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Mike Leach after the Sun Bowl


 

(Were you expecting the Gatorade bath?)

No, usually I, typically I keep a little better track than that. Between the elements and whatnot. Gatorade; water's one thing but Gatorade's bad manners because it's all sticky. The wildest one, not this one but a couple years back there was an iceberg in one of them and I'm not sure I've ever quite recovered. Yeah, so I try to keep an eye out for it but they covered it up well and of course those defensive guys, they were kind of behind the charge on it. Destiny and them. So, yup. But it's worth it. It's either that or you've got to take the Gatorade bath before the game. You know, Miami Hurricanes is one of the greatest traditions in college football and those guys make anything you do out there tough. They're long and athletic. Good stuff.

(What does it mean to break the bowl drought?)

Oh, I don't know. I didn't really keep track of it. I figured we'd win this one and go from there.

(How about the lift the defense gave you, especially down the stretch?)

I thought it was huge. I thought it was huge. I thought, really as a team we kind of complemented each other's play a little bit. The offense started pretty quick, defense started slow. Special teams I thought was reasonably steady. Of course, this weather all makes it challenging. Challenging for everybody. The challenging part isn't to make a play here or there. The challenging part is to be consistent as you're battling some of that. But, I thought all sides picked up for everybody. I thought our defense at the end, and we have had a team that played well together. We've developed into a team that plays well together and just a tough, gritty group of guys. I think that all started in our locker room about a year ago … and then I think that started about a year ago as our locker room got better, then our work ethic got better. As our work ethic got better, we did more, were able to present more adversity and the more adversity, after a while you wake up and you're tougher than you used to be.

(Miami do anything different on defense in the second half?)

No, not really. They made it snow more.

(How much do the big defensive plays in the red zone speak to Alex Grinch's impact?)

I think it as really good. And they have done some of that this year.

The other thing is Miami's big, fast and explosive. They're, shoot, the name Miami alone commands attention.

(Would Miami's halfback pass have been successful with a better throw?)

Well, we had two guys on it. But see, the thing is you're hoping people bite up and you're hoping some stuff happens and it's kind of an all-or-nothing deal. I think it's worth taking a shot, but we did have two guys on it. I think we had that covered, we didn't have the reverse covered very good, you know?

(Were you surprised by the call?)

That was part of the idea was to surprise us, I'm sure. Yeah, a little bit. The thing is if everybody bites forward and overplays the thing then he can practically punt it to the guy. I didn't think it was a bad call. I'm sure it wasn't executed quite the way they hoped but, no guts no glory. If you want my opinion, I thought that one play out of Wildcat where they scored the touchdown was a bad call, and I found that pass to be a great call, so it all kinda depends.

(Do you see this as a launching pad game for Hercules Mata'afa?)

I think he’s already had a couple. He was on the all-freshman team. Freshman All-American. He’s kinda decorated so I think that has started to take off, and as he realizes what he’s able to do, I think he’ll steadily improve.

Caught off guard 1st quarter?

I would have taken the penalty if I knew they were going to go for it on fourth down. I thought they would kick.

(Who would you vote for if you had an MVP?)

Today. Shoot…. That’s hard to say b/c we had some real good stuff going on on defense, and some of those defensive guys like Hercules in the trenches deserves some credit. I thought Jamal played a tough game. Of our three RBs, I thought Jamal played the best. I thought Luke did a good job of holding it together. I thought he had a better first half than second half. It’s hard. Shalom picked that ball, so he’s up there too. They tightened up on that stuff so we weren’t giving them the shots downfield that we were before.  So all those guys.

(Did the weather have an impact in the second half?)

Yeah, it was both swirling, soaking wet, and there was enough snow that it obstructed vision, wind that it obstructed balls, slippery enough that you bring out one or two of those foot scraper things and you need 11 of them. So it did a little bit. But that’s one of those, you just hang in there. The biggest thing it affects is consistency. B/c people play in tough conditions, and we have this year. Someone’s gotta win the game, so it might as well be you, but it does impact consistency.

(Nice to end a breakthrough season with a big win?)

No question. Especially when you consider it’s a lot longer between games. The last one is always important to win, plus I think those can pull your offseason a little better.

(What did you say to the team after the game?)

Really just thanked our seniors, pointed out that I felt like we’re a tough team that hangs in there and finds ways to win but we’re also gotta develop and learn the ability to put somebody away – which we had some chances to. We have to develop that ability. And I’m proud of them for hanging in there.

Our seniors are the ones that got here when we weren’t a real mentally healthy team, and they persevered and hung into things to become a good solid tough locker room. And the other thing as I mentioned before, this isn’t an average team we played. The U of Miami is a great team. Not only is their record good but you guys follow the draft and all that and granted those guys screw the draft up all the time, but it’s going to be full of Hurricanes.

(And Destiny Vaeao?)

Very stable great leader. I think really started a pipeline of those island guys by his presence, his success, kinda one of Joe’s early guys, and a real steady solid example of a good guy for everybody to follow.




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Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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