Leach comfortable with either QB in Air Raid

JEFF TUEL

PAC-12 PLAY still is a week away, but Washington State coach Mike Leach already is fielding questions about which quarterback he will start Friday night at UNLV (TV: ESPN) – and beyond. Leach discussed that issue, the 60-yard field goal during Saturday's 24-20 win against Eastern Washington and much more during his Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches conference call.

Leach still has not clarified whether senior Jeff Tuel, who completed 20 of 26 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns against EWU before he left the game early in the fourth quarter with a right knee injury, will start Friday. He was replaced by sophomore Connor Halliday, who completed 5 of 11 passes for 76 yards and threw an interception.

While Tuel, who said after the game that he "felt great," had better numbers, some believe Halliday might be a better fit for the Air Raid offense and see him as the more accurate passer of the duo.

"I think they're both good," Leach said. "I don't think there's necessarily a fit issue either way."

The quarterbacks are not the only ones competing for playing time. Leach said the decision to first insert junior Mike Bowlin before replacing him with Andrew Furney, who made the second longest field goal in program history, mostly was made because they expected to punt. But they also wanted to "push" Furney. The latter's field goal sent the Cougars (1-1) into halftime with a 24-14 lead.

LEACH AGAIN WAS asked about his decision to come to WSU. He said the factors, ranging from the Cougars' tradition to the university's administration, remain the same.

He also was asked if the Cougs, in light of WSU's narrow victory against the Eagles who compete in the Football Championship Subdivision's Big Sky, are in for a long-term rebuilding project. The Rebels (0-2) lost 17-14 last week against Northern Arizona, which also plays in the Big Sky.

"I think some of the FCS schools are really good," Leach said. "I don't know much about the team UNLV played. (EWU has) a tradition of winning and can get some guys in school that we can't (academically)."

As far as a rebuilding project is concerned, Leach said his focus is on the current status of the program.

"We need to come together and develop this team," he said. "I think we're getting better at it. I think we're an explosive team."

Leach said he believes players are adjusting to the changes his staff made on both sides of the ball.

"I think we need to accelerate the process, though," he said. "Part of what we're dealing with is a lot of guys haven't played college football before."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Leach said there is no reason his players should overlook the Rebels. WSU defeated UNLV 59-7 last year in Pullman. "They better not be," he said. "We haven't proven anything. We need to go out there and play the best we can, which we have not done this year."

  • WSU had four sacks against EWU and seemed to put consistent pressure on quarterback Kyle Padron. "I think we did some good things," Leach said. "I thought we were fast and flashy."

  • Leach still wants more consistency out of the defense, though. That unit surrendered a 93-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Kaufman during the first quarter. "We have up more yards on explosives than all of the other downs combined," Leach said.

  • Leach has been known to discuss a variety of subjects outside of football in his speeches to players. Many players have said he is able to tie those topics back into football, though. "You don't throw random stuff out there unless there's some level of application to it," Leach said. "Football can get monotonous, so you try and add some variety to it when you can."

  • Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA all upset teams from major conferences last week. "I thought it was impressive," Leach said. "It doesn't surprise me that much. I thought the Pac-12 was good to begin with."

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