Mike Leach says his offensive line got pushed around by Boise State and "that's disgraceful." He also explains why Gerard Wicks only got one carry, and dismisses rumors about Arkansas being interested in hiring him
Last year, it was the inside receivers who attracted Mike Leach’s ire after Washington State lost to Boise State and the coach said they got “kicked around” by former Broncos linebacker Tanner Vallejo.
This year, as the 21st-ranked Cougars get ready for their Pac-12 opener against Oregon State this Saturday, it was the offensive line’s turn to get excoriated by Leach for their performance against Boise State.
To Leach, it didn’t really matter that the result was different and the Cougars won.
“They just don’t mind getting their (behinds) kicked,” Leach said of his offensive line during his weekly press conference on Monday. “You can’t shake the fact that Boise State’s defensive line played harder than our offensive line. That’s disgraceful. We’ve got to change that.”
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So what exactly did the Broncos do to give WSU’s offensive line trouble?
Boise State was “lining up and just whipping them,” Leach said.
“Pick whoever you think our best offensive lineman is. If there was a fight to the death and you were to clean out this room and there were no rules whatsoever to be applied, pick out your favorite of our offensive line, whoever you think happens to be the toughest,” Leach said. “Whoever is the softest on the Boise State defensive line, you bring him here, and all that’s left of our offensive lineman is a grease spot in the end.
“Because that Boise State defensive lineman will smoke our offensive lineman so bad it’ll be embarrassing.”
He wasn’t done.
“Boise State isn’t the only defensive line that’s beat up on them. I thought the Montana State defensive line beat up on them too,” Leach said.
The Cougars’ offensive line gave up five sacks against Boise State – two on Luke Falk and three on backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski. WSU also had difficulty running the ball, with starting running back James Williams averaging 2.2 yards on 14 carries. Jamal Morrow, the co-starter at running back, managed a more respectable 5.5 yards per attempt, but he only got four carries.
Morrow did, however, score both the equalizing touchdown that sent the game into overtime, and the game-winning touchdown in the third overtime period.
“I didn’t think either of them played particularly well, in particular, James,” Leach said of Williams and Morrow. “I thought Morrow had two great plays at the end but he didn’t block well the entire day.”
Where’s RB Gerard Wicks gone?
Last season, WSU’s Williams, Morrow and Wicks functioned as a trio of co-starters and combined for 31 touchdowns and 2,695 total yards. But this season, the Cougars seem to have defaulted to a Williams-Morrow combination, with Wicks getting only four carries through the first two games.
Wicks, did, however, do something Williams and Morrow couldn’t manage against Boise State – he scored from one-yard out.
Wicks, a 6-foot, 221-pound senior, got his first and only carry of the game in the second overtime period, when he came in on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line and scored a touchdown to put Washington State ahead 41-34.
But, Leach indicated that Wicks hasn’t practiced as well as Morrow and Williams.
“There’s a point to where Wicks needs to win that spot in practice,” Leach said. “And now, those other guys have to find a way to hold on to it. Now they’re playing musical chairs because I don’t think we had a great performance down the stretch.”
Even though it appears that WSU has mostly gone with two backs in its first two games this year, Leach said this isn’t anything different than what the Cougars did last season.
“We did rep three backs (in 2016) but there was always a guy who got less rotation (snaps) than the other two. But over the year, it evolved too,” Leach said. “I don’t have a way to play three backs. This isn’t P.E. where everybody gets to do push ups and sit ups and everybody gets to play. If you want to play, you have to win your reps on the field.”
Leach addresses Arkansas rumors
Arkansas is 1-1, with a 28-7 loss to TCU last weekend, but in the SEC, that apparently isn’t good enough. An Arkansas fan has started a petition requesting that the Razorbacks hire Leach as their head football coach, and two hours after it was posted online, the petition had more than 100 signees.
But Leach isn’t interested in any of this.
“I don’t make anything of it, I’m busy worrying about getting the first down against Oregon State and worrying about improving our team here and being the best team we can possibly be,” Leach said.
Renard Bell the best of the WRs last week
Leach said redshirt freshman H receiver Renard Bell had the best game of all the Cougars’ receivers last week.
In his second college game ever, Bell had a team-high seven catches for 107 receiving yards.
“We redshirted him last year just because he wasn’t ready to go, and I didn’t think he was ready to go for most of the season,” Leach said of Bell. “Then he had a great spring. I thought he probably had the best game (against Boise State) of all the receivers. Not just because of yards, but overall.”
- Asked if he’s ever had a true freshman come in and make as much of an impact as Y receiver Jamire Calvin has in two games, Leach volunteers, “Wes Welker.”
- Leach said Frankie Luvu had “the best game he’s had” on defense last week. Luvu led the Cougars with 2.5 sacks against Boise State and also had five tackles and a fumble recovery.
- Leach also named defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa, linebacker Peyton Pelluer, strong safety Jalen Thompson and nickelback Hunter Dale as guys who stood out in the win over the Broncos.
- Leach owns a house in Key West, Fla., which was in the path of Hurricane Irma, that made landfall over the weekend. But he said he’s heard secondhand information that the area made it out of the worst of the storm “in good shape” even though there’s still no cell service down there.