When it comes to the Air Raid philosophy, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell hasn’t borrowed nearly as much from Mike Leach as he has from some of his peers in the Big 12 Conference.
That would mean namely Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, former Leach pupils who’ve installed the coach’s offense with tremendous amounts of success in a league known for hefty passing numbers.
Campbell’s playbook may not mirror Leach’s, but the 39-year-old ISU coach still knows a fair amount about the coach he’ll be opposing at the Dec. 28 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
“I’ve read the book,” Campbell told local reporters Sunday shortly after it was announced No. 24 ISU (8-4, 6-3) would play No. 13 WSU in the Alamo Bowl.
It was specified Thursday during a joint press conference with the coaches that Campbell had read “Swing Your Sword.” His original comment could have been misinterpreted because Leach is also the author of another book, “Geronimo.”
“I did have the opportunity to read his book. I’ve got so much respect for what coach has done not only at Washington State but at Texas Tech and the way he’s come up and built programs,” Campbell said. “So just a lot of respect and certainly enjoyed reading the book.”
Leach, who never misses a chance to plug his literary work, added: “I think virtually everybody in America needs a couple copies of the book “Swing Your Sword” and they make great Christmas gifts as we’re coming into the holidays.”
The Alamo Bowl is considered to be the highest-profile non-New Year’s Six postseason game on the bowl schedule. The teams that have played in it have an average ranking of No. 14. This year’s game is the only bowl featuring coaches who won coach of the year honors in their respective Power Five conferences – Leach in the Pac-12 and Campbell in the Big 12.
“For me, I’ve got a lot of respect as a young coach looking at coaches that have sustained success and coaches that build programs, and I think sometimes in our profession there’s guys that are trying to be somebody or guys that are trying to do something,” Campbell said. “And from afar, watching coach Leach and how he’s built his programs and the way he’s done it has been really impressive.”
Leach had praise for Campbell, who’s orchestrated the Big 12’s second-best defense this season and has an All-American candidate in cornerback Brian Peavy. The Cyclones played stiff defense against West Virginia and quarterback Will Grier, holding the Mountaineers to 14 points. Even in a 37-37 loss to Oklahoma, ISU held the fourth-ranked Sooners to their second-lowest point total of the season.
“The biggest thing is, they just keep playing extremely hard,” Leach said of ISU. “Whether you’re on offense or defense, you face a certain amount of adversity, and one of the biggest strengths I think they have is they just keep playing no matter what and just relentlessly till the clock says (zero), and I think that’s one of the highest compliments you can give any team or any side of the ball.”
The press conference went in a few different directions, as most involving Leach do.
The 57-year-old WSU coach was asked if he had any parenting advice for his ISU counterpart, who’s 18 years younger and much newer to fatherhood.
“I’ve got four older children, so you’ve got to be a little like coach Campbell’s defense. You’ve got to just keep persevering,” Leach said. “Just keep signing up and showing up.”
When the Cougars played in the Sun Bowl three years ago, Leach stated his affinity for a co-mingled carwash/restaurant based in El Paso, Texas. One reporter on Thursday wanted to know if he also had a preferred spot in San Antonio.
“No,” Leach said, but “in L.A., I had a great carwash food place I used to go to right by my house. So anyway, carwash and food is a good combination, and if somebody is looking for a business in San Antonio, that’d probably be a good one.”