It's almost inevitable when a team goes 2-11, but it's no secret that the Cougars weren't always the most cohesive team last year.
"We're more united as a defense," outside linebacker Louis Bland said. "Last year, it seemed when times got hard, we laid down a little bit.
"Right now, we're not backing down from anything."
Bland has been slowed by a left knee sprain suffered during spring practice, but he saw his most extensive action of camp on Wednesday. He joined the starters in a practice that involved only the No. 1 and 2 offenses and defenses.
"I think I'll be ready for the first game," Bland said.
Bland, one of WSU's best players at the end of last season despite having his weight fall under 200, now carries 221 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame. Bland said he aggravated his knee injury a couple times over the summer ("Probably just working it a little too hard a little too fast"), but he said widespread media reports of him undergoing arthroscopic surgery were incorrect.
Mattingly sounds like he feels the same way about the team as a whole after last year's meltdown. "It's huge to start fresh completely," he said. "Day One. Just start having fun again like football is supposed to be."