That Washington State’s offense leads the Pac-12 in time of possession hasn’t suddenly made Mike Leach a fan of that statistic.
But it gives him some ammo in his philosophical arguments with colleagues.
“It’s a stat that I take virtually no pride in whatsoever,” the Washington State football coach said this week. “It’s fun to have occasionally, just so you can beat the ball-control people over the head with it.”
As usual, the Cougars (5-0, 2-0) and their Air Raid offense will be aiming for first downs, snappy drives and a lot of points rather than ball control when they face Oregon (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday (5 p.m., FOX) in a conference game at Eugene, Ore.
Off to their best start to a season in 16 years, the No. 11 Cougs have been efficient enough on defense and offense to possess the ball 33.36 minutes per game, highest in the league and 13th-best in the nation.
It’s partly because they’re (unintentionally) favoring short passes over home-run balls more than in the past. Luke Falk is averaging almost 30 fewer passing yards per game than he was through five games last year. If that’s a factor in the Cougars’ edge in possession time, it’s a hollow accomplishment to Leach, who likes his teams to be explosive as well as efficient.
Other coaches might argue that a 30-second touchdown drive, in practical terms, is worth less than a six-minute TD drive because it gives one’s defense less of a breather, leaving it more vulnerable on its next series.
Leach doesn’t think that way.
“Outside just recreationally battering people with that in arguments and discussions, I really don’t care about it at all,” he said of time of possession. “I’d like to have the most (offensive) plays, the most first downs and the best third-down conversion. You can shoot (even) that argument full of holes, because scoring is the most important (stat).”
In any case, he’s not likely to get any philosophical resistance from his own coaching staff, even on the defensive side.
“It’s what we do – it’s the speed D and the Air Raid,” WSU defensive-line coach Jeff Phelps said Tuesday. “You know (as a defense) you have to be ready to go out there and play. ... You know you’re going to get passes (from the WSU offense). You know you’ve got to be ready to go on fourth down, regardless of where you are on the field. And our guys embrace that. It’s in our DNA.”
ASSAULT BY USC PLAYER?
WSU campus police are investigating a USC player who was caught on video knocking a Cougars fan to the turf following Friday’s game in Pullman.
The Spokesman-Review says campus police have identified the USC player as defensive lineman Liam Jimmons and he is being investigated on suspicion of assault.
USC coach Clay Helton said Tuesday that he was aware of the incident and that he’d disciplined his player internally.
The incident occurred after Washington State fans stormed the field following the No. 11 Cougars’ 30-27 upset of No. 14 USC.
In the video, Jimmons appears to shove the fan to the turf as the Trojans are exiting Martin Stadium. The fan falls to the ground then gets to his feet again.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.