At this point, you can’t pin it on the players.
It hasn’t been Luke Falk, Gardner Minshew, Anthony Gordon, or any other QB that’s come through Pullman over the years.
It wasn’t Hercules Mata’afa, Shalom Luani, Jahad Woods or another defensive standout, either.
The common denominator in Washington State’s seven consecutive losses to Washington — none of which have been closer than 10 points — is head coach Mike Leach. Or perhaps more appropriately, Mike Leash. Because that’s what Chris Petersen has around his neck.
The Washington coaching staff owns this man, pure and simple. Regardless of the Cougars’ record or weapons coming into the Apple Cup, they wilt like petunias when they line up against UW.
The offense implodes. The defense parts. The air raid disappears into thin air.
The Huskies’ 31-13 drubbing of WSU Friday was the latest example of them dropping the Mike. Despite the Cougs averaging at least 30 points per game over the past seven seasons, they’ve never managed more than 17 vs. the Huskies during this skid.
You’d think at some point Leach would acknowledge that he is regularly bested, or at least take some responsibility for his team’s failure to adapt. But he didn’t do that Friday. In a compound display of petulance, Leach suggested he had less talented players before unloading on a writer.
“I do find this part of it interesting — as fast as you guys rank their (the Huskies’) recruiting class in the top 10, and then you’re always surprised when they win, so I think that would have a little something to do with it,” Leach said.
So you’re not supposed to beat teams that have higher-ranked recruiting classes? Followed Spokesman-Review columnist John Blanchette.
“We certainly have before. We didn’t win this one, and I don’t care to have a big discussion on it because I really don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “You run your mouth in your little column and stuff like some sanctimonious troll, and you’ve never been fair or even-handed with us. So I really don’t care what you think. OK, go ahead, because you’re going to write some nasty stuff anyway like you always do. And I don’t know which Coug back when did something that offended you, and I don’t really care about that, either, but you can live your little meager life in your little hole and write nasty things and if that makes you feel even, you go right ahead.”
First, Blanchette is one of the more insightful and respected writers in the game, and his follow-up was fair. Second, that response justified about every criticism one may have already had about Leach.
Seriously, who blames a loss on recruiting rankings? You think Petersen — whose Huskies have never had a top-10 class, by the way — would ever do that? At Boise State, his classes never even cracked the top 50, yet the Broncos were in the national-championship mix regularly. Besides, Washington State beats programs with more heralded recruits all the time. Oregon, Stanford, USC, Utah — they’ve all fallen to Leach-led Cougar teams, which were an Apple Cup away from winning the Pac-12 North in each of the three previous seasons.
The Cougs just can’t beat Washington. Leach can’t solve the Huskies in headsets. Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said as much after last year’s Apple Cup, adding that it would be “awesome” if Leach remains at Washington State for a long time.
Don’t think Leach, who has always been thin-skinned when it comes to criticism, doesn’t internalize barbs such as those. That childish exchange with Blanchette wasn’t just a coach in a bad mood — it was seven years of frustration boiling over.
And there is little reason the streak won’t extend to eight.
Washington State’s offense was in disarray Friday. The Huskies compiled five sacks despite rushing just three guys most the afternoon. Gordon said that the Cougs, like they always do, made too big a deal of the game. WSU running back Max Borghi, who last Saturday promised to “score … a lot,” echoed Gordon’s sentiments, saying “guys hype this game up more than they should.”
But does that mentality not stem from the head coach?
At the beginning of the week, Petersen chuckled when he was asked about Mike Leach, saying “I’m just like you guys, I get a kick out of him.”
But when asked if he’d still find him funny if the Cougs were beating the Huskies, Petersen said no.
Well, rest assured Petersen and his staff are full of laughs right now. As far as coaching match-ups go, Leach has been a joke.