“We’re in the midst of a super recruiting year,” Moos said.
“This is the best recruiting staff I’ve been a part of,” Leach said, “and I’ve had some good ones.”
“This seems to be a super staff,” Moos agreed. “We’re not losing anybody.”
The latter statement is encouraging, since former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian reportedly offered the USC defensive line coaching job to Cougars D-line coach Joe Salave'a. A former NFL player, Salave’a is a popular figure with WSU players and a valuable recruiter in his native American Samoa and other areas.
WSU has 21 known commitments, including a verbal pledge from a three-star corner on Monday. The class is ranked No. 47 nationally by scout.com.
DESPITE THE LATE collapse in the bowl loss to Colorado State, Moos said the bowl experience “was invaluable. I mean, the players – it had been 10 years since we’d been to a bowl, so they didn’t know what to expect. As we continue to improve, now the older guys can tell the younger ones what this experience is all about. The extra practice was extremely helpful.”
Moos said he “received a lot of correspondence” about WSU’s mistake-filled finish.
“I received some supportive ones,” Moos said, “and some that aren’t.”
He added, “People will say we mismanaged the clock at the end. I disagree. Put the math to it. We needed a first down. Probably should have thrown the ball.”
Moos was apparently referring to a fumble on a running play, one of two lost fumbles in the final three minutes. An enthusiastic WSU fan section, cheering wildly when victory seemed a certainty, were subdued as they trudged out of University Stadium after a last-second field goal gave Colorado State a 48-45 victory in Albuquerque.
“It’s one of the weirdest games I’ve ever been part of,” Leach said.
“It was just so great to have almost 5,000 fans down there,” Moos said. “All the activities and the smiles on the faces and all those things. Then the game itself, we were in control … we just couldn’t quite get it taken care of at the end. The course of events there was heartbreaking for us and our players.”
The loss cost the 6-7 Cougars their first winning season since 2003.
“There’s a lot of guys within our (locker) room that are dissatisfied with the season,” Leach said by phone from Florida.
“I mean, it was the best season Washington State’s had in 10 years (excluding, arguably, a 6-6 non-bowl season in 2006). But as a group, we’ve gotten to the point we’re dissatisfied, because we truly believe we can do more and should have done more.”
Moos added, “I can assure you, under Mike Leach, all of us are going to learn from that heartbreaking loss and be hungry as we go into next year.”
SINCE ARRIVING AT WSU after the 2011 season, Leach has emphasized the need for WSU to develop the type of huge, talented offensive linemen who helped all 10 of his Texas Tech teams to reach bowl games. The Cougars lose three senior starters on the O-line, but Leach and Moos (a former WSU offensive line standout) are excited about young O-linemen like Cole Madison from Burien and Cody O’Connell from Wenatchee.
“He (Leach) loves having the in-state kids as offensive linemen,” Moos said, “because he, like myself, believes when it’s third-and-3 inside the 20, that state pride comes through and you want that in the trenches.”
Leach continues to rave about the many recruiting advantages WSU offers: a beautiful campus, great student spirit, the new football operations building, improvements to Martin Stadium, the involvement of Moos and school president Elson Floyd, etc.
“We’ve gotten a lot of guys (recruits) committed because of intangibles,” Leach said. “They say, ‘Well, it feels like a family. It feels like they care about you. It feels like people are doing all the right things and working together.’”
THE COUGARS, who opened the past season with road games at Auburn and USC, play six home games in Pullman next season after a season opener in Seattle against Rutgers.
Pullman opponents include Washington (on a Saturday to end the regular season after two straight Friday Apple Cups), Oregon, Arizona, USC, California and Portland State.
Moos said more information about the schedule, tickets and promotions will be released Wednesday. He hopes the “outstanding schedule” provides a boost to attendance and season-ticket sales.
“I think we’ve got a lot of excitement ahead of us, a lot of fun times,” Moos said.
MOOS WAS decidedly less positive regarding WSU men’s basketball. He spoke more optimistically about WSU women’s basketball heading into Tuesday’s home game with Washington (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), when the Cougars try to snap a 36-game losing streak against the Huskies that dates back to 1996.
Students remain on holiday break, which figures to impact attendance at the women’s game. As for ticket sales for the Wednesday men’s game between 15th-ranked Colorado and WSU at the Spokane Arena (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), Moos said, “I think they’re OK.”
Two years ago, the Cougars drew a total of 18,000 for their two home games in Spokane. A large turnout seems unlikely Wednesday after the Cougars opened Pac-12 play with two lopsided defeats in Arizona that did nothing to deter fan apathy.
“There is (fan apathy),” Moos said. “We haven’t given them much to be excited about.”