Leach says Cougs need to avoid distractions

VINCE MAYLE

THE COUGARS KNOW they must win two of their final three games to become eligible for a bowl. But coach Mike Leach says the Cougs don't feel a heightened sense of urgency for Saturday's game at 11 a.m. at Arizona (TV: Pac-12 Networks). He also discussed the performance of the receivers and his relationship with Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.

Leach was dismissive that WSU (4-5 overall, 2-4 conference) would play harder during the final quarter of the season with postseason implications on the line -- because it implies the team was relaxed before its three-game losing streak.

With that said, Leach also has no inclination to discuss the Cougars' last game — a 55-21 loss on Halloween against Arizona State.

"I'm done looking back at that game," he said.

Leach also does not want his players looking back. That applies to in-game situations, as well.

"Don't get distracted by the previous play," he said.

WSU's previously stout run defense has allowed three consecutive opponents to rush for at least 100 yards. During that span, the Cougars have allowed an average of nearly 6 yards per carry. Their challenge does not get any easier this week as the Wildcats (6-3, 3-3) feature running back Ka'Deem Carey. He has rushed for 1,221 yards and 11 touchdowns on 216 carries this year.

"He might be the best one in the league," Leach said.

Rodriguez long has produced some of the top rushing offenses nationally. The 50-year-old Rodriguez probably is best-known for turning a struggling West Virginia program into an elite squad, but Leach said he has known him longer than that. While this marks the first time they have coached against each other, Leach has known Rodriguez since he was the offensive coordinator at Valdosta State in Georgia during the 1990s. Rodriguez was the coach at Glenville State in West Virginia.

"He's a good offensive coach," Leach said. "[His offense] has done well over a period of time."

Rodriguez is considered a pioneer of the no-huddle, run-oriented version of the spread offense, but Leach said it is a little different than the uptempo one Oregon uses.

"He'll speed it up some, but not all of the time," Leach said.

SATURDAY'S GAME MARKS the earliest start of the year for WSU. The previous early game for the Cougars was a 1 p.m. start Oct. 5 at California. Leach does not think the morning start is an issue, though. He said players are used to getting early to lift weights and attend classes.

He felt the schedule was a more significant challenge for the team. WSU played eight consecutive Saturdays through Oct. 19. But the Cougars have played only once since then.

"I think it's always tough," Leach said. "We just do our day-to-day tasks as best as we can."

Leach was asked about the blocking ability of his receivers. Leach praised the work of a few, including senior Vince Mayle and juniors Kristoff Williams and Rickey Galvin. He also said the development of true freshman River Cracraft in that area has pleased him. He said others, such as sophomore Gabe Marks and junior Isiah Myers, "have been less consistent."

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