WHEN MIKE LEACH was hired to coach Washington State, many saw him as the savoir that would fix the…
The 2012 Cougs need to channel Jason David
David had no memory. It was impossible to make him hang his head.
It made absolutely no difference to him if he had just gotten beat, taken a bad angle and/or inexplicably escaped when the receiver didn't capitalize -- none of that ever, ever affected him on the next snap.
Listening to Leach post game after the Colorado loss, it's clear he's been looking for a bunch of Jason Davids since the 2012 season opener – and not finding them.
"The biggest thing is our mentality," said Leach. "We're a mentally weak team…we need to change the mentality of this team. As a team we're afraid to be successful. So when we get ahead we want to relax and enjoy it – which is crazy…As coaches we've got to change it and as players there's got to be a certain amount of accountability."
To hear Leach, he has enough Pac-12 level talent to get things done in the conference this year.
Sure, he'd like more, and he also believes WSU is going to be better in the years to come as more and more of his recruiting classes arrive and then grow up. But in the short term, in 2012, Leach is adamant he has enough fast, strong, skilled, talented players… who are robbing themselves of all that because they're not strong enough mentally to overcome any adversity that comes their way.
"Physically we're not that bad. We're not that bad physically. But mentally? We're afraid to be successful. We're afraid to win…we let the setting – time, place, score – impact it. And that's crazy. And unless we get that changed, our results are going to be the same," said Leach.
NOT EVERY PLAYER is going to be as expressive as David was – saying he enjoyed trash talk was like saying a dog would enjoy time alone in a butcher shop. But they would be well advised to emulate the mental toughness David showed at Washington State. Case in point, and against the same opponent WSU faces this week…
Washington State pasted No. 11 Oregon 55-16 back when David was a senior in 2003 and the key moment came on a play David got burned. The Oregon receiver did everything right, David did everything wrong -- and then the wideout flat out dropped the ball in the end zone.
David didn't breathe a sigh of relief. He didn't worry it would happen again. Instead, as related to the Seattle Times' Craig Smith, his first and only reaction was to immediately tell the Oregon wideout how bad he was and how good David was.
"I gave you one and you dropped it!" David told Samie Parker. "I gave you a freebie!"
Parker slapped David's facemask. And so instead of Oregon cutting the lead to 17-10, a 15-yard personal foul penalty pushed Oregon back to their 40-yard line. The next play WSU forced a turnover and the crimson rout was on in Eugene.
David, who wasn't quite 5-9, went on to an NFL career and has a Super Bowl ring. The mental part of his game was the main reason why.
It's not a question of a talent in 2012, says Leach. It's instead a matter of confidence and mental toughness, the same unshakeable brand that Jason David once brought to the table out on the Palouse. And the clock is ticking.
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