According to the preseason media picks, you’ll get your head kicked in. And according to all recruiting metrics, you’re not even supposed to be on the same field.
So, you lose your seventh straight rivalry game.
But yet against all predicting signs, no one can believe the loss. And the fanbase, purely off emotion, calls for your head across any and every social media platform imaginable.
Leach did not blame the Apple Cup loss on recruiting
Well, technically he did. But for those slow to pick up on trends, sarcasm, and maybe even a bit of humor – it would suggest otherwise.
As fast as [the media] ranks [Washington’s] recruiting class in the top ten, you’re always surprised when they win. I think that maybe has a little something to do with it.Mike Leach
Leach puts about zero stock in recruiting metrics. And if he was to list all the things he cares about, the opinion of a reporter ranks approximately last.
However, these very metrics and opinions shape public perception. They’re what the fans research and the consumer reads. And for whatever reason, these metrics and opinions bash Leach and his crew 364 days a year – often expecting dismal results – despite a long run of success.
And then right on cue, the Apple Cup rolls around. And overnight, Washington State is now held to a completely different standard – win or the entire season is a failure.
And with years of successful seasons ending in a tough loss to Washington, the hard work and progress made goes overwritten by one singular performance year in and year out.
So, Leach’s comments on the discrepancies of WSU and UW’s recruiting ranks aren’t really about recruiting at all. More so, the language was designed to point out hypocrisy; to point out media outlets predicting him to lose miserably all season, then drag him through the mud once they’re finally right in the finale.
Leach owns up to his losses
The head man finds a lot of criticism after a loss. As to be expected at any level of sports. But its often about his take on the podium afterwards, not necessarily on field play.
A reoccurring narrative in the circles of Washington State fandom is how Leach throws his players under the bus in the presser after a poor performance.
And while its true, Leach is quick to let the media know what he disliked about the squad’s performance, he isn’t deflecting responsibility off of his shoulders as most like to insinuate.
There have been headlines this season of Leach ripping into players for effort, toughness, and even attitude. However, not every quote turns up in a headline. And without fail, those of Leach owning up to his shortcomings are always dismissed.
UCLA | Sept. 21, 2019
“As coaches, we did not get through to them despite drills, talk, and practice.”Mike Leach
Utah | Sept. 28, 2019
“I didn’t see too much pouting among coaches, but collectively starting with me we failed to get through to them. We let them evolve into a soft team.”Mike Leach
Cal| Nov. 9, 2019
“As coaches we have not been able to turn this into a consistently tough team. Some of all this positive stuff we have experimented with has failed. Somehow, it’s got to be meaningful enough to the players and as coaches we got to make it meaningful.”Mike Leach
Say what you want, but Mike Leach owns up to his shortcomings just about every time a dismal performance is fielded. The difference is the media isn’t highlighting the former.
You get what you order
Leach gets a lot of flak for his mindset and offense alike. But it’s admirably never changed. And when Washington State hired the man, it got exactly what was promised.
Fans seem to be growing out of their Air Raid phase and remain more in favor of a different scheme. Certainly, they couldn’t tell you what that scheme is exactly, just ‘something different.’
The Air Raid isn’t his offense, it’s his entire approach to the game of football; practices one punch 1,000 times, rather than 1,000 punches once.
Execution. Execution. Execution.
Every loss, players and coaches throw the word around like it’s going out of style. And the Apple Cup is no different.
“I feel like guys hype this game up more than they should. It’s just another game,” Max Borghi said. “As a team we could do a better job of playing the next play and playing football. A lot of guys get tight an antsy out there, it seems like. It shows.”
Cougs will continue to slam Leach for labeling the Apple Cup as just another game, but top performers are always ones who fully buy into the philosophy.
Maybe it’s time the fanbase joins them.
But perhaps it’s all Leach’s fault in the first place. Of course, his wild success at Washington State is what finally allowed the fanbase to believe the Apple Cup routinely belongs in Pullman.
Of course, we’d all like it there. But history doesn’t lie, and a 74-32-1 all-time record in favor of the Dawgs is telling. Though, that one game alone does not define a season at-large.
Take the logo off the side of the helmet, and forget the name across the chest. Sixty minutes of football counts the same regardless of the opponent faced. One game only counts as one game.
And thankfully for Washington State – just the 16th time in the program’s 126 year history – they’ll get to play one more. The ensuing bowl bid will be Leach’s sixth with the Crimson and Gray.
The announcement of Washington State’s bowl game is slated for Dec. 8.
(Photos by: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)