WSU's Joe Salave'a doesn't mince words

JOE SALAVE'A

SPOKANE – WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave'a tends to boil college football down to just two attributes: conditioning and toughness. It was apparent Monday in Spokane at the weekly Cougar Club luncheon that the mindset has taken root with the Cougars, even after a disappointing loss to No. 5 Stanford.

Something else was also readily apparent – the swagger voiced by the Cougar players this week is a direct reflection of Mike Leach and his assistant coaches. Take for example, Salave'a as looked ahead to Cal on Saturday…

"Cal does more in the running game than Stanford does and they're athletic," Salave'a said, breaking into a grin. "But I don't mean ‘athletic' as a compliment. Sometimes that means soft."

But before the Cougs' d-line coach talked about Cal, he talked about Stanford.

"I think we lost a little of our focus and got caught up letting our eyes drift a little towards the scoreboard for a while, especially there in the third quarter," said Salave'a. "(Stanford) was patient and they were methodical and they made plays. They're the No. 5 team in the country. You have to expect that."

Salave'a was adamant that Stanford's running game wasn't the difference in the game.

"They were steamrolling (other) people – they were constantly getting themselves second-and-one or second-and-two situations," he said. "They weren't getting that against us. The passing game is what really hurt us."

While some might immediately point to the secondary's woes for that, Salave'a took pains to place some of the responsibility on himself.

"That's on me. I have to create drills that put our guys in a better position to get after the passing game and chase the quarterback," he said. "We were making good penetration against the run, but we were slow making the transition to rush the passer."

IN THE COLLECTION of game film he brought from the Stanford game to show the gathering of Cougar fans, Salave'a went through several plays demonstrating his view of the defensive line play – penetrating and making contact with the Cardinal running back on the Stanford side of the line of scrimmage.

He was equally high on play of two linebackers-- BUCK Destiny Vaeao and SAM Cyrus Coen, whom he showed shedding blocks by bigger, stronger Stanford linemen to make the play on the running back.

He added additional praise for freshman safety Isaac Dotson.

"This guy was a quarterback," Salave'a said, betraying only a hint of disdain for that position. "But he came over to our side of the ball and he can make some plays. He's not afraid to put his face in there and go after the football."

He was ultra-enthusiastic in his praise of Deone Bucannon's interception in the end zone, pointing out how the cornerback (Damante Horton) bit on the play fake only to be saved by Bucannon reading the route and making an athletic play on the ball.

"He's the kind of player who is going to make a lot of plays like this a lot of years to come," he said.

SO WHERE ARE the Cougs mentally after such a loss?

"It's on to the next game," Salave'a said. "We had a good meeting and watched game film (Sunday) and we had a good workout."

"Cal does more in the running game than Stanford does and they're athletic," he said, breaking into a grin. "But I don't mean ‘athletic' as a compliment. Sometimes that means soft."

ON THE RECRUITING FRONT, USC's 62-41 loss to Arizona State Saturday night in Tempe could change the WSU recruiting picture somewhat in Southern California, the coach said. But not as much as one might think.

"I think we were already making headway there before," he said. "I think all of the positive changes that have been going on at Washington State has helped open doors for us. We've been able to figuratively get into some of those living rooms already and we've had kids calling us asking about coming here.

"We had some goals when we got here last year. One was to win the state, and another was to be competitive in the areas where we have to be, and Southern California is one of those areas. We're also making headway in places like Georgia and Florida, too."

ONE FINAL NOTE about the Seattle game, a contest marked by chilly Seattle temperatures and buckets of rain. Salave'a was asked if he was ever going to wear a jacket on the sidelines, a question that made the tough-minded Samoan laugh.

"You know, I'm an old school guy and I got used to that kind of coach when I was in the NFL," he said. "We'd go to places like Green Bay in the snow and that's what out coaches would be like (bundled up.) I'm trying to instill a little of that into my guys here.

"But I have to say, I'm trying to get to a place where I can at least wear a sweater. My wife is after me about that because my little girl comes home from school and she's not wearing her coat – because daddy doesn't wear one."

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