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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State’s Mike Leach riffs on offensive balance after Cougars beat Utes rushing for zero yards

Washington State head coach Mike Leach looks on during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Young Kwak / AP)
Washington State head coach Mike Leach looks on during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Young Kwak / AP)

PULLMAN – He isn’t sure how or where the concept originated, but Mike Leach believes there’s a skewed perception of offensive balance and it’s a subject the Washington State coach comes across plenty as one of the sport’s top advocates for passing the football.

The topic resurfaced again Monday during Leach’s weekly news conference, two days after the Cougars dispatched Utah 28-24 at Martin Stadium despite rushing for a net total of zero yards against the Utes.

WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew dropped back to throw 61 times in the game despite recording just 56 attempts. Five other times, he was either sacked or scrambled out of the pocket to make a play with his feet. The stat sheet reflected 13 total rushing attempts, but only five of those were designed runs.

Meaning the Cougars intended to throw the ball on 64 of their 69 offensive plays – or 94 percent of the time – during Saturday’s game against the Utes. Some would contest there’s not much balance to that approach, but Leach argues the exact opposite.

“I want all the positions to touch it,” Leach said Monday during his news conference. The WSU coach expanded on his hypothesis, explaining “there’s nothing balanced about 50 percent run, 50 percent pass because that’s 50 percent stupid. What is balanced is when you have five skill positions, if all five of them are contributing to the offensive effort in a somewhat equal fashion, then that’s balanced. But this notion that if you hand it to one guy 50 percent of the time and then you throw it to a combination of two guys the other 50 percent that you’re really balanced and you proudly pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that – and people have been doing that for decades. Well then you’re delusional.”

The Cougars may be throwing more than every other team in the country, with 194 completions and 284 pass attempts, and running it less than all 128 of their peers in the Football Subdivision with only 104 rushing attempts in five games, but they’ve been able to strike offensive balance according to Leach’s understanding.

In total, 13 players have caught passes this season, seven already have 18 or more and six of them have hauled in touchdowns to this point. Against Utah, Minshew distributed the ball to eight of the 10 players in the two-deep and both running backs, James Williams and Gardner Minshew.

“It was a pretty balanced offensive effort, all kinds of positions touched the ball and we had a lot of touches by a wide variety of positions and who contributed to the offensive effort,” Leach said. “So that’s what we’re looking for. We want contributions from all of our positions.”

Whether those yards are coming through the air or on the ground doesn’t matter in the slightest to the WSU coach.

“Passing yards have the same way of spending as rushing yards do,” he said.

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