Hiring Mike Leach was a firm step in a positive direction for the Washington State football team.
Leach provokes an undeniable confidence in both players and fans. When Leach stepped in two years ago, Cougar spirit became so alive it was almost tangible. His strong record at Texas Tech proved his ability to transform a team, something Washington State was starving for.
The team’s improvements were evident during the game against Auburn last Saturday, especially in the offense. The loss against Auburn can be attributed to small errors from the Cougars.
“I think we improved. I thought we played really hard the whole game. I think the biggest thing that plagued us was turnovers and explosives, and a few intangibles,” Leach said after the Auburn game. “I’m really proud of the effort. We just need to polish up and be sharper.”
WSU had a total of 120 rushing yards, their highest number of rushing yards since 2011, showing vast improvement in the offense and their running game using Leach’s Air Raid offense.
"We are definitely a better team than last year. We played a good team that was improved from last year but with any team you take away, the turnovers, the mental mistakes, and we could have easily won this game,” Jeremiah Laufasa said, after the loss against Auburn, according to Cougcenter.com.
The Auburn game showed the improvements Leach has made since signing with Washington State in Dec. 2011. After several consecutive losing seasons, this could be the year that WSU football makes a comeback.
Even though the season-opener ended in a loss, it was a loss due to an accumulation of minor errors such as ineligible man downfield penalties and substitution infractions by the Cougs, not a loss due to lack of talent or ability. Confidence is also something that hasn’t been seen from this team in past years, but you would never know it watching them play last weekend.
The team showed a newfound confidence in its running game, particularly in the fourth quarter when Connor Halliday checked out of a passing play to a handoff to Teondray Caldwell in a fourth-and-five situation. Checking out of that play displayed a brazen demeanor that wasn’t evident last season.
The change in this team both mentally and physically is undeniable; much of that is due to Leach’s decisions in recruiting and coaching techniques. His unique approach and implementation of the Air Raid offense has increased the confidence in the offense and added aggression and mental toughness to the way the Cougars approach the game.
Leach commented that last weekend’s game was an admirable performance by the Cougs for their first game. If they increase their attention to detail and decrease their unforced errors, the Cougars will achieve a winning season.