SALT LAKE CITY – First, the Utah Utes punished Washington State on the football field.
Then, Washington State coach Mike Leach punished the Cougars off the field.
Leach ripped into his players unmercifully after a 49-6 Pacific-12 Conference blowout extended WSU’s losing streak to six games. The coach ordered all of WSU’s starting offensive and defensive linemen to follow him into the interview room to try to explain their performance.
“Both the offensive and defensive lines, it may have been one of the least courageous efforts I’ve ever seen,” Leach said.
The linemen were certainly not the only ones to earn Leach’s wrath.
“Our effort today was pitiful,” Leach said, “and it starts with our coaches. Me in particular. It starts with me.
“We need to reach our players and get good effort.”
The Cougars trailed 21-0 after 18 minutes and 31-0 at halftime. Leach would have suffered his first shutout loss in 11 years as a college head coach (the other 10 at Texas Tech) if not for Jeff Tuel’s 5-yard pass to Kristoff Williams as the clock ran out on the final play of the game.
One week after giving up a season-low 256 yards in a hard-fought, 24-17 loss at then-No. 19 Stanford, the Cougars yielded a season-high 49 points to Utah (4-5 overall, 2-4 Pac-12).
Asked if the young Cougars (2-7, 0-6) might have suffered a letdown after the strong performance at Stanford, linebacker-defensive end Travis Long said, “Maybe a little bit.”
Added center Elliott Bosch: “Maybe we did get too comfortable.”
“If we’re taking satisfaction out of last week, we’re out of our minds,” Leach barked. “Not one play last week counts for this week.”
The Utes outgained Washington State 453-255 in total yards. After coming into the week ranked last in the nation in quarterback sacks allowed and rushing, the Cougars gave up six sacks and lost 4 yards rushing.
Leach described WSU’s offensive line play as “one of the most heartless efforts I’ve ever seen, and our D-line wasn’t any better.”
Utah senior John White, who opened the scoring with a 47-yard touchdown run six minutes into the game, rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns and caught one pass for an 18-yard score.
Travis Wilson, Utah’s true-freshman quarterback, completed 17 of 21 passes for 171 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wilson had far more time to pass than WSU senior Jeff Tuel, whose 23-for-45 passing was good for 232 yards, one TD and one interception.
Any thoughts of a second-half comeback for WSU were erased when Utah’s Reggie Dunn ran back the opening kickoff of the third quarter 100 yards for a touchdown.
Dunn set a Football Bowl Subdivision record against California the previous week with a pair of 100-yard TD returns on kickoffs.
The Utes extended their string of sellouts to 17. The sun-kissed crowd of 45,067 at Rice-Eccles Stadium had plenty to cheer about all afternoon.
“I think we felt prepared,” Long said. “We just didn’t come out ready to play.”
Said WSU offensive tackle Wade Jacobson: “It comes down to individual effort. Everybody needs to want to win, want to play, just worry about ourselves. I think we’re worrying too much about other people’s jobs.”