SPOKANE – Mike Leach continues to say his Washington State football team needs to get bigger, stronger, more mature and tougher. Not necessarily in that order.
Leach, the colorful and often blunt coach of the Cougars, took some more verbal shots Monday at the lack of grit demonstrated by his team in general and by some older players in particular.
“We’ve got to get meaner,” Leach told about 100 WSU boosters at a luncheon at the Red Lion Inn at the Park. “I mean, we’re a team of gentlemen. There’s a nastiness to this game.”
Leach said he’s “real impressed” with the young players on his first WSU team, but the “older guys are a little more defeatist. The younger guys have a little more ‘I am freshman, hear me roar’ type of thing.”
Leach said players such as senior linebacker Travis Long are “really doing a good job” of providing leadership. Others, however, Leach finds lacking in leadership.
“I think in order to be a good leader in football, you have to really love football,” Leach said. “I think that’s No. 1. I think there’s a handful of guys in our case that don’t love football.”
The Cougars, coming off their bye week, return to action Saturday at 19th-ranked Stanford (3:15 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Cardinal, favored by 211/2 points, is big, physical and loaded with experience on both sides of the ball.
The Cardinal has won four in a row against WSU by an average score of 45-14. Stanford is coming off a dominant road win (21-3) over a California team that handled WSU with relative ease (31-17) two weeks ago in Pullman. Stanford held the Bears to 3 rushing yards one week after Cal ran for 318 yards against the Cougars.
More bad news for the Cougars: WSU has lost four consecutive overall, and 19 in a row to Top 25 teams. Also, Stanford is 27-3 in the past 30 home games, and Washington State is 3-27 in the past 30 games away from Pullman.
Leach, who gave the team three days off last week. spiced up recent practices with contests involving tossed eggs, dodgeball, tug-of-war and soccer penalty kicks.
Leading receiver Marquess Wilson has resumed practicing, but leading rusher Teondray Caldwell remains out. Both suffered apparent head injuries against Cal. Leach, as usual, declined to address injuries.
Leach and players said the team has responded well since Leach pushed quarterbacks and receivers through a long series of extra drills at the end of a practice Oct. 16 that quarterback Jeff Tuel described as “just really bad.”
Leach said Tuel will start Saturday, his first start since Sept. 8.
WSU safety Deone Bucannon ranks second in the Pacific-12 Conference in tackles (60) and is tied for second in interceptions (four), with is fourth nationally.
Long is tied for third in the Pac-12 and 10th in the nation with 71/2 sacks.
Caldwell ranks second in the conference and 23rd in the country with 26.8 yards per kickoff return. That’s fifth best in school history.
Four players who did not see action this year have left the Cougars. That brings to 17 the number of scholarship players known to have quit or been dismissed since Leach arrived 11 months ago.
One of the latest players to leave, wide receiver-kick returner Blair Bomber of Lynden, plans to transfer to Eastern Washington.
Stanford claims to be the first college team to supply all players and coaches with digital playbooks on iPads.
Stanford, of course, is one of the most respected academic institutions in the country. Fifteen of the Cardinal’s upperclassmen are engineering majors.