EUGENE, Ore. – Though the task ahead of the Washington State football team might be mountainous, it isn’t complicated.
To stay with the second-ranked and Pac-12-leading Oregon Ducks won’t require gimmicks or surprises. Nor will it necessitate superhuman effort, or a colossal collapse by America’s flashiest team.
No, to win this game the Cougars need merely — with perhaps a dash of luck — to play as they are capable of playing, and avoid the self-destructive tendencies that have been trademarks of their defeats.
While coach Mike Leach’s initial reaction to his team’s second-half collapse against Oregon State last week was vim and vitriol, a pair of nights to sleep on the matter provided perspective. There was no unconquerable mountain standing in their way of a victory in that game, no uncovered deficiency that heralded doom for the remainder of the season.
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“I think we panicked,” Leach said earlier in the week. “I think both sides of the ball tried to make too much happen and then one overcorrection led to the next.”
Nothing better illustrated that than the play of quarterback Connor Halliday. The junior had the most passing yards in the Pac-12 a game before, and had put together seven good quarters in a row before melting down in the fourth.
It was an ugly quarter with three interceptions in just six passes. But it’s not like he can’t throw a football.
“I think he’ll do good,” Leach said. “(He’s) disappointed, knows he can do better. It’s apparent he can do better. I thought he played really well for three quarters.”
“My biggest thing, I would say just little things,” linebacker Darryl Monroe said of where the team could still improve. “Embracing the atmosphere of what’s going on. If things aren’t going your way, don’t just be somewhere frantically trying to make a play and turn things around.”
And, “We just need to stop, take a breath and get back to where we play ball, and I feel like that would be a great turnaround to the defense.”