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Wednesday, June 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cougars begin bye week, but it won’t be vacation

Cougars wide receiver Robert Lewis hauls in a touchdown pass during WSU’s 56-6 victory over Idaho on Saturday, the last action for the Cougars before an Oct. 1 matchup with Oregon in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Cougars wide receiver Robert Lewis hauls in a touchdown pass during WSU’s 56-6 victory over Idaho on Saturday, the last action for the Cougars before an Oct. 1 matchup with Oregon in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Well, the Cougars may have found out how to best prepare themselves for the upcoming Pac-12 football season, in which they will need a winning record to become bowl eligible.

Unfortunately for the Washington State players, it appears the coaching style they respond to best is the least pleasant option.

“It was a fairly intense week. Different teams have different personalities, and with this team it’s become apparent a lot of this intensity has to come from us as coaches,” Mike Leach said after WSU’s 56-6 win over Idaho on Saturday. “I think as coaches we could have done a better job of evaluating that and sorting that out earlier.

“Everybody’s rooting for their players and wants them to do well, and so if they do something well you want to encourage them,” he continued. “We seem to have a group that will go soft a little bit. I mean, I think as coaches we’ve got to be on them all the time and it’s got to be all kinds of intensity and a bunch of stuff that’s old-fashioned.”

The Cougars will rest for the first few days of their bye week, allowing their bodies to recover from the regular season’s first quarter and their minds from a grueling week off of-the-field news.

When questioned, the Cougars maintained after the game that they were unaffected by the week’s legal news, but considering how often the Cougars refer to each other as family it seems unlikely they were wholly uninterested in their kin’s arrests.

Following the respite, expect this week’s practices to have even more juice than those last week, since the Cougars do not have to save themselves for a game this weekend. Here is a chance for Leach and his coaches to make a wholesale change to his team’s attitude and, hopefully, the trajectory of its season.

Chances are, the Cougars will do a bit more hitting in practice, will be wearing pads more often and the coaches won’t be quite so congratulatory when the players perform well. A trip to two to the “Leach Beach” sandpit isn’t unlikely and the mind dances while trying to imagine what other “old-fashioned stuff” Leach has in store for his charges during this, uh, off week.

“They’ll probably wish there wasn’t a bye,” Leach said.

But, they probably know they need one. The Cougars get an extra week to prepare for Oregon. That game has already sold out Martin Stadium and can do a great deal to reassure the fan base that big things are possible for the Cougars.

If WSU (1-2) can get to .500 with a win over a pretty good Pac-12 North opponent, it will keep the Cougars on track for a bowl game. More importantly, it will show that Leach has found his team’s antidote and that the team is finally playing well.

They’re going to be tough to survive an October gantlet that also includes a visit to No. 7 Stanford, a visit from UCLA and a trip to Tempe that is rarely kind to the Cougars.

The express purpose of this upcoming week, then, is that nothing will be easy.

“We tried the other approach,” Leach said. “And I didn’t care for how that worked out.”

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