Volero: There's big value in a loss like that

SPOKANE – While fans such as Bob Smith and Mary Larsen searched their memories for a Cougar loss as startling as the one to Colorado on Saturday (they settled on the 1975 Apple Cup), Washington State assistant coach Paul Volero was matter of fact Monday in his assessment of the setback. "I can tell you this," he said, "this loss will do more for this program than any win we'll have all year."

Volero, the Cougars' outside linebackers coach, was the featured speaker at the weekly Cougar coaches luncheon in Spokane.

He opened his remarks with game film of a number of plays in which the Cougars made outstanding efforts, pointing out areas where great decisions were made, great reads were made on offense and defense and where players, many of them freshmen and redshirt freshmen, stepped up with the kinds of quality plays that coaches appreciate in the film sessions but fans may have missed during the flow of the game.

"When I left West Virginia we were ranked No. 5 in the nation and were the Sugar Bowl Champions," said the former Mountaineers assistant. "But I don't think the folks back home remembered all the hard work that went into getting there. That's where we are right now (at Washington State). We're building that foundation."

But there's no getting around the game's final seven minutes, when the Cougs surrendered 21 points to lose to a heavy underdog in front of a loud Homecoming crowd.

"This group played with danger the last two games," he said, referring to WSU's victories over UNLV and Eastern Washington in which the Cougs left the door ajar at the end for both teams. "This time it finally came back to bite ‘em. Games like this one help you more than any other game all year. We're getting there."

Addressing questions about how WSU managed the fourth quarter on Saturday, Valero explained the way coach Leach coaches a game.

"You have to understand that there are routines in this game," he explained. "You can be playing a team where everyone knows they're going to work the clock, run the ball three times and I'm going to use all of my time outs so that I can get the ball back.

"You try to do that against a Mike Leach team and more than likely he's going to put the ball in the air."

It may not be the high percentage play in that situation, he allowed. "But if he hits it, it breaks your back right there. That's the kind of coach he is: high risk/high reward."

The same goes for opting to go for it on fourth down with 8 minutes left and leading 31-14 rather than kick a field goal.

"It's a question of what you coached that week," he said. "Did you see something in the film? What did you practice that week? Do you want to set a standard with your program?"

Valero talked about the hard work WSU athletics director Bill Moos has put into the football program and how the new coaching staff has done the same hard work to recruit players willing to do what it takes to make the program successful.

Moos is in Seattle all week for a series of events leading up to Saturday's 7:30 pm (ESPN) game against No. 2 Oregon at CenturyLink Field.

"It's interesting," Volero said. "This week we're facing the program that he built before he came back here. I can tell you one thing: our kids do not worry about Oregon."

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