Leach has plans for lackluster O-Line

THE COUGARS' OFFENSIVE LINE had a less-than-memorable performance in its home opener against Eastern Washington. But coach Mike Leach has no intention of letting the debacle fade into crimson oblivion.

"We intend to solve that problem," he said cryptically after the 24-20 win at Martin Stadium. "It will be an experience they hopefully won't forget.

"They'll be talking about it when they're my age."

Whether that means a day at the Leach Beach or further changes to the starting lineup remains to be seen.

What was seen Saturday was breakdowns in run blocking, a weak right side and a pair of costly holding penalties on the Cougars' final drive of the game.

"Right now they're a little too quick to feel sorry for themselves and let their technique break down," Leach said of the line in a postgame radio interview.

AFTER STRUGGLING TO RUN – and, at times, to contain the pass rush – in last week's 30-6 loss at Brigham Young, Leach switched Wade Jacobson and Dan Spitz for the Eastern game. Jacobson lined up at right tackle, while Spitz was to his left. While the running game improved, the transition did little to slow defensive linemen Andru Pulu, who routinely applied pressure on Tuel and had one sack, and Jerry Ceja. The latter had two tackles for loss.

"It's a big jump," Jacobson said of the change. "I have not taken any snaps there in this offense, so it was a challenge."

And not just for him.

The line allowed three sacks and had breakdowns in run blocking and protection that hindered the Cougars on third down, where they where they were successful on just 6 of 15 attempts.

"A lot of us are too worried about making a mistake," Jacobson said. "We need to pick it up in every category."

Perhaps none of the errors were as egregious as WSU's last offensive drive. A touchdown run by Leon Brooks was negated when left tackle John Fullington was assessed with a holding penalty. The Cougars appeared to overcome that mistake two plays later when Connor Halliday connected with Marquess Wilson for a touchdown. But that also was called back center Elliott Bosch was assessed a holding penalty.

"It's tough," said running back Carl Winston, who dashed for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter. "You work so hard for those plays and then they get called back."

ONE AREA THAT showed promise was WSU's pass rush. The Cougars, whose pass rush seemingly has been nonexistent since Mkristo Bruce graduated during the Bill Doba era, sacked EWU quarterback Kyle Padron four times.

WSU had just 17 sacks in 12 games last season, which tied for 94th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs. Linebackers Logan Mayes, Darryl Monroe and Chester Su'a each had one sack, while defensive lineman Steven Hoffart added the other.

The persistent pass rush also contributed to Padron's poor completion rate (26 of 54) and two interceptions. The Cougars also had eight tackles for loss.

Still, Leach was underwhelmed about his team's performance.

"We're just inconsistent," he said. "At times we ran the ball well. At times we blocked well. We've just got to be a more cohesive team."

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Leach didn't seem overly concerned about Tuel's injury sustained in the third quarter when he was hit low by Ceja. He walked off the field on his own and was seen icing his knee on the sideline.

    "We don't have injuries around here, so he's 100 percent and I would think if anything, he can run a 4.5 now instead of a 4.7," Leach joked after the game.

  • The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 33,598 at Martin Stadium – the first sellout of a home opener since 1952, and the first sellout since 2007 against Arizona State.

  • Washington State has never lost in 17 games against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern is 8-21 against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

  • Despite being just 60 miles apart, WSU and Eastern hadn't played each other in 104 years. The Cougars also won the 1908 match-up, 73-0.

  • Isiah Myers' 2-yard touchdown in The Opening period was the first of his career. He also scored on a 17-yard reception in the second quarter.

  • Wilson has caught a pass in 26 consecutive games – every game of his career. His 47 receiving yards Saturday move him into third – past Hugh Campbell – on the university's top-10 list for career receiving yards, with 2,502.

  • Tuel's two touchdown passes move him into a tie for eighth with Bob Newman on the top-10 list for career touchdown passes, with 27. He also moved into eighth place on the list for career passing yards, with 4,245.

  • Winston's 27-yard run in the first quarter was the longest of the 18 he has had at WSU.
  • Andrew Furney's 60-yard field goal in the second quarter was the second longest in school history, behind Jason Hanson's 62-yarder against UNLV in 1991. Furney's kick is the longest field goal by a WSU kicker in Martin Stadium history.

  • Deone Bucannon's second-quarter interception was his first of the season and sixth of his career.
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