PULLMAN – If Washington State football players were as fired up during Saturday’s game as their coach was during his postgame press conference, chances are the Cougars would not be trying to explain their late collapse in a 35-34 loss to lowly Colorado.
“The biggest thing is our mentality,” coach Mike Leach said. “We’re a mentally weak team. That’s got to change.
“It’s a decision (players must make). I think it starts with us as coaches.
“We need to change the mentality of this team. As a team, we’re afraid to be successful, so when we get ahead, we want to relax and enjoy it, which is crazy.”
When asked if Saturday’s game could serve as a “wake-up call” for the Cougars, Leach grew more animated.
“I don’t know how the hell we aren’t awake,” the first-year coach said. “I mean, the wealth of wins that we’ve enjoyed around here, so we’re not awake?
“We’ve got this rich tradition of kicking everyone’s ass, so we’re not awake? How can you not be awake?
“I’m not saying you’re wrong,” Leach stressed. “The saddest thing of all is that I suspect you’re right.”
The Cougars (2-2) have been outscored 47-20 in second halves this season, including 28-13 by Colorado. WSU’s first third-quarter points (seven) of the season were produced Saturday.
“We want to go complacent when we get ahead,” Leach said, “then we want to panic when something good happens for the other guy.
“Physically, we’re not that bad, but mentally, we’re afraid to be successful.”
Players said WSU’s offseason training regimen was easily the most demanding they have endured, so conditioning wouldn’t seem to be a problem.
“If you consider the offseason,” Leach said, “if you consider practices, and you consider how long you have worked at getting a handful of plays in a season or even in a career, to not make the most of them is unfathomable.”
Leach added, “We can run and we can hit people. It needs to look like Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices.
“We haven’t had a game yet that looks like Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices. If you can do it then, I don’t know why you can’t do it Saturday.”