From Pullman — Mike Leach and the Cougars had their weekly Monday press conference today. The videos are below but here's a transcription of Leach's comments:
(Was the fact that quarterback Connor Halliday scrambled more than usual in the Arizona game by design?)
By design by Arizona, it wasn't by design by us necessarily. But on the move he did some good stuff, and then on a couple of them we converted our routes and put together a good play despite the fact that we had to leave the pocket.
(More after the jump)
(What stands out about this senior class, which is about to play its final game in Martin Stadium?)
Good job, instrumental for building the foundation of what we have going, which is going to improve as we go throughout the future. But they were very key in helping lift this off and we're very excited to have the opportunity to play a couple more games with them. So this isn't really milestone time it's time for them to focus on the next play and practice, which will be Tuesday. All this good old days stuff, they can do it in the good old days, not now.
(Could the Arizona game be a jumping off point for the program?)
I don't know. I thought we improved, if you steadily improved I think that helps. We have to improve this week, whatever we did at Arizona none of that counts for this next week and we have to have a good week next week.
(Have you had a chance to watch Utah's quarterback Adam Schulz?)
Just a little bit, not a lot.
(Did anything stand out about him?)
He's a good, quality player. They like their starter better, obviously, but he's a good, quality player who does some good things.
(Does anything stand out about Utah?)
They're a good overall team, very physical. I think they're characterized in particular by how physical they are.
(Is that a reflection of coach Kyle Whittingham?)
Probably. First of all, Kyle is a great overachiever. I didn't know Kyle when we were in college (BYU). I was in college the same time he was — he's a little older than me. He was an All-American linebacker and led the nation in tackles and his dad, who was the (defensive coordinator) at that time was tougher than he was.
(What's your take on quarterback Connor Halliday?)
I think he's gotten steadily better, I thought he did a good job managing the team, converting some key plays and I also thought his play improved as the day went on.
(Does the contract extension help recruiting?)
I imagine it's good, you'll have to ask some recruits but I'm excited about Washington State and Pullman. Glad to be here, planned on being here from the beginning and excited to have a bunch of good recruits to break in that brand new building. We're getting better so I'm excited about it.
(Were there any changes to the contract other than the rollover year?)
I don't know you'll have to read all that. I haven't looked at it for a long time.
(Still the rollover deal?)
I assume so, I'm sure it will be. But I'm excited about it, excited about the chance to work for Bill (Moos) and I'm thinking a lot more about watching the Utah film and putting in a game plan but I'm excited about it. This is a great school to work for and great people to work with and they're first class in everything they do.
(Is it nice to have your success recognized?)
I pretty much focus on the next play, I mean all that's going to, like I said, all the milestone stuff is great but let's worry about tomorrow.
(Did you get the sense at Texas Tech that the bowl game practices were important?)
No question. I think you get more than 15 … I think it's 22 but anyways you get quite a few. But yeah that's huge, I think it's incredibly helpful. We went to 10 straight bowls and I thought in the middle of 10 straight bowls that everybody should have the practice opportunities because it's a definite advantage. And then your young guys, you know, you can work them and the young guys will have improved a lot since camp.
(Did the program need discipline when you came?)
I didn't pay a lot of attention to that specifically as much as there's basically a way and a philosophy that I believe in. And there's certain rules that can't be violated in my opinion, and then academics are important in my opinion. Along with that on the field and doing the right thing and academics accountability is a part of that because otherwise they're just words. But accountability is a positive thing it's important in a lot of things. If a guy wants to improve himself as a player he needs to hold himself accountable. If he wants to be a better player, as coaches and teammates you need to hold him accountable to improve. And you need to keep raising the bar over and over. I think it's just part of the process and it's something that's important to exist in any level of achievement.
(Has accountability grown since you've been here?)
A lot, a lot. We've got some guys that aren't here because they didn't want to buy in and commit and work that hard, felt like the demands of the program were too much. Felt like being a guy that their teammates could count on was too high of a price to pay. Well, if they feel like that they don't belong here so you start to hone in on the guys that do want to commit and they think the same thing. It's funny, on 60 Minutes Nick Saban says, “Mediocre people don't like high achievers and high achievers don't like mediocre people.” High achievers want change and mediocre people don't want the pressure of accountability and don't change. At some point you've got to get rid of mediocre people and get high achievers and that's what we're headed towards.
(Should we expect to see Daquawn Brown play against Utah?)
Sure, why not?
(Was there anything preventing him from playing on Saturday?*)
He played, he did some things we're excited about Daquawn. Daquawn's doing just fine and we're thrilled to death.
*In the original official participation report Brown was listed as not having played. That report has since been updated to reflect the fact that he did participate.
(What would a bowl game mean for this program)
It would mean that we did a very good job on the very next play and then on the play after that, and the play after that, and the play after that until pretty soon it adds up to a game's worth of plays and we were successful, that's what it would mean. And then based on how we improved we would have the opportunity to be a little bit better team the very next play after that.
(Is Utah similar to any teams you've played?)
Yeah, kinda. They're similar to Arizona offensively. Physical team, high quality Pac-12 team just like all of them are.
(Have you ever seen a bowl eligible team not be invited to a bowl game?)
It's never happened to me. And it shouldn't happen at all, especially in this conference. I've never been 6-6 though, I've been short of that and long of that.
(Was Elliott Bosch a guy that bought in?)
He was always a hard worker and an overachiever. Since I've dealt with him he's been an overachiever and literally worked himself and ground himself into being a player. He never played a snap until last year and then this year in particular he's been elected a team captain every week. So I think his progress has been, since we've known him, really impressive.
(Who votes on team captains?)
Everybody that traveled the week before does.
(Utah's QB is a former walk-on, does that tell you anything?)
Oh it's impressive. I've had some walk-ons really do some good things, quarterbacks and other positions. Had an All-American tight end, had another guy when we beat Cal and Aaron Rodgers in the Holiday Bowl. I think it's really impressive because that's kind of a tough road. Being a walk-on is harder than people on the outside realize. People on the outside just think you sort of volunteer, show up for free and it's as simple as that. With rare exception, like around here we cut 200 walk-ons a year. We have two tryouts and then 200 people are told “no” every year. And then if you include the ones on the phone who are interested in walking on, they're told “no” every year. Now, we're always looking for good, quality walk-ons. But we're limited to how many can be on the roster.
(How long do you celebrate a win?)
You know, honestly, we have a 24-hour rule here. I probably do that successfully for about 6 hours before my mind starts wandering towards the next one. And at this point it's not a situation where I really have to focus on it, it just automatically I start thinking about the next one. I mean, the film's looming out there no matter what. And by the time you get done with the last game, like we got done sort of early — early by our standards, it was before 1 o'clock — so it's like 'I wonder if I go start watching UTah on film now. But a couple coaches were getting together so I'll go ahead and wait until Sunday. At some point — yesterday and today are the task heavy days and they're late nights so there's always the temptation to get a jump on it. Naturally I'm through it pretty quick.
(Will that stretch of hard games produce positives?)
The ones you win there are positives, there are always opportunities to learn from games. There are probably some but we just need to worry about the next game.
(Is it harder for this team to play at home?)
I don't know, we've done a really good job being focused on the road. We really have been focused on the road and played well and played some quality teams here. I think they're all excited to play at home and do a good job. We just need to focus on playing and do a good job at home or on the road.
(What do you think about the BCS switching to a playoff system?)
Been in favor of it from the beginning, been in favor of it for over 15 years. I've always been very vocal about it, when asked should they have a playoff? Absolutely and yeah, people thought it was crazy the whole thing, but my position on the subject has gained a lot of ground. I think they have a mini-playoff now and they're kind of dipping their foot in the water and will like the way it is. I think they'll expand it, that's my prediction, I think they'll like it. Besides the fact that it's a lot of money it's going to be fun for everybody.
I think the least amount of teams it should be is 16 and I'd be in favor of 64. Really, I think the magic number is I think everybody has to be allowed to play 12 teams whether you make the playoffs or not you should have the opportunity to play 12, even if they're games scheduled after the regular season. And then I think the champion needs to play around 16 games. That seems to be a good number for high schools and of course the NFL plays a few more but I think that'd be a pretty good number so regardless of how the playoff things shakes out they need to shoot for 16 games for the champion.
(How late in the year would that go?)
Well obviously it's a very brilliant formula so I've stumbled on it first. I like playing the other parts of the country — if you cut the regular season down to 10 games, play the regular season and figure out who makes the playoffs. 64 teams make it, then the debates aren't weather the champion deserves to be champion, he would've fought through the playoffs in order to be champion and even if you don't think they're quite the best one they certainly deserve it for fighting through and winning the appropriate games to be champion. The debates would be weather the 70th team is better than the 56th team or something like that. I would portion it out so that a little over halfway through the 10-game season half of America would have an off week, half of America would play. Then the next week the other half of America would be off, the rest of America would play. So everybody has an off week, but nobody is playing somebody who just had an off week.
So just natural rest but half is playing, half is not, it's just not as many games as usual. And then after the regular season teams that clearly not going to the playoffs, they can schedule can schedule games and be on TV. So they can schedule 12 and there would be natural breaks in the playoffs so these teams could schedule games and play.
So after the 10 there would be a week off for those possibly and likely going to the playoffs so you have a field of 64. You start off with home and home within regions. And so that first round is home and home so it's within your region it's high seed vs. a lower seed. Then after that you've got the bowls, they know how to put on big games. You wouldn't be at the bowl site as long but the number is about perfect for the remaining games. But the bowl people know how to put on great games, you'd be down there a short period of time, probably only two days. So you'd get down there and play the games and then as the final you could have the top four bowls have some kind of rotation. I think it'd be very exciting for everybody, I think it would be very thrilling, I think people would watch it and enjoy it. I think great fun would be had by all and — I've figured it out — it could get done by or before January 1, if you want to, you don't have to.
And that would include an off week before the quarterfinal which would be another opportunity for teams to get their games in. So even if you're eliminated in the first round, well you've played 11 games at least you can schedule one more. I think it'd be a great deal and a lot of fun so if they left me in charge, which they won't, that's what we'd do.