PULLMAN – In news that is unlikely to result in shocked people spitting their morning coffee upon these pages (or computer screen), Mike Leach is not a big fan of dancing.
Seeing dancing on TV can ruin an afternoon for the Washington State football coach, particularly solo ballets performed by running backs who should instead be sprinting.
“You see backs everywhere do it and it’s just nauseating,” Leach said. “And it’s nauseating to the point where if I’m watching some team I don’t know anything about and that back thinks he’s going to exhibit how fast he can get to the sideline, it pisses me off, and I don’t know anything about the team.”
Leach is likely to feel especially ill if he sees any backfield prancing against Oregon State on Saturday, considering the opportunities WSU’s running backs will have up the middle against the Pac-12’s worst rushing defense.
While the WSU rushing attack is itself ranked last in the conference –second-to-last in the country, in fact – the WSU running backs proved themselves a capable group as they rolled up 176 yards on 18 carries at Oregon last weekend.
The performance was a key exhibit in the argument for taking the most direct route to one’s desired destination when rushing the football.
“I thought we did a good job hitting the holes real hard and then you make some stuff happen when you do that,” Leach said. “And they did.”
The mediocre Beavers rushing defense provides the sort of advantage the Cougars (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) need to exploit to secure a decisive victory. And a loose victory – as opposed to a tight one, and all five of WSU’s games this year have been tight – would be the most recognizable proof that the team is continuing to improve each week.
So far the Cougars have displayed the ability to improve when the competition does, but play below their abilities against less challenging opponents, a tendency Leach says the coaches have to “constantly check” and occasionally provide “serious motivation on the subject.”
The Cougars have played against football teams across the talent spectrum, from FCS squads to ranked teams, and the only game decided by more than a touchdown was the 31-14 home win over Wyoming, and the Cougars’ lead was still only single digits entering the fourth quarter.
Saturday’s homecoming game against a transitioning OSU (2-3, 0-2) team that has not played any tight games, and is more often than not on the wrong side of blowouts in coach Gary Andersen’s first year, has the potential to once again draw the Cougars down to the level of a supposedly inferior opponent.
“Obviously, it has that potential to be (a trap game) but right now our emphasis and what the coaches told us, it doesn’t matter who we play,” said linebacker Peyton Pelluer.
“The coaches can only do so much and say so much but it really comes down to us playing at the level we know we can play at.”
Cougars sign 2016 pair
Justus Rogers and Jalen Thompson signed financial aid agreements with Washington State on Friday, allowing the 2016 football recruits to enroll for the spring semester after graduating from high school early.
Financial aid agreements do not bind a recruit to a school, unlike a national letter of intent, but allow recruits to secure a scholarship and enroll at a school prior to national signing day in February.
Rogers, a quarterback/athlete from Bellevue High, and Thompson, a cornerback who will matriculate from Downey High in Bellflower, California, will both enroll early at WSU and participate in the team’s 2016 spring practices.
ESPN.com considers both players to be three-star prospects