Mike Leach believes offensive linemen should be the toughest players on a football team. At his weekly news conference he lambasted his O-line’s performance in the Cougars’ remarkable 47-44 triple-overtime win over Boise State.
Leach suggested the Cougars’ comeback from a 21-point deficit Saturday night at Martin Stadium wouldn’t have been necessary if his offense, particularly his line, had played better the first three quarters.
At one point, he asked reporters to imagine “a fight to the death” in which “there were no rules whatsoever to be applied,” pitting “whoever happens to be your favorite of our offensive linemen” against “whoever’s softest on that Boise State D-line.”
“All that’s going to be left of our offensive lineman is a grease spot in the end,” the coach said, “because that Boise State D-lineman will smoke our offensive lineman so bad it will be embarrassing. If you don’t believe me, just turn on that game the other night and you'll see exactly what I’m talking about.”
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Leach was far more impressed with his defense than his offense, and he wasn’t alone. Senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer on Monday was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for a performance that included 17 tackles and a fourth-quarter interception that he returned 36 yards for a touchdown.
“He was extremely physical the whole day, the entire time,” Leach said. “Honestly he pounded one ballcarrier and blocker after the next.”
Washington State (2-0, 0-0) remains home to face Oregon State (1-2, 0-0) in a Pac-12 game Saturday (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). The Cougars are favored by 21 1/2 points.
The school also learned that its home game against Nevada on Sept. 23 will start at 3 p.m. and will be another Pac-12 Networks vehicle.
Luke Falk, the WSU quarterback who left the Boise State game in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be an upper-torso injury, will get the starting nod against Oregon State, Leach said.
Early in the game Falk broke WSU records for career passing yardage and total offense, and he’s being considered for numerous national awards as a senior. But Leach believes he has a tendency to grow too conservative at times.
“I think he’s got be more decisive,” the coach said. “He wants to overanalyze everything, and we’re not looking for a guy that overanalyzes everything. We’re looking for a guy that executes. Bottom line, us as coaches have got to do better coaching. I highlighted a bunch of players. Most of the problem lies with us as coaches, our failure to coach them well enough to get the results we want.”
Leach criticized his running backs and receivers but reserved his most pointed remarks for his offensive line, which had entered the season highly regarded.
“We’ve got to demand more out of those guys,” he said. “Some of those guys may be reading the nicey-nice stuff you say about them. But our O-line saunters around like they’ve accomplished something. They haven’t accomplished anything at this point.”
Cohesion is often elusive for an O-line, but Leach said that’s not the problem.
“I think they’re somewhat choreographed,” he said. “They just don’t mind getting their ass kicked. It appears to kind of appeal to them. And hopefully they’re only doing it on an experimental basis, and it’s a phase or a stage they'll come out of.”
For all that, Leach was pleased with the Cougars’ comeback, which saw them produce three touchdowns in six minutes, 16 seconds.
“We found a way to win, which I don’t think hardly any other teams in the country would have done,” Leach said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that, because they would have given up the ghost a long time ago.”