PULLMAN – When Jimmy Lake talks, Washington State fans listen.
Myles Gaskin, Jake Browning, Ben Burr-Kirven and Taylor Rapp are all names that have brought some level of pain to Cougar fans over the years, but there hasn’t been a bigger Apple Cup villain than Washington’s loose-lipped defensive coordinator.
Lake’s schemes have been a nuissance for Mike Leach and WSU during the last six rivalry meetings – all won by the Huskies – and his bold comments in the days and weeks before and after the various Apple Cups have incited even more dislike for the sixth-year UW assistant.
After the 2015 game, Lake told KJR’s Dave “Softy” Mahler, of WSU’s Air Raid offense, “They try to make it basketball on grass, kind of throwing the ball around like it’s 7-on-7. And that’s not what football is. Football is hard-nosed, tough-nosed. … I’m sure on Saturday morning, they felt who was the more physical team.”
And, about the WSU receivers: “What I did see were some nervous receivers going across the middle, some nervous receivers going downfield. I did see that, after they got hit a few times.”
Then in 2016, after a 45-17 Husky romp, Lake doubled down, describing the Apple Cup as “our favorite of the game of the year,” explaining that “anytime an offense, when we know they’re going to throw the ball 60 times, it really makes game-planning easy. They did a better job – they got four more points than they had the last three years. But this is our favorite game of the year, and I hope (the Cougars) continually do exactly what they’re doing because this is an awesome game to play.”
Lake’s comments had the Cougars’ attention again last year, when the Spokane native and former Eastern Washington safety said after a 28-13 win that Leach’s offense looked “Exactly the same. Exactly the same.”
Added Lake: “Next year maybe he’ll throw a little curveball, but it makes it very easy when you know what you’re going to get. … But knowing what I read about the head football coach here, he does things a little bit different way. So hopefully he remains here for a long time. That would be awesome.”
The 42-year-old defensive coordinator has yet to hold a weekly media availability ahead of the 112th Apple Cup, which takes place Friday at 1 p.m. (FOX) in Seattle, but when Lake does, his comments will surely meander across the Cascade Mountains – controversial or otherwise.
WSU players, on the other hand, won’t be listening. And if a quote or two is passed along, they guarantee it won’t bother them.
“As far as Jimmy Lake saying what he had to say, I really don’t have any comment,” Cougars linebacker Jahad Woods said Monday. “I’m a player trying to do my job, I’m trying to lead my defense. I’m not really into the dramatics and the WWE stuff that he says.”
Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon, the national passing leader at 4,920 yards, will have to be clicking if WSU can fashion an upset in Seattle, where the Huskies are favored to win by eight points.
Gordon indicated he’s strictly focused on dissecting what Lake’s defense does on the field and not what comes out of the DC’s mouth.
Asked Monday if Lake’s comments have gotten under the team’s skin, Gordon responded “Man, I don’t really think about it much. We’ll see if he can stop us this year, though.”
During Chris Petersen’s Monday press conference, a reporter alluded to “some talking last year after the (Apple Cup) from your side” and asked the UW coach if he had “any thoughts about that?”
Petersen suggested he’d prefer to suppress any talking that takes place away from the field, saying “I’m not good with it. I’m into playing the game and that’s how you’re talking should be.”
The coach was later asked about Lake specifically.
“Jimmy’s usually always outspoken,” Petersen said. “I think everybody in this program knows how we feel about all that stuff.”
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