An impassioned Mike Leach assesses a tough loss
FROM PULLMAN — Mike Leach was as passionate as he's been at any point in his WSU tenure on Saturday. Here's a full transcript of his postgame press conference.
“The biggest thing is our mentality. We’re a mentally weak team, and that’s got to change and the thing is sit’s a decision and I think it starts with us as coaches. We need to change the mentality of this team. As a team we’re afraid to be successful so when we get ahead we want to relax and enjoy it, which is crazy, if you consider the offseason, if you consider practices, how much you work and how long you work at getting a handful of plays in a season and even a career, to not make the most of them is unfathomable and as coaches we’ve got to change it. As players there’s got to be a certain amount of accountability. So we want to go complacent when we’re ahead and then we want to panic when something good happens for the other guy and physically we’re not that bad. We’re not that bad physically, but mentally? We’re afraid to be successful, we’re afraid to win. I don’t know if we’re afraid of the responsibility that comes with winning, but we need to go out there and take a lot of pride in our individual battles and winning them. And do it consistently and do it every snap and right now we don’t do that. We let setting – time, place score – we let that impact it and that’s crazy and unless we get that changed, our results are going to be the same. That has to change.”
(How do you fix it?) “That’s a pretty good question. I think first of all you look in replacing some guys, second of all there’s got to be a core of guys in the team that it means a great deal to. Travis long played really well. It meant a lot to him. He invested a lot out there on the field and it meant a lot to not be successful. We need more people that approach it that way. We have too many people that losing and not being successful’s too easy to brush off. Oh, well, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Well, no. that’s not good enough. No, that’s not good enough. We’ve got plenty of games, plenty of opportunities left ahead of us and we need to go out there, maximize our repetitions, maximize our play, take a lot of pride in it, and it needs to mean more to us than it does the other guy.
(Have you dealt with this kind of thing before?) “Yeah, I have, not quite as stubbornly as this. Yes have seen it before. You see it with young players as they come in and we do have a certain number of young players, I think six freshmen started today. But you see it some with young players and you also see it with players that haven’t had a lot of success, and the thing is, the definition of insanity is doing the samething over and over again and expecting different results. Well right now physically, yeah, there’s some things that are different. Mentally there’s a lot of things that are the same and we’ve got to change the mental approach around here.
(Where do you see the poor attitudes?) “It’s all over. As a matter of fact, tomorrow’s meeting, hopefully we can get some good TV shots of our sideline and we’re going to show that and there’s going to be individuals identified because if you lose your focus, if you lose your edge, if you lose a thing where it means something to you to go out there and whip the other guy, regardless of the score, whether you’re ahead, you’re behind, no matter what, regardless of the score, if it doesn’t mean something to you and the eyes are the window to the soul and then the body is some level of reflection of that besides, and that’s haywire, then you know what’s rolling around in the head’s not right. And we as coaches have got to get that changed. And yeah, we’re going to show visual examples of that that needs to be changed. And I think that’s a starting point. Then the other thing, it’s all over the map. We score a touchdown, we want to relax and enjoy it a little bit rather than whip the guy the next play. Or they get a good play and we want to mope around. And so then of course we all squandered a series or something. It’s all over the map. I thought, you know, physically we can run, we can hit people. In other words it’s got to look like Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice, and we haven’t had a game yet that looked like Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice. If you can do it Tuesday and Wednesday, I don’t know why the hell you can’t do it on Saturday. You can call them growing pains or whatever you want, or you can tolerate it and say poh well it’s ok, well that may all be the case, but it isn’t going to happen as fast as anybody would like unless there’s some pressure to change. And there needs to be some pressure to change. There’s a lot of this resignation, oh, well I did the best I could. Well, baloney. And then you go back and watch it on film, no, it’s tempo changing when you get up, it’s tempo changing when you get down, no. There’s got to be a lot of pride in winning individual battles. If however many plays you get, you need to win as many of those as you can. All of a sudden our desire to win those plays changes as the game bounces around.”
(How do you change this for Oregon?) “Focus on individual plays. We don’t have a lot of control over what the Oregon Ducks do. We have a lot of control over what we do and how we approach things mentally, how we think about things. Right now we’re just a team that operates in spurts. And you’ve got to give Colorado credit, it meant a lot to Colorado to win, they’ve got some big,s trong, fast athletic guys. According to their recruiting class, bigger stronger and faster than us but hey we’ve got plenty. We’ve got enough. The thing is our guys have to elevate their mentality. They have to expect to be successful and go out there. They also have to embrace the challenge of winning the next play just because. Like you see where drives, offense or defense, something good would happen for us. Well then all of a sudden, we want to enjoy it for about two plays and then the other guy takes control of things. That’s insane.”
(Could this be a wakeup call?) “I don’t know how the hell we’re not awake. I mean, the wealth of wins that we’ve enjoyed around here, so we’re not awake? We’ve got this rich tradition of kicking everybody’s ass, and so we’re not awake? I don’t know how the hell you can’t be. How can you not be awake? Now I’m not saying you’re wrong. The saddest thing of all is I suspect you’re right. But it’s pretty hard for me to wrap my arms around right now.”
(On going for it on fourth down with a 17-point lead) “We should have converted it. We had wide open space on the field, we should have thrown underneath, we should have gotten a first down. It wouldn’t have been very hard. It was easy. And then I’ll tell you, here’s the other thing, in all sides of our ball. We’re up 14 points, there’s eight minutes left, oh well we’re going to milk the clock and coast to the end. Are you kidding me? That’s the craziest mentality ever but it’s the one we have. It’s not, OK, I’m a college football player and I’ve worked for months upon months, years upon years to prepare myself for these individual contests that I engage in with the guy across from me and I can squander this opportunity to go with him, or well, ahh we can just coast to the finish line. That’s our mentality. We think we’re going to coast to the finish line rather than add to our college football memories of making a great hit, making a great tackle, making an interception, making a great catch, making a great block, making a great run. No, we’re ahead of them, 14’s enough, that’s good enough, so we’re going to relax. That is is so contradictory and disrespectful to football and the whole quest to play football and anything that relates to a team game. I mean it’s disgusting at every level.”
(On Colorado's final touchdown) “There’s a lot of plays that’ll get you three yards. Our safety wasn’t in position I don’t think, so that’d be an alignment thing, I’d have to look at it. The better question is how’d they get down there in the first place, that’s the better question, you want to slice it all that thin. They managed to get three yards on an individual down. How’d they get the other 80?”
(On Connor Halliday) “Sporadic. His good stuff’s good. He’s not afraid to go out there and make a play. Sometimes gets ahead of himself, tries to make too much happen.”
(Does he need to be reined in?) “We’ve got to rein some of it in. I like the fact he pulls the trigger but we have to rein some of it in. There’s simple, basic, routine plays that are easy. We go downfield as often as we did, there’s plenty of them underneath we should have capitalized on.”
(On Matt Goetz and the offensive line) “Thought Goetz did fine, our offensive line’s got to get tougher. They’d be the prime example of a group that wants to relax when we’re ahead. I mean, if you’re an offensive lineman and you really value being an offensive lineman and keep in mind that’s why they have football. It’s the most important position. That’s why they have football is the big men that hit each other, emphasis on the word hit each other and if you get rid of those guys then all it is, is another sport. The guys that are great o-linemen are the ones that just relish the opportunity to pound the guy across from them over and over, until he makes them quit. Until they don’t want anymore and they’re looking for the sideline and things like that. Right now that’s not the identity that we have there. That needs to change.”
(On big penalties stalling drives and aiding opposing offenses) “We unravel because of our mentality. Hey, it’s third down, this is a great opportunity or hey, this is a great drive. Then all of a sudden our technique deteriorates. Key play, that’s when you need your technique. You don’t let it deteriorate then. And toughness is the ability to do the same thing over and over again with adversity and to make a routine play over and over again when there’s adversity or when you’re ahead. Well we’ve got to be tough. There were portions of the game we were tough but we weren’t tough at all in the fourth quarter.”