FROM PULLMAN — WSU coach Mike Leach met with the media earlier today, and we have a transcription below of most of his comments.
(On reaction to the win) “I think they feel good, but the biggest thing that I’ve been proud of them for is they finish games. We go out there, we play hard, we finish, we haven’t let things obstruct our composure. I think that started at Auburn. Thought we did a good job of it there. We didn’t come out on top which we would have and we should have. Anyway, I think we’ve improved at that and we need to do that this week. The biggest question is are we focused just on Southern Utah right now? That’s what we need to do.”
(On Southern Utah) “I think they’re good. They’re clearly good. The hard thing is to say what South Alabama has. They’ve got great players down there, but I don’t know how they stack up exactly. Of course Southern Utah, you can certainly argue they should have beat Cal at Cal last year. They look like a physical group. They’re big, strong, kind of blocky looking guys and they hang onto stuff and move it around. So we’ll see. Kind of waiting for the depth chart to see who they have back from last year, how many are back and how many are not.”
(On players acting like they'd won before) “I don’t really care on that, but I think we expected to go out and play well and win and I think that there’s a point where you have to do that. I’m proud of them for that. Part of it was really an intense tightly fought game. Everything was close and everything was by a fraction of an inch and all that stuff. It was definitely a body punch game where everybody’s battered up and you try to be the last man standing. I was proud of the toughness our kids had, especially when you consider the environment, especially when you consider back to back really tough road environments. There may be some teams that are ranked ahead of SC and Auburn, but there’s not two teams that are more physical than those two. It really was kind of a violent onslaught and our kids held up pretty good.”
(On winning attitude) “I think it takes a while. We didn’t have much of it last year. We’re developing some this year, and we’re off to a good start this year. I think a whole lot of it is just to have the image in your mind that good things are possible. You go out and practice, work on it every day and continue to reinforce it and develop your skills and don’t allow any effort lapses or focus lapses.”
(On second-half adjustments) “As the game went on we tried to attack their perimeter because we felt like we were better than them outside on the perimeter and we felt like they were better than us on the interior with all those highly decorated defensive linemen. And we had our hands slapped a couple times when we went in there, so the second half I thought we did a better job of working it outside and getting the ball outside.”
(Like the screen to Dom Williams?) “The screen, then we tried to have the runs out there, we had quick game stuff out there, we had slants out there, we had curls out there. Basically as many ways as we could think of to get it out there. Dom’s screen was one of them.”
(On effort and such) “I think it’s good but I think we’ve got to constantly reinforce it. I think we’ve got to remember where that effort came from and it came from a lot of focus and hard work. I think the season’s in segments. We’re on the third week. We have to get a full third week better. With the end of this week, we have to be another week better, so I think we need to focus on that and that’s what led to the defensive effort last week, and we can’t lose sight of that and we need to do it each week.”
(How far has the defense come since last season?) “Really far. I think the defensive line has come a long way. Mike Breske, our defensive staff really kind of meshed as a staff and everybody’s on the same page. We tackled really well. We tackled really hard, physically and really well. I think just the chemistry of the group, everybody pulling for one another has been really huge.
(On where this win ranks) “We’ll worry about that some time in January I suppose. The highest moment’s going to be if we go out and play well against Southern Utah this week. We’ll just do it that way for the time being.”
(On colleagues congratulating him) “You get the texts and all that. Texts and phone calls and all that. And I’ll get a couple as I’m sitting there watching film. I’ll be watching film til about 2 a.m., so at some point you get bored and grabbing coffee and water’s not enough so you dial somebody up on the phone.”
(On boos for Lane Kiffin) “I didn’t really hear that. They told me that it happened after the game. I didn’t hear it. The whole stadium’s just noise. It’s just a blur of noise. But I know Lane, I wish him the best and have enjoyed him over the years. I didn’t hear it. They said that was going on after the game. I didn’t hear any of it.”
(On Connor Halliday's turnovers) “We’ve got to just take care of the football. We need to be aggressive. The one play I thought it was a good read, he just threw it late. The second one, the kid made a spectacular catch. Best catch I’ve seen this season, that DB for SC that picked the second one. He ought to be playing receiver. If he gets bored playing DB at SC, he can come here and play receiver. We’ll let him make a lot of catches like that.”
(On Halliday focusing later) “I think in particular the second half, it was tied up at half and I think the second half, our group really came out focused with a purpose, so I was really proud of the way they did that. It was one of those things that it was just going to be a little break here or there and you had to capitalize on something, so we did.
“I thought he did good. I didn’t think he really flinched on that. I think his leadership on the sideline was really good.”
(On what the USC win proves) “Just what you can do when you all play together and pull together. There needs to be a certain level of confidence in that. There’s a point in the game where you have to take it away from the other guy, and I think we did that in a tough hostile setting. Just the business of mtaining your composure for 60 minutes and trusting the other guy but just pulling together with the best effort.i thought we really had a good atmosphere on our sideline. I think we need to continue to reinforce that. We had reasonably good pad level. We can improve on that. We can have better pad level. There were some bad things that happened but we hung together and kept playing and didn’t let it affect us.”
(On whether Daquawn Brown could start over Nolan Washington) “I think they’ll both play. I don’t know. I haven’t talked to them (about) what they’re thinking. I think Daquawn played really well. Daquawn might live 800 yards from the Coliseum there, and to walk in there for your starting debut and go play the Trojans in the Coliseum and play as well as he did I think is pretty impressive. But he’s a real confident guy, plays hard, most of all loves football and I think his attitude that way is something that’s been big. I think it’s something last year that needed to change and I think we’ve definitely made huge strides in changing. There’s a difference between having guys who love football and love to play as opposed to guys who are signed up, and I think we have a higher percentage of that.”
(More on Brown) “He’ll obviously have to work and develop and maintain his focus. But he’s ridiculously competitive and I think that’s what allowed him to be successful this game against really talented receivers.”
(On the reception at Bohler after returning to Pullman) “I thought it was pretty impressive. They also said the sky bar up there on top of the dorm was kind of rocking too. We got off the bus, there was a bunch of people. It was pretty wild. There was a flag at the airport when we landed. I heard it was pretty exciting around here. They said College Hill was really roaring and somebody a hill or two over said they could hear all the yelling on College Hill. It had to be a lot of fun to be a part of.”
(On Damante Horton) “I think he’s always been good. He’s more physical then you’d think. A really good cover guy. Does have a nose for the football and we’ve noticed that before, not just because he had two picks Saturday. The biggest thing when we got here, did a lot of good things, played kind of tight. He’s kind of a perfectionist, kind of wants things perfect, so some of that would slow him down. but now he’s relaxed and let himself play. He understands that once in a while there’s going to be a mistake, but just let it fly and play as hard as you can and I think it’s really paid off for him.”
– Asked about Andrew Furney and his progression from last year to this year, Leach said he's pretty much remained the same. And that “You know how weird kickers are. And Andrew’s no exception to that, but he’s certainly not as weird as some of them, and I think that alone transcends him above the group.”
(More on focus) “I think the most important thing is to remove as much clutter as you can from your mind, and I think you need to focus on what you and your abilities can do and where they can take you and just go out there and do your best and do it without any hesitation and then together expect to be successful and do it over and over. I think sometimes people just do it with the game as a whole and instead it needs to be each individual battle you play, then some of that’s just got ot be the enjoyment of engaging in one battle after the next and try to win each battle, and I think our team in particular has done a better job of that.”