Washington State will play another weekday game this week, traveling to Reno, Nevada to take on the Wolf Pack. Because the schedule is still off the Cougars held their typical Monday press conference today.
A transcription of coach Mike Leach's interview is after the jump.
(Final thoughts from Thursday's game?)
I thought there were a lot of good things, there were a lot of good things. We had 16 guys play significantly that had never played a college football game or started a college football game, so the chance to get those guys out there and doing things I thought was good. For the most part, I thougth they looked pretty good. I think we need to finish the game and I think, you know, we need to be more aggressive and play together better on both offense and defense.
I think offensively it took us about a third of the way to get clicking, once we did we were pretty tough to stop, and then defensively I don't think we got clicking, which we have control over that and need to take control over that.
(Was the team's energy level where you would want it?)
I thought it was pretty good. I thought we had good energy. I thought our problems would be playing with nine guys instead of 11 type of thing.
(Your Texas Tech team played at Nevada in 2008, what do you recall from the experience?)
Kind of an interesting environment. Sort of a scenic place. The locker room, if it's the same, you literally come right out in the crowd so that's kind of an interesting environment, you've got fans right behind you screaming and hollering. And then, so, when we were there, yeah it was a great environment and there were some great players that played in that game.
Actually, Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree played against each other that game. It was a funny game because it was supposed to be – and both offenses were like the top offenses in the country – and so it was supposed to be a huge offensive shootout but, you know, it was a defensive game. Both defenses played extremely well, both defenses shut down the offense and fortunately for us our defense played a little better than theirs did.
(Have you talked to the team about responding to a tough loss out of the gate?)
We've just got to play better, stick together, work hard because we've done a lot of good things we've just got to make sure we can get it to the surface. And some of it is getting some guys to grow up quick and I think last week was a big step toward that and I think most important, we've just got to coach better. We have to have the ability to get more out of our players, each position, each coach.
(Do you worry about a hangover from one game to the next?)
Well, yeah but you've got to get past that. If you don't have the ability to get past it – we have to have the ability to get past one play to the next whether it's a good one or a bad one and you certainly have to be able to do that with the game.
(You said after the game that change needs to start with the coaches. How is that process taking form?)
I think everybody's been up here working long hours and focused on what needs to happen but you learn a lot from the first game and that's where you have to really make some improvements. First game more than anything identifies places to work on.
(How important will it be to get the run game going?)
I think it's important. I mean I think it's important, I thought we could have run the ball better. But we didn't have a lot of trouble with overall production, offensive production. They dictate some of where the best place to attack is. But the biggest thing is there are key plays, key situations where I'd like to see us finish better. But the defense has a little say about what they're going to take away and what they're going to give you, and we had a lot of yards and a lot of points, and should have had more.
(To what do you attribute the missed tackles on defense?)
Poor technique and we've got to coach them better?
(Can River Cracraft easily overcome the fumble?)
I'd like to think he already has but at the rate you guys obsess over it he may not, you know?
(Did you see more leadership out of Connor?)
I thought he did really good. I think it started more – I thought where he really took off was, well I think he's progressively gotten better. I think he really took off the middle of last season and did a lot of great things. I think most of his success and effectiveness as a leader happens off the field, that you don't have the opportunity to see but he leads the effort, the focus, all that stuff.
(A lot of WSU's defensive experience is up front but the run game was an issue.)
Well, we have to tackle better, there's no question. And we have to coach tackling better. The other thing, we have to put some pressure on them. We can't just stand up there and take it, I thought we were too one dimensional.
(Would telling River to fair catch the punt have been counter to an aggressive mindset?)
No, but there were quite a few minutes left at the point, it was what, over four minutes or something. Fair catch probably would have been a better way to do it.
(Have you had a chance to look at Nevada QB Cody Fajardo yet?)
Just a good, steady player, you know? We'll watch more of it today.
(Is Chris Ault a coach you've admired?)
Yes, I know Chris Ault well. Chris Ault's not coaching there now, of course, but a great guy and one of those guys that had a lot of success early. Chris has thrown the ball, done the pistol and had a lot of success with both and really honestly one of my favorite coaches.
(Could you evaluate kick Erik Powell and punter Jordan Dascalo's games?)
I thought both did a pretty good job, especially first game, it was both of their first college game. Dascalo got one punt off that we got beat on in protection and he did a great job getting it off and the other one was a long one and we needed it.
Powell did a really good job with his kicks and almost had, something like, I can't remember 52 yards or something like that.
(Do you still feel that the team has improved since last season?
There's no question we've improved, there's no question we've improved. We've got a lot of youth we've got to break in but we're definitely better. Had a lot of guys play their first game but they're going to be good players. Most of them played pretty good for a first game.
(What do you expect from Nevada?)
I think they'll be aggressive, I think they'll run a lot of pro-style stuff on offense and then defense I just need to watch more of that. I think it'll be like last year but they'll probably be improved. I'm sure they've improved.
(How do you feel the young secondary and offensive line played?)
I thought, well let me see, I guess I felt like the three young offensive linemen really did a pretty good job. And then of course a lot of pressure on Riley Sorenson but I thought he did a good job with his line calls. I thought he did a good job not having people in the quarterback's lap.
Secondary, I guess I think we were a little more mixed. I think we were a little more mixed. I thought our inexperience showed at safety at times and then at corner, some good things at corner, for sure, but the occasional just bonehead play. You know, your focus this way, you do your technique that way for this play, the next play, the next play we'll just do it again. So I thought there was a little of that.
(Did Rutgers do anything unexpected?)
No, they didn't show us anything that, I mean it was very much like you'd see on film. It was quite similar to last year. The biggest thing, well I thought we should have handled our business a little different but you always feel like that after a first game. I think offensively, to get on track quicker and just sort of tempo and mentality, which I think we eventually got. I thought defensively we weren't as aggressive as I'd like going into the game.
(Was it gap responsibility or being physical?)
I think we were one-dimensional scheme-wise and I think we missed way too many tackles.
(Where do we stand with Gabe Marks?)
Gabe's doing good, Gabe is working out good but we haven't decided if we're redshirting him or not.
(He stayed in Pullman during the game?)
(Student Question: Why was Geronimo the inspiration for your book?)
Geronimo, I always liked, when I was a kid, which was before most of you were kids, they used to have open backyards and dogs used to run all over the neighborhood and so did kids. Now a lot of times it seems like folks don't know their neighbors, but you'd have a herd of kids running all over and of course back then you'd play cowboys and Indians. And of course the greatest television show of all time – you know, there's a lot of great ones and of course Seinfeld and some of the others are up there – but there's never been a better television show than Gunsmoke. There would be cowboys and Indians and I was always on the side of the Indians and as I got to school, learned how to read and studied it a little more.
My mom read a book to us, and it was kind of a scholarly book, which she had no business reading to children, about Geronimo and we'd go slowly, explain it. So I started out with kind of a working knowledge of it at a surprisingly young age, like second grade, because she read the book to me and then I read stuff from there on and became fascinated by the ability of, not just Geronimo, but his people and the incredible things that they did. They routinely did stuff that people gasp at now days and did it while dodging bullets, too.
So I've always thought the story is impressive, I've always thought as a culture and group of people they were impressive. And then I've always had a picture of Geronimo behind my desk – that picture will be here shortly, I've got to have somebody rummage through my basement and fill up the new office with a bunch of gear – but at any rate, I used to talk to my team about Geronimo. Occasionally quoted in a press conference about Geronimo. So when I had the opportunity to do a book with Buddy Levy about Geronimo I was excited about it. Thought the book turned out really well, like all of them there's stuff that I would change but I thought it turned out extremely well. You look at stuff and rethink and double think but they're all just little bitty things but I think the story and all that came out really well. I think everybody should buy it, and buy a couple to give to your relatives.