PULLMAN – Few people would call the Cougars a “great” team one game into the 2012 season. But safety Deone Bucannon did just that on Monday. Meanwhile, based on what Mike Leach had to say, don’t expect any further displays of demonstrable frustration out on the field -- like what the ESPN cameras captured with Marquess Wilson at the end of the BYU game.
Morale was high and the demeanor was calm on Monday, a few days removed from Thursday’s disappointing loss to BYU.
“We’re a great team, we know we’re a great team,” Deone Bucannon said. “The performance we put on (at BYU) isn’t going to translate into any of the other games coming up.”
“If you guys expect us to sit around and mope all week, you’re wrong,” Jeff Tuel said. “Those times are over.”
During the BYU game, the Cougs drew Mike Leach’s ire for doing exactly that. A hot topic among CougFans since Thursday, I asked Leach about All-America candidate Marquess Wilson and how ESPN’s cameras showed him frustrated out on the field towards the end of the game.
“We spent more time putting on little frustration demonstrations than we did playing football -- that's a problem,” Leach said. “I’m not having him pout, or anybody else.”
Leach said body language has been a huge point of emphasis in film session and meetings this week.
He also added that he’d have no problem sending someone to the locker room if they were going to mope around. He didn’t refer to Wilson specifically on that last point -- it’s clear the team as a whole will need to avoid similar expressions of attitude this week and come Saturday.
TUEL SAID HE needs to play better next week and beyond and what needs work is obvious.
“I need to get through my reads quicker,” Tuel said. “I need to put the ball in play, really.”
Leach also noted that Tuel does have the freedom to take off and run on any play but it's not an emphasis. He said he was impressed with how Tuel avoided pressure and made things happen on the run, but added that he has to find his check downs and make things happen.
When asked if the new offense has led to some growing pains, Tuel somewhat agreed but said that it was no excuse for any shortcomings in his play on Thursday. As to the body language issue, he said that as a team captain, senior and veteran quarterback, it’s his job to help maintain team mettle.
“We’re a young team,” Tuel said. “It’s easy if you get in a hole just to kinda get upset and get your body language down and throw in the towel. We’re 0-1. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not catastrophic. We’ll come back and be ready this week.”
BUCK LINEBACKER Travis Long, the senior leader of the defense, said on Monday that the Cougar D has made strides and is beginning to gel.
“I thought we played well -- certain plays shot us in the foot, but we all did our jobs for a majority of the time.”
Long added that the new 3-4 system has contributed to his early success. The Spokane native tallied two sacks against BYU.
BUCANNON SAID THE Cougs need to fly around and let loose come Saturday against Eastern. And whether they’re an FCS team or not, they’re still a college football team that resides in the Cougars’ home state.
“I definitely see it as a rivalry,” Bucannon said. “It’s not as big as UW or anything, but they’re only an hour away and that’s how it’s gonna be on the field.”
Tuel echoed Bucannon’s sentiment, adding that Eastern’s spirited play on Saturday in the 20-3 win over Idaho is what WSU should strive for.
“This is how we want to play, this is how we should have played Thursday,” said Tuel in regards to EWU. “They just fly around, really high energy, with passion. They’re flying around the ball, having a good time.”
BUCANNON CAPPED OFF the afternoon by noting that with Leach now at the helm, the influx of support and attention nationwide is a new feeling for the Cougs, something they’re not yet used to yet.
“It’s new for us,” Bucannon said. “For everyone to have so much faith in us, even the coaching staff. To have some much poise and to by relying on us and confident in us, I believe we have to be more confident in ourselves.”
The Cougs next hit the practice field on Tuesday afternoon. Washington State will take on the Eastern Washington Eagles this Saturday at noon in Martin Stadium in a game being televised by the Pac-12 Network.
An early copy of this week’s depth chart was handed out and Xavier Cooper is no longer listed as the starting right tackle on the d-line. Steven Hoffart, who got the start there against BYU, is now listed as the No. 1. Cooper has been out injured since early in fall camp but was dressed and warmed up on Thursday, but did not play.
Adam Coerper is no longer listed as the No. 1 d-line left tackle -- Matthew Bock is now slotted there. Bock started against BYU and Coerper played, though neither was credited with any stats by the official scorekeeper.
On offense, the left guard position continues to be noted as Wade Jacobson OR Matt Goetz. At right tackle, Dan Spitz continues to be listed as the starter. (Jacobson spent all of Sunday’s practice running at the No. 1 right tackle position while Spitz was the No. 1 right guard.
Leach displayed his usual calm demeanor throughout the 20-minute media session and also per usual, had a quip or two that broke up the crowd.
“This is the hottest coffee in the whole wide world,” Leach proclaimed at one point. (You had to be there.)