PULLMAN–The Cougs haven’t won many football games this season, but Mike Leach has won over plenty of reporters with his non-stop collection of lively quotes. Leach’s blunt appraisal of his players doesn’t go over well with some fans, and reporters bristle when he routinely shows up late for press conferences or post-game media sessions. When Leach does arrive, however, it’s usually worth the wait.
Here’s one man’s take on Mike Leach’s 10 best quotes since arriving on the Palouse last December.
10. On the Cougars’ listless play at BYU: “We spent more time pouting than we did playing.”
9. On a Stanford receiver left wide open on a 70-yard touchdown catch: “They could have punted that ball to that kid.”
8. On the grittiness of WSU’s receivers: “Hell no, they’re not tough.”
7. Asked what happened to the bear he shot on a hunting trip last spring: “I’ll get a rug out of the deal.”
6. On handling adversity: “If something negative happens, we can’t have all these basset-hound-looking faces on the sidelines.”
5. On wasted scoring opportunities against California: “We left meat scraps all over the table.”
4. Describing diminutive freshman receiver Brett Bartolone to luncheon guests: “He just looks like some kid walking through here. You’d stop him to get you more coffee.”
3. Strategy for handling Oregon State’s defensive ends: “Shaghai ’em and leave ’em in a foreign country.”
2. On the lack of intensity of a few WSU seniors: “Some of them, quite honestly, have an empty-corpse quality.”
1. Response when someone questioned the wisdom of his choice of Washington State as the place to resume his coaching career: “That’s a stupid question.”
After Jeff Tuel shredded Stanford’s highly respected defense for a career-high 401 passing yards last Saturday, Cardinal coach David Shaw said, “The biggest misleading stat there is, is passing yards.”
Shaw might have a point. Despite ranking eighth in the nation in passing yards per game (332.1), the Cougars are 103rd in scoring (20.6) and 91st in total offense (365.6) among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams officially recognized by the NCAA.
Washington State ranks second with 51.5 pass attempts per game and is tied for first with 15 interceptions. The Cougars are 33rd among the top 34 passing teams in yards gained per pass attempt at 6.45.
WSU season records for most pass attempts and completions should fall, but the Cougars are running behind the record pace for passing yards and passing touchdowns. The infamous 1970 record of 36 interceptions seems safe.
The Cougars rank last in the nation in sacks allowed per game (4.25), rushing yards per game (33.5), rushing attempts per game (20.6) and yards gained per rush (1.6).
THE TOP-RATED recruit committed to WSU, 4-star quarterback Tyler Bruggman of Phoenix, has passed for 2,199 yards, 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 11 games at Brophy Prep.
Scout.com ranks WSU’s current group of 16 known recruits eighth in the Pac-12 and 48th in the nation.
Only a 4-0 finish to the regular season will prevent Leach from enduring his first losing season in 11 years as a head coach.
“I knew this was going to be challenging,” Leach said. “I’ve never played this many freshmen before.”
WSU has played 15 freshmen, including nine true freshmen. The Cougars started six freshmen (three of them redshirts) Saturday at Stanford.
Utah, bidding for its 10th straight bowl, expects a 17th straight sellout Saturday for WSU (TV: Pac-12 Networks, noon). The Utes are favored by 12 points.
CBSSports.com ranks Utah 62nd and WSU 103rd in the FBS. Utah is the lowest-ranked team left on the Cougars’ schedule, with UCLA (27), ASU (58) and UW (40) the Cougs' final three regular season opponents.
The Cougars (2-6 overall, 0-5 Pac-12) are the only team winless in Pac-12 play now that Utah (3-5, 1-4) upset California 49-27 last week. The came one week after the Bears won 31-17 in Pullman, but Cal was missing three starting linebackers against Utah.
A WSU VICTORY at then-No. 19 Stanford would have qualified as a major upset to everyone, it seems, except the Cougars.
“We thought we were better than this team,” cornerback Anthony Carpenter said after the well-played, 24-17 loss.
“That bye week helped us,” linebacker Justin Sagote said. “We were pretty prepared for what was coming.”
Sagote said close road defeats and strong defensive performances against Top 25 teams Oregon State and Stanford have bolstered the Cougars’ confidence.
“It tells us we’re good,” Sagote said. “We can hang with these teams. We’ve just got to put it together.”
“I believe that we are a great team,” Carpenter said. “We really are. We’ve just got to get over that hump.”