WSU's defensive players have played well together recently, but the entire team has lacked the cohesion needed to win a conference game.
Though the team's defense showed exponential improvement Saturday, it wasn't enough in the 19-6 loss to No. 14 Oregon State.
Nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole and linebacker Darryl Monroe spoke in Monday’s press conference about the mindset of the defense and what has led to the recent improvement.
“A loss is a loss to us,” Pole said. “When it’s all said and done, (the opposing offense) has to go down the field and score. It’s our job to stop them. We just have to build off of that and look at the positives that we had. We always come out the next week working hard and just looking for our next win.”
Getting that win is much needed, Monroe said.
“It’s what any team needs,” Monroe added. “No one needs a loss. No one wants to lose. Everyone wants to go undefeated. If you don’t like to win, then why are you playing this sport?”
That passion for winning is evident on the defense, Pole said. He explained that even though the team didn’t make some plays, the next week is ahead and the defense is focused on improving upon each game.
Preparation played an integral role in the defense’s success against Oregon State, Monroe said. He said the defensive players participated in extra walk-throughs and film sessions, coming in to study and learn together at all hours of the day.
Monroe said there wasn’t any one individual who suggested the extra preparation. Instead, the coaches asked the players if they would willingly put in more hours of work, and the players responded.
“It just went from one player to two players to groups of players, and it kind of just spread like wild fire throughout the defense,” Monroe said.
Even though the Cougars lost Saturday, Monroe said the defense liked the way they played, and their approach to preparing for Oregon State will continue in the coming weeks.
The offense, however, was a different story Saturday. After scoring 26 points against Oregon, they mustered only six against Oregon State. Head Coach Mike Leach said the team has used a lot of different players and lineups, but also explained the team is still young and has faced tough competition the last two weeks.
He did say the defensive play has impressed him and has seen significant improvement since their loss to Colorado three weeks ago.
Losing games, especially three in a row, is new to Leach. He said the team needs to develop and play together in order to right the ship. Until that happens, he said he will try to remain patient.
However, Leach was critical of the seniors on the team. He said the freshmen have given more effort, and the seniors’ leadership has been mixed.
“Some of them have been great and some of them have been very poor,” Leach said. “Some of them have been zombie-like and going through the motions, thinking this is how it’s been, this is how it’ll always be. Some of them, quite honestly, have an empty corpse quality.”
The mindset of the seniors has made the youthful players even more essential to the team, Leach said.
Leach said the offense simply didn’t play well at all against Oregon State, and certain things need to change so that such a performance doesn’t happen again.
The Cougars have had a problem maintaining focus this season, Leach said. The team needs to embrace adversity or they will never improve.
“Right now, we’re a team that, if it’s not easy, we want to flinch and flounder,” Leach said. “Well, we have to change that. Part of it is changing the way we think and part of it is we haven’t really had the strength from our senior class we should get there so we’ve turned to our younger guys to develop them and they’re a ways off.”