Leaf Not Hooked By Hype


Ryan Leaf is getting good at downplaying his rising stock in the Heisman Trophy sweepstakes, even as he continues to fuel the hype by putting up big numbers every week.

“It’s really in the back of my mind,” Washington State’s junior quarterback said Tuesday. “If I’m in a situation at the end of the season where I’m near second to Payton (Manning), then I’ll be happy about it.”

How impressive has the 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior been during the 15th-ranked Cougars’ 3-0 start?

Consider Leaf’s numbers from Saturday’s 35-22 victory at Illinois: 21 of 36, 302 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Consider also that these numbers constitute a bad game, at least by Leaf’s inflated standards.

“I was terrible,” he said afterward.

Except for an 80-yard touchdown pass to Kevin McKenzie on the game’s first play, Leaf was relatively ineffective during most of the first three quarters. But he owned the final 15 minutes, during which time he completed 7 of 9 passes for 129 yards and two scores.

Leaf is particularly bothered by the three interceptions, although coaches said only one was the result of a wayward throw. Still, Leaf has thrown five interceptions in the last two weeks, after throwing 12 all of last season.

“I need to realize that when two guys are hanging on my legs, not to try and throw a 50-yard pass downfield to one of my receivers,” Leaf said. “Just submit, take the sack and live to fight another day.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Leaf counts himself among Manning’s biggest fans. Leaf said he feels no sense of competition with the Tennessee quarterback and preseason Heisman favorite.

“I really wish they would have beat Florida over the weekend,” Leaf said. “I wanted him to win.”

Leaf thought WSU’s upset victory at USC two weeks ago foreshadowed a Manning victory in the Volunteers’ recent visit to Gainesville.

“I had the same thought for him, that I hadn’t beaten SC yet and got a victory and had to play there,” Leaf said, “and I just thought it was going to be ironic that he had to play Florida there and hadn’t beaten them yet, and so I really thought he had a good chance of beating them down there this year.”

Price: 39-point spread “ridiculous”

Mike Price said he’s had teams that couldn’t score 39 points if they were playing against air (insert Chad Davis cheap shot here). And even though his current team hardly fits into that category, the ninth-year WSU coach was surprised to learn that the Cougars are 39-point favorites against Boise State.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Price said.

To prevent against overconfidence, Price has told his players to concentrate more on their own performance level than on the 1-3 Broncos.

“I gave the example to our team about Dan O’Brien, about when he goes out and performs and competes, a lot of times he’s the only one running around that track,” Price said. “He’s going for his personal best, and so that’s what we’re striving to do.”

Price has also stressed Boise State’s strong showing against Wisconsin three weeks ago. The Broncos led late in the game before losing 28-24.

Which way to the end zone?

Nian Taylor has three. Chris Jackson, Kevin McKenzie and Shawn McWashington have two apiece. Even tight end Love Jefferson has a touchdown catch this season.

“Everybody on the offense got one but me,” starting receiver Shawn Tims lamented. “Everybody. Didn’t Ryan run in for one or something? (yes)”

With eight catches for 109 yards this season, Tims is an integral part of a receiving group that is living up to its ambitious “Fab Five” moniker.

And while it’s only a matter of time before Tims finds the end zone, he’s growing weary of what has become incessant ribbing from his fellow receivers.

“They give me a real bad time,” Tims said.

McWashington has even threatened to remove the revered “Fab Five” insignia on Tims’ undershirt.

“I’m going to get a touchdown this week,” Tims insisted. “I will.”

No TV at Oregon

Oregon’s Oct. 4 home game against Washington State won’t be televised regionally on Fox Sports after Oregon declined to move the game from a 1 p.m. kickoff to 7:15 p.m. because it didn’t want to spend money for extra lighting.

1,000 cut-rate tickets sold

In the first full day since announcing that tickets to the Boise State game will cost just $5, the Cougars sold about 1,000 tickets, marketing director Ron Davis said.

That’s up from about 100 per day, Davis said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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