SALT LAKE CITY – Coach Mike Leach called his Washington State football team’s effort – or lack thereof – “pitiful” in Saturday’s 49-6 loss to the Utah Utes.
Leach got no argument from his players.
“At the end of the day, they outworked us, I guess,” sophomore linebacker-defensive end Logan Mayes said. “That’s all there is to it.”
Travis Long, a senior linebacker-defensive lineman who has been lauded repeatedly by Leach for his hard work, said, “I didn’t give as much effort as I should have.”
Asked if the Cougars are “buying into” Leach’s demanding ways, freshman offensive tackle Gunnar Eklund said, “I think there’s a buy-in, but I think it’s hard for a lot of people to learn how to put that into effect.”
Added junior nose tackle Ioane Guata: “It’s a process. With every rebuilding team, it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Long, fiercely intense, appeared to be struggling with his emotions when he bolted from the interview room after taking a number of questions. Mayes, generally more comfortable with the media than Long, seemed eager to make certain that fans know that WSU players are still trying.
“There’s no lack of want-to on this team,” Mayes said. “Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to put in the work to do that.
“Sometimes, you want something really bad, and you don’t get it, you know? That’s just the way it is.
“We’re going to go back (to Pullman), and we’re going to work our (rears) off this week, and we’re going to find a way to get it done.”
Saturday’s loss, the sixth straight for the Cougars, eliminated them from bowl consideration. WSU has three games to go, starting with the Dad’s Weekend game next Saturday against UCLA.
“These next three games are going to be about character,” said offensive guard John Fullington, a junior from North Mason High School.
Asked if the Cougars might suffer a letdown with a bowl game out of reach, Mayes said, “I don’t think coaches will allow that. We’re playing for pride now.”
Whatever motivates the Cougars, it would behoove them to perform the most basic of football skills – blocking and tackling – infinitely better than they did at Utah.
“We missed a lot of tackles,” said Xavier Cooper, a defensive end-tackle from Wilson High. “We killed ourselves.”
Said center Elliott Bosch: “We just played too slow (on the offensive line). We thought too much. We just need to go out and play.”
Play better, that is. Offensive guard Jake Rodgers said he “couldn’t pinpoint a reason for what happened” Saturday, but Leach had a pretty good idea.
“We had bad effort on all sides of the ball for four full quarters,” he said.
And what about your offensive line’s struggles, Coach?
“Part of it is effort, and some of it borders on cowardice.”