In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Leach was an undergraduate student at Brigham Young and thus a big fan of BYU's top defensive player, Whittingham.
PULLMAN – In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mike Leach was an undergraduate student at Brigham Young, a devout follower of LaVell Edwards’ football team and thus a big fan of the Cougars’ top defensive player.
To this day, in fact, the Washington State coach has mad respect for Kyle Whittingham.
“He’s a good guy, sharp guy, knows about defense and does a good job,” Leach said of the Utah coach, who will be in Pullman this week as the Utes (2-1 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) play WSU (3-1, 0-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium.
Whittingham, who is in his 14th season at the Utes’ helm, and Leach, in his seventh year with the Cougars, are two of the Pac-12’s longest-tenured coaches and the only ones that obtained degrees from the same place. Leach got his from BYU in 1983, two years after Whittingham graduated in ’81.
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Whittingham’s teams at Utah are typically identified as tough and hard-nosed – particularly on the defensive side of the ball – and Leach suggests that could be a direct reflection of the man who leads them. Once upon a time, Whittingham embodied both qualities as an all-conference linebacker and former Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year at BYU.
“Of course his dad, Fred, was the defensive coordinator and one of the most steely, intimidating guys on Earth,” Leach said. “You’d walk on campus and LaVell Edwards would say hi to everybody and Fred, Fred just scared you. He was just imposing. And from what I hear, was one of the toughest guys on Earth. Then there’s Kyle, so by association you tried to stay away from him, too, and so did most of the teams BYU played.”
Leach and Whittingham never met in Provo because, as Leach put it, “I was kind of in a bit different world (than Whittingham).”
“Kyle was busy being an All-American linebacker and leading the nation in tackles, while I was trying to make sure that I did well enough on my courses to go to law school,” Leach said.
Meanwhile, Whittingham tossed a verbal bouquet to Leach.
“Coach Leach is very well-versed in throwing the football, to say the least,” Whittingham was quoted as saying in The Deseret News of Salt Lake City. “He has a very good track record. He knows exactly what he is doing and how to coach it. He has a system he knows the ins and outs of, and he knows the right players to plug into the system. The results speak for themselves.”
Gustin’s hit on WSU’s Minshew was a key play
Like many others, Leach replayed Porter Gustin’s controversial hit on Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew while he reviewed video from WSU’s 39-36 loss at USC on Friday night.
Gustin launched himself at Minshew before striking the QB’s helmet with his own.
And the only thing potentially more disturbing than the hit itself for Leach and the Cougars was the fact it was not penalized at a crucial point in the game. Had Gustin been ejected for targeting, USC would have had to finish the final two minutes of the game without its top linebacker and the Cougars, who were already threatening from the 25-yard line, would have been 15 yards closer to the end zone.
Leach kept his thoughts to himself when asked about the collision during his weekly news conference.
“Well, I’m not allowed to comment on it,” he said.
By the time Minshew was hit by Gustin, officiating had already become a point of criticism among Cougars fans and players. WSU’s defensive backs seemed irked by the number of pass-interference and defensive-holding calls that came their way. The Cougars drew three pass-interference penalties Friday – two more than they’d received through the first three games of the season.
“Again, that’s something I don’t feel very safe commenting on, but I think anyone that saw the game can make their own judgments and probably saw some things that might jump out to them both positive or negatively,” Leach said.