The question was inescapable in the aftermath of Washington State's unsightly 49-6 loss to Utah here Saturday: Is there a complete buy-in...
SALT LAKE CITY — The question was inescapable in the aftermath of Washington State’s unsightly 49-6 loss to Utah here Saturday:
Is there a complete buy-in among the Cougars of first-year coach Mike Leach’s regime?
“I think there’s a buy-in, but I think it’s hard for a lot of people to learn to put that into effect,” said Gunnar Eklund, redshirt-freshman offensive tackle from Lake Stevens.
“We need to learn how to put it all on the field and transfer it over.”
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Eklund was one of five starting offensive linemen directed to a postgame interview room by Leach, infuriated for what he called a “horrible” effort. Leach was just as exasperated with his defensive linemen, who were also put through a group interview.
“It’s a (process),” said nose tackle Ioane Gauta, answering the same question. “It doesn’t happen overnight, as you can see. You take baby steps, one step at a time.”
Responding to the question of whether there was offense taken at being directed to speak to the media, offensive guard Jake Rodgers said, “It is what it is.”
After the teams exchanged scoreless opening series — the Cougars after they moved to the Utah 37 but turned it over on downs — Utah scored on four straight possession to make it 24-0.
John White had a 37-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to start it, and Gauta blamed himself for a missed tackle on that play. All told, there were a ton of missed tackles by the Cougars, which Leach said was a “100 percent reflection” of WSU’s effort.
“We didn’t want to tackle very badly,” he said.
The loss left WSU at 2-7 and removed any scant hope of making a bowl game for seniors like Travis Long and quarterback Jeff Tuel.
“I’m not happy; that’s all I’m going to say on that,” said Long, just before he departed the defensive-group session before its end.
“These next three games are gonna be just character,” said offensive guard John Fullington. “We can’t go to a bowl game, so there’s nothing to lose. I promise you we’re going to give it our all.”
Logan Mayes, defensive end/linebacker and son of ex-WSU great Rueben Mayes, said, “Everybody on this team works hard. We just couldn’t get it done at the end of the day.
“There’s no lack of want-to on this team. Sometimes you want something really bad and you don’t get it. That’s just how it is. You know, we’re all going to go back and work our asses off this week and find a way to get it done.”
The Cougars opened the season in the state of Utah by failing to score a touchdown at BYU in a 30-6 loss that was the indicator of a long road ahead, and on this day, they didn’t score until Tuel hit Kristoff Williams with a 5-yard pass on the last play of the game.
As for Leach’s message to the team, center Elliott Bosch said, “He didn’t think we gave effort today, so we’re going to give it during the week.”
“I’m tired of losing,” Eklund said. “This is bad.”
• Long, who has never missed a game as a Cougar, had his first career interception. He was also called for a personal foul early on a WSU punt early in the fourth quarter, and was seen pleading his case with an official about it after the game.
• WSU CB Anthony Carpenter had a career-high 11 tackles.
• Leach scoffed at a question about what he thought of Utah’s two-point conversion after Reggie Dunn‘s kickoff return at the outset of the third quarter gave the Utes a 39-0 lead: “I could care less. If we don’t like it, stop it … . if we’re too stupid to line up to it, it’s our own damn fault.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org