PULLMAN — It was a little more than a year ago that the Mike Leach regime scraped bottom on a bright, sunny afternoon in Salt Lake City. Against Utah.
The Cougars put forth a feeble effort in a 49-6 loss to the Utes, and afterward, Leach rebuffed the normal media requests for designated players to interview, and sent out his offensive and defensive lines to answer for themselves.
Now, 55 weeks later, the WSU offensive linemen will associate Utah with a fonder memory. The big guys kept WSU Connor Halliday spotless, not allowing a sack to the nation’s team leader in them, in the Cougars’ 49-37 victory Saturday.
“We weren’t trying to think about last year,” said senior center Elliott Bosch. “It was in the back of our minds, at least. We knew we owed them one.”
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All around from WSU offensive players, there were plaudits for the offensive line, which, helped by Halliday’s ability to get the ball out quickly, has trimmed its nation-leading 2012 sack total of 57 to a workable 22, which ranked sixth in the conference before Saturday.
“Leach did mention it to us, that he was proud of us,” Bosch said. “That’s good to hear from the big man.”
Leach repeated those words later after the game.
“Between the offensive line and the quarterback, (Halliday) didn’t get sacked. I thought that was really impressive,” Leach said. Halliday has thrown a league-leading 19 interceptions, but has been markedly improved recently, having only two picked off in the last three games.
Several WSU players appearing for post-game interviews sported gray T-shirts emblazoned with crimson lettering that said “Property of Sacajawea Junior High,” and included the WSU logo.
It was at the school in Lewiston that WSU had a 10-day fall camp in August because construction on the Cougars’ football-operations building took up space on their practice fields. Coaches believe it was invaluable, including for team bonding.
Leach said the T-shirts were given out Friday.
The Pac-12 now has nine bowl-eligible teams, guaranteeing some spillover after its seven bowl affiliates are filled. If the league gets only one team to the BCS, that means two programs would be on their own and trying to find postseason homes in bowls tied up with leagues that didn’t qualify enough teams. These, in order, are the Pac-12 affiliations: Rose, Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Fight Hunger and New Mexico.