywhere.”

(More on playing in Seattle) “I think it’s really important. The state’s full of Cougar fans and there’s more over there than any other area. I’ve always been really impressed, any time I drive through there, there’s Cougar flags everywhere. There’s flags all over the palce and so we need to get all those folks out there to the game and I think a lot of them come over here for the games.”

(Similarities between WSU's offense and Oregon's?) “There’s a lot of similarities. As a matter of fact, if you were to pinpoint a place that football’s moved the furthest, it would be utilizing space. Oregon does a good job with that. Oregon runs it a lot more than we do, which tehre’s nothing wrong with that certainly but it’s another way to utilize space. The guys that to my recollection first did a good job of utilizing space is the wishbone and there’s a lot of similarities between Oregon and the wishbone. They’re going to get it in people’s hands and they’re going to attack a lot of space and they’re going to do it by spreading it out, so yeah, I think they do a really good job.”


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