The end result was no different for the Washington State football team Saturday than it had been in its previous two games, but Cougars coach Mike Leach said it wasn’t from lack of effort that WSU lost 38-34 at No. 18 Arizona State.
“I thought we played hard and I thought we improved,” said Leach, who had questioned his team’s toughness after a 38-13 loss at Utah in its previous game.
Leach said he liked the working arrangement of the team’s interim defensive coordinators, Darcel McBath and Roc Bellantoni, who were promoted when coordinator Tracy Claeys resigned two weeks ago. McBath was on the sideline, and Bellantoni was in the press box.
“I think it created a lot more energy,” said Leach, whose team hosts Colorado on Saturday. “I think we communicated better, we lined up better, and I thought we had a lot more energy on the sideline.”
Alas, that did not prevent ASU from using several big passing plays to rally for the victory.
“We simplified things (on defense), and I think that was beneficial, but we have to get used to it, we have to keep doing it for a while,” he said. “I think we have a lot more to offer (in the secondary). We need to define guys’ positions there, but the upside is huge. They can play better than we are by a significant margin.”
The Cougars (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) made a few changes to the secondary after the loss at Utah, moving strong safety Daniel Isom to cornerback, Skyler Thomas from nickelback to strong safety and making Pat Nunn the starter at nickelback.
“I thought it was mixed,” Leach said of the results of those moves. “Defensively, they’re evaluating all that stuff right now.”
But Leach’s message to his team after this loss was much more upbeat than it was after the loss at Salt Lake City and the 67-63 loss at home to UCLA.
“You have to evaluate it very honestly, in the fact that we played extremely hard and for the most part we played well, but we have to be disciplined enough not to give up big plays,” he said. “We are a team that can do a good job doing things four times, maybe five, but the sixth time, we take our eye off what we are doing. We’ve got to be disciplined enough to do it every time because we’re not a group that’s going to go out there and overwhelm someone with talent.”
Social-media ban ‘refreshing’
If Leach could do it over again, he would have started his team ban on social media when the team reported to practices in August, and not waited until after the loss to Utah.
Leach, who has more than 232,000 followers on Twitter, has also stopped using social media. Leach said he was surprised that when he talked to 12 players before announcing the ban, five thought it was a good idea.
“It’s actually been quite refreshing to me because I’ll tell you this: I end up using my phone a lot less because I’m not touching it as much,” he said. “It has really been a pretty good deal and a nice vacation. So love it or hate it, our team is on vacation, too, and some actually like it.”
WSU-Oregon on ESPN
The Cougars will play at 7:30 p.m. in their game against Oregon on Oct. 26.
The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.