PULLMAN – One player whose mental tenacity has impressed Washington State coach Mike Leach is Andrew Furney.
Leach spoke with a fondness that coaches rarely show kickers when teammates voted for Furney as one of the weekly game captains – a rare honor for kickers – before last week’s game at Brigham Young.
Leach grew even more fond of Furney after the junior from Burlington blasted a 60-yard field goal as time expired at the end of the first half of the Cougars’ 24-20 victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday.
“I hit it,” Furney said, “and it felt perfect. I took a peek at it. I knew it was down dead center.
“I had a chance. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this might actually go in.’ Time really slowed down right then after I hit it.
“Then I heard the crowd go crazy. I just started running. It was just natural instinct. I didn’t know what to do.”
Furney said he thought kickoff specialist Mike Bowlin might be the first choice of special-teams coach Eric Russell for such a long field goal. However, Furney had booted a 61-yard field goal in pregame warm-ups.
“Coach Russell asked me, ‘Hey, you got this?’ ‘Yeah, I’ve got it,’ ” Furney said. “I was thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ ”
The field goal is the longest in Martin Stadium history. The only Cougar with a longer kick is longtime Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson, who boomed a 62-yarder at UNLV in 1991.
The giant sand pit that Leach installed at the west end of WSU’s football practice field is generally used for conditioning players’ legs.
Don’t be surprised if Leach uses that sand pit to condition players’ minds at tonight’s practice.
“Our offensive line’s got to be tougher people,” Leach said after holding penalties cost the Cougars a pair of touchdowns Saturday (in addition to one in last week’s season opener).
“Right now,” Leach continued, “they’re a little too quick to feel sorry for themselves and let their technique break down. They get tired, so now, instead of responding with great technique, we’re going to hold.
“That’ll be addressed (today),” Leach promised. “It’ll be an experience they won’t forget. They’ll be talking about it when they’re my age.”
Darryl Monroe, a hard-hitting linebacker, threw his tough-guy demeanor out the window when he discussed his emotions as EWU’s potential winning touchdown pass was flying toward the end zone on the final play.
“I felt like my heart stopped,” Monroe said. “I probably should be in a hospital somewhere.”
Xavier Cooper, hampered by an undisclosed injury through much of the fall, played in a game for the first time in three years.
Cooper, described by Monroe as “one of our better defensive linemen,” saw limited duty.
The former Wilson High School star had his college debut delayed for two years because of academic issues.
Bowlin and Eastern’s Jake Miller (who briefly turned out at WSU as a freshman) turned in marvelous punting performances. Bowlin averaged 49.6 yards and Miller averaged 46.3, including a school-record 74-yarder. ... Cyrus Coen, who replaced Eric Oertel as WSU’s starting weakside linebacker, returned an interception 27 yards to set up WSU’s third touchdown. ... Anthony Carpenter, moved from safety to cornerback after the BYU game, played much of the way for Nolan Washington after the latter was burned on a 93-yard touchdown pass to Eastern’s Brandon Kaufman in the first quarter. ... Twenty-nine years ago, EWU football player Mike Pia snuck into Martin Stadium one night and proposed to a WSU co-ed at midfield. Immediately following Saturday’s game, happily married Mike and Cheryl Pia re-created the scene, complete with Mike getting down on his knee and presenting Cheryl with a ring.