Mike Leach strode off the field here Thursday night after Washington State’s 30-6 season-opening defeat to Brigham Young, still willing to acknowledge a smattering of WSU fans who hailed him as walked up a tunnel.
Leach is in this for the long haul, but that didn’t ease his displeasure with the one-sided defeat, one that flew in the face of all those avalanche offenses he orchestrated at Texas Tech.
It was 37 minutes after game’s end before Leach began his interview with the WSU radio network — 12:15 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, or very close to an hour that didn’t make anybody’s media outlet.
“If you really wanted to see us play well, you should have seen Monday’s practice,” Leach said wryly.
This was not that, obviously.
Leach said he thought BYU “had context to its offense,” and he lauded his own defense’s effort in the second half, when it allowed only two field goals.
But the crimson Cougars’ offense was the real disappointment. Those in the press box were speculating if or when Connor Halliday might make an appearance in relief of a shaky Jeff Tuel, but I think Leach made the right call there. He said flatly he didn’t consider putting Halliday in.
To have done so would only have added a layer of controversy and perhaps even panic to an offense that had multiple issues. And while you can argue Halliday could have created a spark, I’m still not convinced that after a virtual non-off-season following his serious liver injury last November that Halliday is physically ready to be at peak performance. Leach needs to stay the course with Tuel unless he shows he can’t play his way out of the problems he had on this night, when he was hesitant in the pocket and seemingly not often in sync with receivers.
While a loss here isn’t a season-wrecker for the Cougars, their road ahead is not as easy as it might have appeared. Eastern Washington — next week’s home-opening opponent for WSU — thumped Idaho 20-3 Thursday night, and UNLV, the third-week opponent, took Minnesota to three overtimes before losing.
So the Cougars have to be a lot better than they were on this night. But they knew that.